Haji Salahuddin, Zainul Abedin, Jalaluddin Akbar, Zaeemuddin Ahmed
Directors, Karim Hotels
“Consistent Quality & Taste”
Serving non-vegetarian food since 1913, Karim’s boasts to be Delhi’s best restaurant, when it comes to Mughlai cuisine. The reason being the consistency in taste and quality maintained over the years that have created a brand value, say the directors. Beginning with one restaurant in Jama Masjid, Old Delhi, now the restaurant chain has expanded to multiple locations in India and one restaurant in Dubai as well.
Karim’s has been operational since the time of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. And today, it is being counted amongst the best restaurants of Delhi. How has been this long journey for you?
Haji Salahuddin: Indeed it has been a really long journey. Karim’s has been operational for the last 100 years. We have served the kitchens of Mughal Emperors such as Shah Jahan and Bhadur Shah Zafar and till today we serve the same taste in our restaurants. The cooks from these kitchens were associated with us. To establish the restaurant, our grandfather worked very hard and now the fourth generation has taken over the managerial work. Our success has been made possible by the strict quality norms, which we are adhering to since the very beginning and hence been able to maintain the same quality of food ever since. We feel very happy and proud about where we stand today. People from across the world come to our restaurants and appreciate our food and service. We owe it to Allah (God) and by his grace we have earned a name on foreign shores as well. Foreigners appreciate our dishes even though they are not used to too much of spicy food. But here they like the spices as well and we always try to keep up with people’s expectations.
When our grandfather started this business, he never thought that this would grow to be such a big name. His name was Karimuddin and thus the name of the restaurant is after his name – Karim’s. My brothers, their sons, and I, we all manage and work in the restaurant with honesty and hard work to ensure that the food is always great.
Over the period of so many years, have you been able to maintain the same quality and taste?
Zainul Abedin: Yes. The taste is still the same. We are using the same quality (being the best available in the market and mixing in house). Though the method of cooking has changed to modern method of gas burner instead of using a coal burner, still there are a few items that are being made using the old methods such as tandoori chicken, mutton barrah, seekh kebab and tikkas, to name a few. People come with their grand children and tell them that they used to eat here and the taste is same since then.
Do you also have the same dishes in the menu that used to be served in Emperor’s court?
Jalaluddin Akbar: The menu is still the same though the rates for the food items have changed with time. It includes qorma, badaam pasanda, biryani, chicken curry, burra kabab, tandoori chicken, seekh kabab and shami kabab. People prefer paya and Nahari in breakfast.
Did you face problems in cooking methods or serving techniques? What would be your achievements?
Zaeemuddin Ahmed: We faced problems but managed to retain the quality of the food. We prepare our own spices whenever it is required and we never share our recipes with anyone. There has not been any change in the cooking style since 100 years. From time to time, film stars from Bollywood, cricketers and foreigners visit, enjoy and appreciate our food. Very high dignities are our guest.
How many restaurants do you have and what are your expansion plans, if any?
Zainul Abedin: We have 17-18 famil members outlets in Delhi and each branch is successful.
Can you talk about your presence outside India?
Jalaluddin Akbar: We have one restaurant in Dubai that was established in 1995. The name of the restaurant is Ashrafi and not Karim’s. We could not name the restaurant Karim’s because Karim refers to God and cannot be used in Dubai as a business name. So, we write Ashrafi restaurant with ‘managed by Karim’s of Delhi’ in bracket.
So is the menu same in Dubai?
Jalaluddin Akbar: Yes, we have the same menu in Dubai. To maintain the same quality and taste we take spices from India and so far haven’t received any complaints. We use fresh Indian mutton that is exported there.
What are your overseas expansion plans, for example, in Europe?
Haji Salahuddin: We want to expand overseas but transporting spices and other required things abroad is a little difficult. In Dubai too, it is difficult but we manage somehow. It is not easy expanding overseas. What if we could not keep up with the quality? We will represent India there, so we do not want people to criticise our food and service for taste and quality as that will earn us a bad name.
Who according to you are your competitors?
Zaeemuddin Ahmed: We have a different way of working. We don’t give franchise. Our outlets are purely run by our family members.
Haji Salahuddin: People try to compete with us. But no one could manage to keep up with our standards.
What is your footfall like?
Zaeemuddin Ahmed: The average footfall is around 2000- 2500. Many foreign tourists from Australia, Indonesia, the Gulf countries, and from other regions come to our restaurants and appreciate the taste of the food.
Foreigners prefer signature dishes like tandoori chicken, chicken qorma, burra mutton and seekh kabab, to name a few. For example, people from London forget their favourite dish – fish and chips – after having our chicken tikka masala.
Where do you see your burgeoning business in the next five years?
Haji Salahuddin: We will try to expand ourselves in India on every opportunity. But we have to take care of the clientele and whether people in that area can afford our food. Since it’s a family run business, we have to be cautious.
Zainul Abedin: We, being in business for such a long time, have involved family members of next generation and got them professionally qualified to assist us in our future expansion plans.