Uttam Reddy, the owner of Rayalaseema Ruchulu, talks about how he conceptualised his restaurant
Keeping it authentic
While Hyderabad has seen a rise in native cuisines in the recent past, we know Uttam Reddy did it first! In conversation the owner of Rayalaseema Ruchulu (RR) opens up about how he conceptualised his restaurant, how he and his team have been pulling it together amid the pandemic, his future plans and more.
The love and fame that Rayalaseema Ruchulu has garnered over the past two decades is an achievement in a time when places spring up and shut down sooner than one can notice. Ask how the successful owner even got into the business, he says, “I somehow always knew that the food and beverage industry is where I would end being. That’s probably because my mom was into this too, when I was a child. She had an ice-cream business and I watched and helped her make and deliver (to stores) our products.”
While Uttam knew that he would end up in the industry, he didn’t always want to settle here for long. “But fortunately or unfortunately, destiny had me stick on to it. There are times of frustration, I could crib about it all day, but at the end of the day, I find it fulfilling. I enjoy feeding people from the bottom of my heart. RR has my heart and soul, and I still wait for feedback from my friends when they try some of our food for the first time. It keeps me on my toes and that’s a blessing in today’s times,” he says.
Much more than biryani & haleem
Growing up, Uttam always wondered why people talked only about biryani or haleem when it came to Hyderabadi food. “The city and the Telugu States have more than just these two delicacies. Upon analysing, I figured it’s because people in Hyderabad had restaurants served biryani, irrespective of the cuisine they specialise in. That’s when I knew that it was time to bring the rural, rustic native tastes back to the city. We wanted to serve real Andhra food in an authentic set up. While Rayalaseema Ruchulu is more focussed on the Rayalaseema cusine, we also have dishes from coastal Andhra and Telangana,” he says.
For Uttam, this journey was but natural as his mother is from Telangana and father from Chittoor district (Rayalaseema). In the past five years, Hyderabad has grown exponentially in terms of new places to dine at. While Uttam thinks it’s great for the industry, he believes that it makes it competitive for the newbies, in terms of running their establishment.
He explains, “With the online players here, pricing and other factors end up burning the bottom line. It makes one not enjoy rewards and profits because it’s no longer just brick and mortar, everything has moved online. It’s a lot tougher to be in the business today, it’s no longer going to be easy for new comers unless they have great passion for what they do. Just money is not going to be enough.”
Money isn’t enough
On that note, we ask what he believes anybody who gets into the F&B business must have. “While capital is important, that alone is not going to be enough. People do have cash to throw around and don’t mind setting up shop. But today, this is not a casual business to be in. It demands a lot of hardwork, sacrifice, heart pain and complexities. This is more than just profits. It will be a challenge to retain the business and you might also find yourself torn between work and family. But thankfully, it is rewarding too, if done well and right.”
It’s no news that Hyderabad has seen a rise in native cuisines in the recent past. Uttam, however, isn’t mighty impressed by the trend. He laments, “Such concepts have been growing by the day, but sadly I’ve not come across a decent place that has real Andhra chefs making food that takes like the authentic, original Andhra food. Most of them are just fusions that taste very shallow. For example, I ate at a pretty famous Telangana restaurant whose food tasted nothing like the home-cooked Telangana food. I left the place disappointed. This needs to be addressed. We at RR always sat down with real Andhra cooks, curated menus, involved homecooks and made everything from scratch through a trial and error.”
The pandemic has hit all quarters hard, but the F&B industry has been particularly impacted as eateries were among the first to shut down. On how they’re pulling through such a time, Uttam says, “Our experience has been two-fold — we’ve expanded but have also shut four restaurants in the city. With a heavy heart, we had to lay off some of our staff and chefs. But we definitely plan to open many more and hire more once things settle down. Jubilee Hills, HITEC City and Ameerpet are some of the places we’ve opened up in recently.”
On what 2022 could look like for RR, he shares, “Apart from looking to sustaining ourselves, I am hopeful of expanding Rayalaseema Ruchulu in several other places. Begumpet, Secunderabad and Kondapur are where we plan on opening our branches soon. I also hope to get into various other formats of the food business.” On a concluding note, he recalls what the F&B business and the pandemic have taught him: To be more tolerant, patient and grounded than ever!