Name: Alankar “Alan” Verma
Business: Jinky’s Cafe
Milestone; 20 years in business
Location: Five cafes in Los Angeles
Alan Verma is a true US immigrant success story. Originally from India, Alan started out in the hospitality industry there before moving on to managing kitchens in London. A move to California with his wife brought him the opportunity to operate a fast food franchise for nine years before opening his first Jinky’s Cafe in Los Angeles. Fast forward through 20 years of hard work, and Alan is now the owner of five Jinky’s Cafes throughout the LA area. He always believed he could do whatever he set his mind to, and Alan’s determination and success has built a culinary empire that put his daughters through college. It’s also made him an LA-eatery staple -- no small feat in a city with rapidly changing tastes.
QuickBooks celebrates Alan! In honor of Small Business Week, QuickBooks updated Jinky’s presence on Facebook and Instagram with a top-to-bottom makeover. Now, thanks to a library of brand new photos of the Jinky’s team in action, Alan can keep his online presence as fresh and enticing as his delicious dishes!
Jinky’s Cafe is a featured vendor at Intuit’s Small Business Week celebration this week in Mountain View, CA, April 30 to May 4.
Alan, what did you do for work before you started your own business?
I’ve always been in the restaurant industry. I went to a reputed hospitality college inBombay to study hotel and restaurant management. After graduating, I worked for Sheraton Hotels in India. I got my restaurant and kitchen management experience in London. In 1989, my wife and I moved to Los Angeles. My first job was managing a Taco Bell franchise for nearly nine years. I was part of an Indian restaurant business venture in Sherman Oaks around that time as well. In 1995, I was managing a Subway franchise when I set my sights on a tiny coffee shop nearby. By 1998, it was mine -- the first Jinky’s Cafe.
Did you have a specific “aha” moment when you knew you were going to go out on your own and start a business?
I have known I wanted to open my own business since the 12th grade. My grandfather ran a successful business trading rice, spices and nuts, and his success and freedom was an inspiration to me. I spent a long time working for franchises, learning what to do and what not do. It made me realize that if I had control over my own place and my own menu, I could apply those learnings and create something that was mine.
How did you get started?
For 12 years, I learned everything I could from anywhere I could. I got an opportunity to buy a share in an Indian restaurant in Sherman Oaks and, under my management, it became very popular. I created a new menu, promoted it differently, developed their catering business and managed events. It was the first step towards going all-in on my own place. The experience made me realize I really could own and operate my own restaurant if I wanted.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned working for yourself?
It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance and dedication. Skills help, of course, but you really need to put in the work. Also, keeping in mind that all that glitters is not gold -- if it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Tell us about the name “Jinky.”
We had this funny idea about using the name “Jinky” to create a comic book character who was a chef. It would be our story as we ran the restaurant. It never actually happened, but the restaurant became successful and the name stuck.
What does your typical day look like?
It’s always different. Now that I have multiple locations, my main job is to coordinate with the chefs and managers of each one every day. I work out vendor pricing, billing, accounting, oversee marketing, HR, crew training, crew drama -- the list goes on. Something is always happening. My favorite part is coming up with new specials and working on them in the kitchen with the chefs.
What do you love about this work?
It’s my passion! I get to be creative with the menu and provide a great dining experience for my customers. I find that very satisfying and rewarding. My love of food and the business helped raise a family and put my two daughters through college. It’s not every day that happens.
What is difficult about this work?
Whenever you add people to the equation, things get complicated. Managing employees and customers isn’t always easy. Food trends are always changing, so trying to stay on top of those and keep ahead of the curve in product offering is a full-time job in addition to actually running the existing business.
What is your secret to making it to twenty years in such a difficult industry like the restaurant industry?
It comes down to hard work, resilience, learning as much as you can and having people skills. It’s important to have the loyalty of your crew and to build a good relationship with your customers.
What do you hope to gain at Intuit Small Business Week?
We made it to 20 years, and it’s cool to have a company that helped us build this business celebrate with us. Plus, exposure is always a good thing in the restaurant business!
Now it's your turn!
QB Community members, which small businesses will you be supporting during Small Business Week?
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