Nearly a decade ago, when Ron Parikh and three of his friends were in college, they put their intense entrepreneurial energies together and bought up a billiards parlor. A few years later, they entered the restaurant business by opening up a franchise of Genghis Grill, a Mongolian stir-fry restaurant. Today, their Chalak Group of Companies owns the franchise rights to the restaurant, which now has 13 operating units. Genghis Grill lets customers create their own meals by selecting ingredients from a food bar and then letting a grill master cook it all up in a public performance. As Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Ron, 27, develops marketing plans for the Genghis Grill brand and supports the individual restaurants with advertising, promotions, and branding the concept. The aim of it all is to grow Genghis Grill into as many locations as possible and turn the brand into a household name. Check out this amazing young restaurateur in this week’s Young & Professional Profile.
Parent Company: The Chalak Group of Companies
Current Project: Genghis Grill Franchise Concepts, LP
Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer/Director of Franchising
University of Texas at Dallas
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
Bank of America
Personal Banker/Loan Officer
The Chalak Group of Companies
Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer
About the company
1997-2001: The seeds for The Chalak Group of Companies were planted when the company’s founders were in college. Al (Akash) Bhakta, Chet (Chetan) Bhakta, Nik (Nikunj) Bhakta, and Ron (Ronak) Parikh were all students in the Dallas area – many of them at the University of Texas. As business-oriented and self-motivated individuals, the group bought out an existing billiards parlor in Garland, TX – Rack’Em Billiards in March of 1999.
Within six months, they turned an indolent, lackluster pool hall in to an exciting, compelling business. As young entrepreneurs would, they started thinking outside the box and came up with their next venture – a casino-styled game room. The potential and the entertaining concept of a game room took them to Lewisville, TX where they operated a friendly, neighborhood game room for the community. As most 20-somethings would do, the group went out to eat together often, and during these social outings, came upon Genghis Grill, an Asian-stir fry restaurant concept, which became a quick hot spot for them. They left their business card one day to ask the concept’s owner to call if they ever started franchising.
The already successful Chalak Group got a phone call in August 2001 from Genghis Grill about its franchise launch.Going with Genghis Grill was a no brainier for the Chalak Group and its founders signed a deal for their first store in October 2001. The Chalak Group was officially a bona-fide restaurant company.
2002-2004: The first ever Genghis Grill location under the company was open in October 2002 in Dallas, TX. Genghis Grill’s original founder sold the concept to Consilient Restaurants, LP in 2003. As their passion and commitment for the concept grew stronger, The Chalak Group of companies acquired the Addison location in 2004. Addison location is where they fell in love with the concept in first place! As the group got “hungrier” about growing the concept, a golden opportunity came to them. In late 2004 Consilient approached The Chalak Group about buying the chain because it didn’t end up fitting well in to its portfolio. As Genghis is more “fast-casual,” Consilient wanted out and The Chalak Group was the perfect fit. In November of 2004, The Chalak Group purchased 100% of the franchise rights and intellectual property rights and started their operation under the name of Genghis Grill Franchise Concepts, LP.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Currently, The Chalak Group’s main focus is growing the Genghis Grill brand. One of the major responsibilities I have is to lead the strategic development and execution of marketing plans for Genghis Grill brand. One of the day-to-day responsibilities are to support not only our seven corporate locations but also support six of our franchised locations in advertising, marketing related promotions and branding the concept. Tracking and validating all advertisement at national and local level is also one of the main daily functions of this position.
Franchise development is a big part of my job as well. Growing the franchise not only through corporate locations but also interviewing, selecting and approving new franchisees is part of a day to day process.
Most notable milestones
Genghis Grill is now at 13 operating units, which is a first in its history. We have seven corporate locations operating at the same time, which is also a first in the company’s history.
What’s the niche?
From a customer’s point of view, they have the power to create their own meal by choosing an array of ingredients from the food bar. This caters to all different ages, with or without specific needs. Even if someone has diabetes, or heart issues, they can follow a strict diet by following our nutritional guide on the sauces and our new Heart Healthy Recipes.
Kids can be quite creative themselves and can enjoy their creations by showing them off to their parents! It’s a great place to bring a first date or for couples to enjoy interactive dining. It’s a great place for families to gather and enjoy their own preferences, may it be chicken, steak, seafood, or even if they are vegetarian.
From a business perspective, it is great not to depend on one highly paid chef. Our “GrillMasters” can be trained easily, as our patrons prepared and gather all the ingredients for their meals! All they have to do is cook them! “If you build it, we will cook it!”
So the operational infrastructure is very simple with a small prep area and more seating available for the customer!
What’s the biggest challenge?
As far as the biggest challenge is to initially get the customers in the door.
As we are a niche concept, we don’t want to be counted in the “exotic” sector of the restaurant industry. We have chicken, beef, steak, shrimp, crawfish, etc., just like any other restaurant. The only difference between us and them is the method of food presentation and preparation.
Once the customers are in the door, we guarantee that they will enjoy their bowl/meal!
What’s in store for the future?
For the immediate future, we are looking to expand to 30 locations in the next 24 months, with seven to ten units this year, filling in areas in (San Antonio, Arlington, Ft. Worth) TX, Tempe, AZ.; Chattanooga, TN, Sparks, NV; Wheaton, IL with a several other real estate locations in the works.
As for the long term future, we are striving to become a household name in the United States and hopefully cater our concept back home in India (some day)!
Akash (Al) Bhakta: 28
Chetan (Chet) Bhakta: 30
Nikunj (Nik) Bhakta: 29
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Competitive edge for Genghis Grill is to stay true to its offering of quality products and service to its customer and never sway from this simple golden rule, which in the long run will help our concept grow.
Guiding principle in life
For me and my partners: “You work hard! Party hard!”
Yardstick of success
Nothing great comes to you with ease, so think with your heart and follow your mind!
Goal yet to be achieved
The goal in life is to be honest at what you do and not how many great things you do. Personally, one goal in life is to retire my parents and visit them every year in India.
Best practical advice
Work hard! Party hard!
(so you’ll sleep better at night)
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
Nothing great comes to you with ease, so think with your heart and follow your mind!
She’s been the pillar in our family for over 30 years. The fact that she worked two jobs and was still able to take care of the house and two kids is just amazing.
She continues to be my strength in down times and I thank God every day that she is my mother.
What motivated you to get started?
Al, Chet, Nik – these guys are very business oriented and have positive energy flowing out of them.
Like best about what you do?
When I read a customer genuinely appreciating their entire experience at Genghis Grill! That makes my day! It makes it worth-while.
Like least about what you do?
Having a budget on marketing! (Sorry, Chet!) Ha!
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was born and raised in India. I was in India until age of 13.
I either wanted to be in the movie business or a cricket player, as you know that’s every young boy’s fantasy! (At least at that time.)
What was your first job?
I worked at a grocery store as a bag boy at the age of 16.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Watching movies (Indian or American).
Person most interested in meeting and why?
I would like to meet Amitabh Bachan and ask him, how does he do it? How did he go through the highs and the lows, bankruptcy, etc.?
I would also like to meet my late grandfather who I never got a chance to meet and hang out with, as I was not born yet!
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner who became a billionaire and bought the Mavs and turned them from chumps to champs in such a short amount of time. I want to ask him, what keeps him going? Also, can I be involved in one of his future projects?
Three interesting facts about yourself
- Team Player
- Family Oriented
Three characteristics that describe you
- Hard Worker
Three greatest passions
“The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand
I don’t have one in particular. It depends on the validity of the cause. It doesn’t matter from there…I am in!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Tough times never last, only tough people do…
Who would you like to be contacted by?
We want companies, individuals, equity firms who are really interested in our concept and would like to partner up with assisting us grow the concept in the U.S. or in India!
Product placement is getting bigger and bigger by the day in the movie industry and as a marketing officer and a big movie fan, I wouldn’t mind to see our concept in one of the movies, someday.