“I Think Of Hospitality As Showbiz And I Am A Producer,” Says Restaurateur Rohit Khattar

Zee Zest Unlimit Awards 2023's 'Icon of the Year' Rohit Khattar on creating and managing lucrative restaurant brands like Indian Accent and Comorin.

Published On Apr 17, 2023 | Updated On Mar 06, 2024


“When somebody likes a meal, they will tell three people. But if they don’t enjoy it, they will tell 12 people. Today, with social media, it can go to 12 million,” restaurateur Rohit Khattar notes solemnly. It was a lesson he learned early in his career.

The self-confessed impresario and ‘Icon of the Year’ at L’Oreal Paris Hyaluron Moisture presents Zee Zest Unlimit Awards 2023, Rohit speaks softly and eloquently, laced with humility, as he talks to this writer, ahead of the telecast of the awards ceremony on April 16, 2023 (repeat telecast, April 22, 2023, at 7 pm).

This is the man credited for creating one of the world's most admired Indian restaurant brands, Indian Accent, and India’s first themed restaurant, Chor Bizarre — both in Delhi. He is the founder-chairman of Old World Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. and he, with his son Rishiv Khattar, recently created a new restaurant company Ekatra Hospitality Ventures (EHV), which currently owns and operates their top projects — Comorin (Gurugram) and Indian Accent (New Delhi, New York, and the upcoming Mumbai outlet). 

Chor Bizarre, Delhi

It was Rohit who conceived the cultural vision for India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, and successfully ran it for 23 years (from 1997 to 2021). But ask him about the secret behind creating and managing these lucrative ventures, and he humbly gives the credit to his team and their hard work. 

Read the edited excerpts from the interview here:

Restaurateur Rohit Khattar at the Zee Zest Unlimit Awards 2023

It means a lot. I said on the stage also that I was slightly surprised because I typically don’t go to award functions. I feel that maybe the chef or the GM of that restaurant must receive the award and not the promoter. But when I was told that the award was for me, I was intrigued.  

And when I heard the ‘Icon of the Year’ title, I quipped and made this joke — it is over now, it is time to retire. Jokes apart, it is a terrific recognition of a body of work, and I will cherish it. It’s an award I graciously and respectfully accept on behalf of my team since I have a great one. Everything we do is totally dependent on the people who make the company.

I wish there was a mantra that I could bottle, it would ensure everything I do is as big a success each time.

I feel the mantra is in the details. But I am fortunate to have a good team. Most of the people have been with us for a long time. Also, if you’re talking about the restaurant business, I think what probably is almost a handicap, is that we get into granular details for everything that we do — from creating the concept to being anxious till the restaurant opens. And to get into the nitty-gritty is something that I’ve done, and many a time regretted. 

Also, because there are so many companies that have rapidly grown while we keep on focusing on 1-1 restaurant at a time. But I guess that’s why, to some extent, we have managed to maintain the quality, and that’s something which I am proud of.

This year we’re investing a lot in people, systems and processes because suddenly it’s becoming difficult to say no to the terrific opportunities that are coming up.  

I hope we'll be able to maintain that mantra and not succumb to the various shortcuts one ends up taking when one has got so much to do, because at the end of the day, there are only 24 hours in a day, and I work for 18 out of those 24 hours.  

It is this year that we have rolled out our restaurant division into a new company called EHV International. Most of the growth is happening now. My son Rishiv created a fantastic brand for us called Comorin in Gurgaon. It is our busiest restaurant and hosts over 500 people a day.  

And then I created HOSA recently in Goa, a casual South Indian restaurant, which is again doing well. Rishiv and I create the concepts.  


He also created Koloman in New York City. Comorin is our biggest but Koloman is our most successful restaurant because the revenues are in US Dollars. It serves French and Austrian cuisine.  

In the old days, I wish I had started replicating Chor Bizarre. I would then probably have had 30-40 of those today. But again, that would get slightly boring. I think it’s fun to introduce a variety of concepts, themes and designs. I enjoy that. Currently, we are growing Comorin and Indian Accent. We have requests for growing HOSA as well. 

I was probably misquoted there. I think of hospitality as showbiz; myself as a producer and an impresario. That’s because food today is entertainment. 


Purane zamaane mein log picture dikhne jaata the (In the olden days, people used to go watch movies), but today movies have come to our homes. So, if you want to go out for experiential/entertainment purposes, then you travel and explore new hotels and destinations. Otherwise, in your own city, what do you do? You go out and eat, have a few drinks. That becomes your opportunity to get entertained.  

Today, diners are expecting to be entertained by their dining experiences — they are eating with their iPhones. They record every dish that is presented to them. I think their expectations have become very high. Every meal needs to provoke their senses. They want to evaluate with their eyes and share it with other people.  

A guest lecturer for our first batch of trainees back in 1993-94 said something that has really stayed with me. He said that you must be careful because data proves that when somebody likes a meal, he or she will tell three people. But if they don’t enjoy it, they will tell 12 people. Today, with social media, it can go to 12 million.  

The key point is to understand the market first. Many people go wrong with that. For example, when I got a place in New York, my first thought was — “Should we open a Comorin here?” 

But Rishiv pointed out that it was the wrong location, the wrong vibe, and that we must do something different. Then, when we got tunnel vision into the actual concept, everything else just flowed in and we opened Koloman in New York. Some classics, of course, stand the test of time. But the market study determines whether it will work or not. 


They need to have two ‘P’s — passion (for the industry) and patience to keep going. There are no shortcuts, you must put in the hours.  

Photo: Zee Zest and EHV International