Start-up of the Week: Moreish

Rupkatha Bhowmick

Nestled in Dubai’s Oud Metha area, Moreish is a family-run vegan restaurant, redefining the purpose of food and the dynamics of running a restaurant business. Conceptualised by Vanita, Bhavika and Kishore Bhatia and launched in August 2018, Moreish boasts an eclectically innovative, home-style cooked menu adorned with “food that loves you back.” The brand’s next growth phase involves relocating to a “roomier” location in 2020 to integrate a community space within the restaurant, add an in-house bakery and confectionery as well as set up a library corner and have live music.

Simran, Vanita, Kishore, Bhavika Bhatia

What inspired you to launch a vegan restaurant? Do you see enough traction at Moreish?

Bhatias: We’re vegetarians ourselves and our culinary lives at home have been nothing short of vivid and colourful. We’ve never felt limitations – despite the usual perceptions of a vegetarian/vegan diet – but more creatively inspired. It is with this intent that we’ve always wanted to run a restaurant to show how diverse and fun vegetarian food can be, challenging the conventional stereotypes. The surprising part is that because we don’t advertise or market ourselves as a vegan/vegetarian restaurant, we’ve broadened our reach to those who wouldn’t normally think of walking into one otherwise. As a matter of fact, there’s a higher percentage of our customers who are not strictly vegan/vegetarian.

What are some of the biggest lessons from your entrepreneurial journey?

Bhatias: When we started out, we knew absolutely nothing about running a restaurant, but we did know our food, and our love for people. We still don’t know a lot of things, but we’ve come to teach ourselves new things from any source we’ve come across – be that internet, books, people. And the learning never stops. We’ve learned that when you become an entrepreneur, everything is an opportunity cost. You swallow the pill of having to make hard choices. You might have to give up time with your close ones, and even yourself. You can’t jump into something new and have it all and be it all, no matter how many productivity articles you binge-read, and you learn to be better at accepting that. As a new entrepreneur, you’re going to meet all sorts of people who will try to sell you products and services with attractive promises of overnight growth and dreamy sales figures, but you have to dictate your own pace and intention of growth.

At a time when veganism has become very popular and suddenly this segment of the market is looking crowded, how does Moreish stand out?

Bhatias: We’ve observed that with vegan food, the F&B landscape here is more about trending foods and lifestyles than about sustainability and making food approachable for all kinds of people. That’s why, we’re trying our best to make vegetarian and vegan food as approachable and accessible as possible, without omitting the fun factor. Our dishes aren’t centred around expensive or difficult-to-procure ingredients and don’t rely on imported exotic produce. Instead, we take what’s easily available around us and spin it differently. We don’t feel the need to rely on meat substitutes or such products because there is so much untapped potential to experiment with available produce, grains and the infinite possible ways to cook them.

Are there enough investors in the F&B start-up scene in the region? Do you plan to raise funds for the next growth phase?

Bhatias: We don’t think the pool is large enough for there to be an abundance of investors, at least when it comes to small-scale businesses such as ours. But that is definitely attributed to several factors. The goal for us right now is to be seen as a leader in culinary innovation with vegan and vegetarian dishes that challenge norms. Bigger names in the F&B industry, who are seen, heard and led by some of the best in the business, do get easy access to investors but this is a norm doesn’t distract us from the end goal of delivering our objectives. While an investor would be a bonus, our focus is to develop and curate success for Moreish at the scale it is now. We still have a long way to go!