7 Monk's Café: How Planning For The Future Saved Their Business From The Impact Of COVID-19
This month, we’re featuring WCE alumni Rashmi Bhat (‘14) for our alumni spotlight. Our alumni spotlight showcases the entrepreneurial journey of the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship's graduates. Let’s meet Rashmi Bhat (‘14), co-founder of 7 Monk's Café and co-founder of Bonjour Texas.
Meet Rashmi Bhat (‘14)
Rashmi began her journey in Kentucky where they shut down their entrepreneurship program while she was a freshman. She didn’t want to be an accounting or finance major. Plus, she didn’t like the weather up there. Thanks to Google, Rashmi discovered the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship.
So she transferred to Bauer College of Business, not even realizing that there was another application process to get into WCE. She knew that they might be a risk in her not getting accepted, so she networked with several WCE students in the Class of 2013.
Experience in WCE
She has high expectations for the program, and WCE surpassed everyone of those expectations. Even to this day, Rashmi takes many of the lessons she learned and applies them when:
Hiring and onboarding new employees
Launching new businesses
Bootstrapping a company
Rashmi Bhat’s Ventures
After graduation, Rashmi had multiple restaurant job opportunities in Houston. But she took a sabbatical to go home to New Braunfels. One opportunity to buy a coffee shop in San Antonio looked hopeful, but that deal fell through.
Her landlord at the time was willing to take a risk on 21-year old Rashmi who had no prior experience owning a business – let alone a restaurant. But that’s how Bonjour Texas was born!
She started Bonjour Texas in September 2014 with little to no money. Not knowing many people in New Braunfels, she relied on grassroots marketing and networking to spread the word about Bonjour Texas.
Bonjour Texas is inspired by the numerous delis and restaurants Rashmi’s family enjoyed during her childhood years in France and Europe - Germany, Spain, Italy, etc. After moving to Texas, they collaborated with European Chefs and their Texan friends to develop a menu that is tasty, healthy, and just a little unexpected.
After creating their menu, they focused on their ingredients. Each ingredient has been carefully selected, based on taste and flavor profile. We are always looking for premium quality products to use in their deli!
In 2015, a coffee shop opened in New Braunfels and asked Rashmi if they’d supply sandwiches to their shop. While they never worked with that coffee shop, they did pick up a big client in Austin, TX.
Wholesale catering then consumed over 80% of their business.
Soon after, friends and clients started asking for homemade Indian food. Rashmi, a big believer in revenue diversification, saw an opportunity to add to their wholesale and catering business.
So they decided to move their wholesale business to off-times and created a new business to support the demand for Indian food. 7 Monk's Café was born.
7 Monk's Café
New Braunfels was demanding Indian style food. So Rashmi and her mom started the Indian and Mediterranean Inspired 7 Monk’s Cafe in 2019. Their café is inspired by the culinary experiences from their stays and travels in Asia, Europe, Mediterranean Coast, and across the US! Their Indian menu is inspired by their roots – growing up in India amongst the flavors and aromas of spices, bazaars, and cuisines. Their recipes are from Rashmi’s grandma’s and mom’s kitchen. They have plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options!
Taking Innovative Steps Before She Needed To
In mid-March 2020, Bonjour Texas lost 85% of its revenue due to COVID-19. But, thanks to Rashmi’s emphasis on revenue diversification, they haven’t skipped a beat over the last 7 months.
How? Rashmi had networked. She had really built a community not only with New Braunfels residents but other restaurant owners around the country. Those communities pulled together to not let restaurants fail. The Facebook group New Braunfels Open Restaurants During COVID-19 was created and helped them.
7 Monk's Café also had to close for 10 days due to COVID-19 because frankly, it seemed like it would be over in 10 days. After they opened, they created a temporary menu to streamline operations. And they sold out of food that first day.
Thankfully, Rashmi had already taken a few innovating steps before the pandemic changed the game, including:
Flexible and to-go friendly menu
Building a strong social media presence
Partnering With Other Businesses
With many businesses impacted, Rashmi was more than willing to partner with other businesses. One of those was a limousine company. They provided the delivery services for a couple of months.
Words of Wisdom From Rashmi Bhat
With our alumni spotlights, we always want to help and inspire current WCE students and WCE alumni to accelerate through the learning curve. Here are Rashmi Bhat’s words of wisdom:
“Get inspiration from other companies in different markets.”
Rashmi looked at what other business owners in San Francisco or New York were doing to pivot their business.
“Have an absolutely phenomenal product, and know your market.“
Research what your market needs. Rashmi spent close to 100 hours researching what her community needed from an Indian restaurant as she developed her menu. She also visited other Indian restaurants in other markets to see what she could do.
If you’d like to be spotlighted in this monthly series, click here to apply.
This WCEAN Alumni Spotlight was produced by Lauren Jefferson (WCE ‘16) and her team at FocusCopy. FocusCopy is a B2B copywriting firm that partners with entrepreneurial companies to better communicate how they transform their customer’s lives. Learn more about FocusCopy here.