Bristol foodie heroes with The Food & Drink Lawyer
In the first of our Bristol foodie heroes with The Food & Drink Lawyer, Melissa Toney talks to Harris Massey, owner and head chef of Namak Restaurant, to find out more about his new business journey and road to success.
Introduce yourself and your role in the business?
I am Harris Massey — I am the Head Chef and owner of Namak Restaurant. The restaurant opened in early February 2022 and we specialise in Indian food spanning from the North to South of the region.
What is your career background that has led you to becoming a chef?
I have been a chef for over 20 years- I trained in Mumbai but I have worked in many kitchens across Dubai, Mumbai, London, Bristol and Deli. I’ve been very lucky to have worked in restaurants at the Radisson Hyatt and Dishoom.
For me, being a chef is almost like being an artist. I always have to be creative. I also find that as a chef it’s almost like I cannot never just master the art of cooking. Every day I learn something new, thinking of how to improve my dishes and pushing myself to make them better each day. It is taxing and full of pressure and hard work, but it is so satisfying to make a guest happy.
What excites you the most about heading up the kitchen at The Namak?
This is the first kitchen I have run myself and for me, one of the best parts so far has been having a good team around me to support my dream. We are currently 5 strong staff including front of house and they are not just my staff, they are already my friends, and we work well together. Good and tasty food for my guests – makes them happy.
What has been your biggest challenge in launching the Restaurant?
The current economy and the recession have hit food businesses hard. When I started my business plans, I knew planning a business after COVID would be challenging but hospitality is resilient and as always we bounce back, but this recent increase in the cost of living has hit the hospitality sector hard already. You see, there is a direct connection between people enjoying leisure and hospitality and having extra money to do so. Quite simply, if people do not have money for their basic needs, they definitely won’t have it to spend on meals out.
But the ironic thing is I am looking to hire new staff, so I am looking to put money back into the economy. In addition to a recession, we are still feeling the effects of BREXIT and there is an absolute shortage of staff for hospitality. I have been advertising every week for the last 2 months and I have still not found anyone.
I think hospitality has a staff shortage because of COVID too. Before COVID, the hospitality sector had a robust supply of young people in the workforce. However, during COVID we were closed and these same staff went to work in offices and supermarkets etc where the hours were better and possibly even the wages. Additionally, some are working from home and/or in a hybrid work model which the hospitality sector cannot compete with.
Where did you find support for your business when you were setting up?
I had very little support when I decided to launch the business. I had my own experience in the industry, and financially I had savings from my previous business and a personal loan. I also had some good signposting from others in the business for some of the practical things once I had the site, like for repairs etc., but largely I went it alone.
I must say you were one of the only streams of support I had and that has remained consistent at a very early stage. Even before I found this site; the advice you gave me has been really helpful for the growth of Namak. We spoke about previous sites and their suitability; you reviewed the licences and gave me your initial thoughts. You even liaised with Bristol Council to get a better understanding if there were going to be any issues for me if I took on the lease. So I am very grateful to you and of course the GL team.
Why did you choose St Werburgh’s for the business site?
This location seemed ideal; there are no restaurants that can provide the same food and experience I can give. Additionally, the local community is a growing one. It is very hip and I think is one of the evolving areas in Bristol. Since I have been here the community has been very supportive and I have fitted in well.
Do you think the market is right for new businesses after COVID?
After COVID yes, but with the unjustified attack in Ukraine, the business has suffered financially.
The cost of basic cooking foods has skyrocketed:
- Cooking oil increased from £23 to £40
- Rice increased from £22 to £40
Chicken is like a rare diamond, everyday price increases, and as the war continues and the increase in food continues to rise and it is going to be detrimental for food businesses. It isn’t sustainable as it directly affects the business profit. As these prices go up and because of our own recession we can’t pass that onto customers, so as a business we are either working at cost prices or at a loss. It is a very trying time.
So that’s why it’s so important to continue to support local communities as they are the ones who keep your business going. For us, takeaways are still a big feature in our business, as while people cannot afford to come and sit and have a full meal with wine etc, they will still purchase a takeaway.
Where do you see The Namak brand in 10 years?
I want this business to grow and flourish and expect the brand to grow whatever that looks like; I’m not so sure yet.
What three things make The Namak stand out against its competitors?
I’m not really into competition in that way. There is a place for everyone in the market, I only compete with myself to improve and better the business.
Top 3 favourite dishes off the menu?
- Beef ki Shaami (grounded spiced beef patties, breadcrumbed and then deep-fried
- Achari Duck Tandoor (fresh duck breast, pickled marinade and blast cooked with an amazing pink finish)
- Masala Dosa (Thin rice pancakes served with a variety of stuffing served with sambar and coconut chutney
Melissa – my personal favourite are your Lamb tikka tandoori bites (lamb cooked in tandoor with black pepper honey and select ground peppers)
What is your favourite thing to cook at home?
Nothing because that is my job. I leave the cooking at the restaurant, and I relax at home!
Specialist food and drink lawyers
If you would like further advice or a discussion to assist you in maximising your business, our specialist licensing solicitors are on hand to help. You can call Melissa Toney on 0117 906 9237 or email email@example.com, and you can find her on Instagram @thefoodanddrinklawyer.