March – April 2015

Reinventing American Casual Dining

Rohan Jetley
Promoter & CEO, TGI Fridays-India

A resident of Delhi, Rohan is in all senses a world class global citizen even before he has crossed all of 25 years. His global exposure has built a persona that is intellectually rich from the varied experiences till date. Thus in many senses he has leapfrogged the normal average learning curve which is why at such a young age, he already has
responsibilities that impact hundreds of employees and stakeholders across TGI Fridays-India-the owners of the Fridays chain of American casual dining restaurants pan India. Rohan passed out from United World College, Singapore (90-95) followed by the American Embassy School –Delhi (95-2000). He then graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a B.A. in Economics and did his post graduate studies at Harvard Business School. Needless to say, his world view is genuinely based on multicultural exchanges across continents. Ravishing gets in a rather serious chat with the young entrepreneur about his vision, journey and goals.

You always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I have always been very entertainment driven as a personality. I love to entertain people, I love to talk to them and find out what they like to eat and drink. Even before I got into hospitality business, I always enjoyed an environment where I was entertaining people and I believe that this trait landed me to be into a business that I always wanted to be in.

When did TGI Fridays come into being?
TGI Fridays was started in 1996 in Vasant Vihar. At that time the only restaurants that were available in India were either very casual restaurants or extremely high end fine dining restaurant with white table cloth and full service. So, we thought we’d bring an element of vibrant colour and fun decor but in a premium format and that is TGI Fridays defined in India. Our motto is to deliver a premium product but in a casual environment, so that people can relax and enjoy the experience.

What would you say are the ingredients that go into making TGI Fridays, both a national and international favourite?
We have a very strong focus on quality with a zero compromise policy. The quality of products we serve is high because the ingredients that we choose are high quality from select vendors only. We take pride in constantly relooking into the training program that we get from the U.S. and it is our constant endeavour to serve a consistent quality of food and drinks in India as it is in the U.S.

What are your best menu items?
The unique thing that we have on our menu is Jack Daniel’s Burger. Jack Daniel’s is basically a bourbon which we put into the sauce to give it a very smokey, mature sort of a flavour and we put that sauce on top of two massive lamb patteies with the burger. It is probably the most indulgent burger that we have. The other thing that TGIF is famous for is Baby back Ribs. We import the Baby back Ribs from Europe and the softness of the meat is very well regulated. We also have some high quality and interesting items for our vegetarian clients. Also, recently we have added a few low calorie and low carbohydrate diet foods in our menu for customers who want to keep things healthy .

How do you optimize performance in your organisation?
The only way you’re going to get anything done is by tracking people’s performance and holding people accountable to their actions. I always start by setting a clear goal, then assigning accountability and then lastly monitoring performance. This way you don’t loose sight of the purpose of function and don’t fall into looking at irrelevant measures.

Is creative thinking an important part of your business?
The very heart and soul of our business is innovation through creative thought. I’ve always known that companies who fail to innovate eventually will die. However, sustained innovation is the real key. Pushing people out of their comfort zones and challenging them with new ideas on various types of food and drinks along with events, offers and socially fun schemes in the restaurant is one thing I value and practice every day.

How important is teamwork?
Teamwork is the very fabric of a successful organisation. This is a culture one sets into their organisation. The choice between helping each other or putting self-interest as your primary agenda will always be determined by what you are most rewarded for doing. Hence the culture is created and passed down from the top.

Where do you get your inspiration and knowledge from?
A lot of my understandings on business fundamentals are from my father. I was raised in a very business oriented family environment and management as an approach to life was ingrained into me at a relatively young age. However my favourite book on strategy is “Seven Strategy Questions” by Robert Simons, who also happened to be one of my professors during my time at the Harvard Business School.
As far as inspiration is concerned, I take a lot of business philosophies from the late Steve Jobs. I really feel that he created a great syns between product innovation and execution. The other leader is Warren Edward Buffett as he believes in long term investing and not taking the short run for your investments.

Leisure Talk

How do you manage your time
You have to very well organised in order to get most things done in the limited amount of time that you can actually dedicate to your work. I regularly exercise which keeps my stress level down , other than that I indulge in some interesting hobbies.

Share some advice for young entrepreneurs
If you are committed enough and if you have the vision to do something great , all you need to do is to harness the discipline to follow through that vision and there is almost nothing that you can’t achieve. Another thing is that when you dream, dream big . As it is only by dreaming big that you can achieve bigger heights.

What is your take on the recent poll results
I don’t have much of an opinion about the politics in Delhi. I am into a business that involves a lot of creativity and I am more engaged with the customer and consumer analysis. A government that creates easier policies in terms of licencisng perspective for our restauratants , matters to me. At the end of the day the people of India decide who is the best candidate. I don’t like to speculate but I think eventually time shall reveal the difference between chalk and cheese.

Last but the not the least, what’s the idea behind the name, TGIF
It means Thank God It’s Friday and the idea is that when Friday comes around, people have that weekend feeling in mind. Therefore the restaurant that we have created harnesses that great feeling no matter what day of the week it is. Also, I have set a vision for myself, ‘To ensure that  Friday’s is seen as the destination of choice by Indians with high aspirations and they go back richer with the experience, time after time’.


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