Provided / Stuff
Coriander owner and managing director Gaurav Soni, left, and owner and operations manager Hapal Singh are delighted to have opened the company’s fifth restaurant.
As many hospitality establishments struggle due to the Covid-19 pandemic, an Indian restaurant chain is growing its empire.
Gaurav Soni and Harpal Singh, owners of Coriander’s in Christchurch, teamed up with former estate agent Tariq Kundan to open the chain’s fifth restaurant last Saturday.
The new Prestons restaurant joins existing branches in the city centre, Bush Inn, Rolleston and Sumner.
Soni and Singh took over the restaurant chain with a new venture in March 2020, just at the start of the pandemic.
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They went through the four-week Tier 4 lockdown before Tier 3 allowed them to offer take-out options.
“We were surviving,” Soni said.
The first lockdown was the worst time for the new owners as they were already facing a big challenge.
The previous owner had underpaid staff, which damages the chain’s reputation. In 2021, the labor court ordered Amar Deep Singh and his companies to pay more than $500,000 in fines and compensation to eight workers. Singh was also banned from being an employer.
The restaurants were then sold – some are now run by new owners under the Coriander name, and the rest by other owners under new names.
When Soni and Singh bought the Christchurch and Rolleston restaurants, they made sure staff was their first priority.
“We only took the wage subsidy once, that was during the first lockdown, and that was to pay our staff,” Soni said.
They took advantage of the confinement by creating new recipes to generate more sales. They also signed up for every possible food delivery service.
“Operating an old-fashioned business is over. We are with our customers digitally and constantly,” Soni said.
The new recipes, which include a range of special vegan dishes, have made each branch more “like eight restaurants in one”, he said.
Coriander’s has been doing so well that a fourth restaurant opened in Sumner in September last year, followed by the fifth branch in Prestons this month.
Tariq Kundan, the third co-owner of the Prestons restaurant, previously worked as a real estate agent for Mike Pero.
He, Soni and Singh saw a gap in North Christchurch for a “good quality” Indian restaurant.
“We have always invested in food quality,” Soni said.