EVOKE CAFÉ AND BISTRO: CREATING SPACE EVOKING INSPIRATION WITH PRAKESH SHRESTHA
The Restaurant scene in Kathmandu-Lalitpur is a little cramped for space, and that’s putting it lightly. Plan a simple dinner night with your pals and you’ll spend half the day choosing from an overwhelming plethora of choices of restaurants. For quite some time now, Jhamsikhel has served as a hub for restaurants and eateries; and there are plenty to choose from. It is so densely populated with restaurants that, on your night out, you can start with appetizers at one restaurant, dive into the entrées in a different place, get desserts somewhere else, finish with drinks at yet another venue and do it all without having to walk more than a few paces each time.
While this might seem slightly stifling for some restaurants, Evoke Café and Bistro seem unperturbed. Smack dab at the heart of the Jhamsikhel restaurant brawl, Café Evoke has come into the scene with all guns blazing. Understanding the importance of a smart storefront and the right location, Evoke Café and Bistro have stepped the game up for the entire industry. The establishment spreads itself over a substantial area of land and for good reason. It is more than just a place to eat.
In its premises, Evoke Café and Bistro hosts an amalgamation of other creative establishments and homegrown startups such as The Platform, Local Project and more. “The connections made via shared spaces can be the difference between moving your business forward or settling for the ordinary”, Prakesh Shrestha, one of the people behind, puts the importance of stepping outside the conventional boundaries. Prakesh is one of the Co-owners, along with Mohit Thapa Magar, Sushant Thapa and Abhilasha Rana; and here is what we talked about the last time we met him.
TNM: WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU STARTED EVOKE?
PS: We were three partners that always had a plan to do something. At first we thought of opening a travel magazine. Although it was a plan stuck in progress, we did a lot of research for that and we also collected a lot of content for it. I had a travel company back then and the experience pretty much laid foundation for the idea of a travel magazine. Unfortunately, we couldn’t publish it for a lot of reasons. This was before opening Evoke. I also had a hotel in Sundhara where I worked for three years. Likewise, I also opened up a few coffee shops in Basantapur and Bouddha. After that we opened up the Evoke Café in Pokhara and then in Kathamandu.
TNM: TELL US THE CONCEPT BEHIND CAFÉ EVOKE.
PS: Nepal has always been a place tourists love to visit, a majority of whom are interested in coffee. More than that we wanted to promote coffee among Nepali people as well. The culture of going out to eat wasn’t as proficient as it is today, even in Kathmandu. Me being a foodie and a coffee lover helped too.
TNM: HOW DID IT ALL START?
PS: All of us were always interested in different concepts. We like learning new things and doing new things. We give more priority to startups and youth like us. Opening Evoke didn’t happen overnight. For more than 8 years I explored locations and pondered about what we would do if we ever opened up a café. And we overcame plenty of obstacles to get here.
TNM: TELL US ABOUT YOUR AFFINITY TOWARDS LOCAL STARTUPS.
PS: The other business in this space is primarily local startups. We know what it takes to start a business from scratch. It is a difficult task but an important one. This is a step towards helping those startups, which in return helps us as well.
TNM: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS EVOKE’S UNIQUE SELLING POINT?
PS: Evoke means the awakening of a feeling or an idea and that is what we want people to feel when they come here. We never wanted it to be just a café. There is more than food, atmosphere and drinks to look forward to here. There is always something or the other that is happening. Other than that, the food is great, we have a variety of beers and coffee and a good ambiance. There is something for everyone from families, friends and foreigners alike. None of this came easy though. One year after opening, things are finally taking shape. The startups in the premise are hand picked so that they gel well with what Evoke represents. This is a collaborative effort and we try to keep the minimum charge for space that new businesses acquire.
THE CONNECTIONS MADE VIA SHARED SPACES CAN BE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MOVING YOUR BUSINESS FORWARD OR SETTLING FOR THE ORDINARY
TNM: WHAT DO YOU HAVE PLANNED NEXT? ANY PLANS OF EXPANSION?
PS: We have plans of expansion but not right away. We are fairly young in the business and the response has been positive till now and we want to keep it that way. It’s not just the Evoke Café and Bistro that would expand we would also take all the other ventures we have with us and help them expand as well. But of course in the future we would like to expand to other cities and do the same thing we have been doing in Kathmandu.
TNM: THE INVESTMENT INTO CAFÉ EVOKE APPEARS TO BE SIGNIFICANTLY MORE IN COMPARISON TO MOST OTHER RESTAURANTS. BUT, OF COURSE, THIS IS MORE THAN JUST A RESTAURANT. WHAT SORT OF REVENUE MODEL OR STRATEGIES ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING TO MAXIMIZE ITS POTENTIAL FOR ITS RETURN ON INVESTMENT?
PS: The best thing about the team is that we are big believers of teamwork and we implement it into what we do. Everyone has his or her own capabilities and everyone gets a designated job. If we look at the traditional habits of people then we don’t see many people appreciating or supporting new business and not even their families. And the other thing is we normally look at is the long-term return on investment than the short-term returns. We try and bring new events that covers different areas like music, poetry slams, art and theater stage and we want to keep it going. And also side-by-side we want to Evoke to provide a wholesome experience. You can work, have good weekends, and go on a cycling trip and even shop.
TNM: ARE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES THAT YOU HAVE FACED AND WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
PS: The main challenge in the food and restaurant industry is maintenance of quality and separating professional and personal aspects of work. Above all, maintaining a level of consistency in quality is also important. And the employee turnover is high. Besides that, we try to stay within legal boundaries and keep our standards high. We don’t get to open till late night and that really goes against what we’d like to do.
TNM: WOULD YOU SAY THE INDUSTRY IS STILL BOOMING OR HAS IT STAGNATED? EITHER WAY, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY YOUR STRATEGIES ARE TO WORK THROUGH THESE SITUATIONS?
PS: The restaurant business is growing in the market but it gets to extensive levels. There are so many restaurants opening up everywhere that some may lose their charm because of this reason. But we have always promoted Evoke to be more than just a restaurant. The strategy we have is getting revenue and promotion through all the collaboration we do here. With new ventures opening up, it attracts lots of different people from kids to adults. Evoke is more of a recreational getaway on weekdays and weekends alike. And we would like to keep doing this and grow more.
STEM BIKE SHOP
The stem bike shop allows people with a passion for riding bikes to sell and rent out bikes to go on adventurous trips or just a simple commute. They also sell various gears and accessories to go with the bikes.
HOUSE OF PALETTES
House of Palettes is an artist’s dream, regardless of whether they are beginners or experienced. You can try out your painting skills and have a seasoned local artist help you along. At the end of the evening, you can leave with your own masterpiece. The vibes and the ambiance of the overall setting is relaxing and welcoming.
THE LOCAL PROJECT
The Local Project is a hub for stores manufacturing, marketing and selling genuine Nepal made products. The store matches the concept of empowering the local market and producers along with providing a diverse selection of authentic Nepali made products to their customers.
THE PLATFORM INC.
Platform Inc. is one of the first co-working spaces in Nepal that provides office spaces that is more economical than traditional offices since the workspace is shared. It is one of the best places to work in for new startups while sharing ideas with people who work together and be more efficient.
WORDS: SHREYA SANGROULA | PHOTOS: PRITAM CHHETRI