Having businesses located in two of London’s busiest areas has meant that Naresh Kapoor has never struggled to attract customers. His Japanese restaurants Sen Nin in Camden and Islington have always benefited from good passing trade, as well as regular local clientele.
But Upper Street in Islington, where Naresh’s original restaurant is based, has changed a lot since he first opened for business in 2006. With ever more restaurants and bars opening on the fashionable North London thoroughfare, one food critic recently nicknamed it ‘Supper Street.’ And as the surrounding area has moved increasingly upmarket, Naresh felt the time had come for a comprehensive refurbishment of his Islington branch to give it a more modern feel to attract new customers and to compete with stylish neighbouring businesses.
“Obviously, we repaint the restaurants regularly and we’d had a small refurbishment in Islington in 2008,” explains Naresh. “But earlier this year I decided that the Upper Street branch needed a total facelift and new menus.”
Sen Nin’s menu includes sushi, Japanese and Oriental classics, and Teppanyaki dishes cooked on an iron griddle in full view of customers. Naresh also wanted to extend the menu to include Robatayaki specialities, traditional dishes that are slow-grilled over charcoal. Plans for the redesign were ambitious, with a new open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant and a bar area at the rear. The works were budgeted to cost some thousands of pounds, but when Naresh approached his bank in April for funding he met with a stony response.
“Restaurant businesses just don’t appear to be popular with the banks as far as borrowing is concerned. It’s very difficult to get capital in our industry.”
A little later, Naresh spotted an advert for Boost Capital in a catering trade magazine and thought he would see what they might have to offer.
“I explained what we needed, that we were looking to change the dynamic of the business, and wanted to get the premises ready ahead of the busy season towards the end of the year,” he adds. “That was in the summer and the loan application process proved quite easy and quick. We had the money within a short period of time and shut for refurbishment on August 11th, when business tends to be a little quieter.”
The revamp progressed quickly and Sen Nin reopened its doors in Islington at the beginning of September. Thus far, the response from customers to the new-look restaurant and menu has been very encouraging and positive.
“It’s definitely brought in a new and different clientele for us. We’ve seen greater numbers of young, trendy customers who are attracted by the bar and are prepared to spend extra money on things like cocktails, as well as food. It’s been worth the effort and we hope to do a similar, though perhaps not quite so radical, refurb of the Camden branch in due course.”
The most immediate challenge for the Sen Nin team is the looming Christmas party season, the busiest time of the year for those working in the restaurant industry. Naresh and the 24 people he employs across both London sites are gearing up for the festive onslaught, with trade brisk since the beginning of the autumn and party bookings now filling the diary. Within the next few years, Naresh also has hopes of opening a third branch, though he knows the importance of finding the right location before he can make any firm plans for further expansion.
“Smaller companies need money to flourish and grow and it’s not easy to get that finance at the moment,” he concludes. “We had to look around for alternatives and I’m glad that we did. Now, we can look forward to a busy Christmas and I’m hopeful that we’ll keep attracting new customers into the New Year and further ahead.”
Check out the video below to hear Naresh talk about how funding from Boost Capital helped Sen Nin and how he plans on using capital in the future: