Heritage bookstore Higginbothams cashes in on cafe culture :

Posted by-Kalki Team

At a time of dwindling attention spans and heightened social media activity, a serial hospitality entrepreneur from the city has chosen to go against the grain and set up what looks like an Indian equivalent of a Barnes and Nobles bookshop meets a restaurant. Its Chennais very own Higginbotham’s that is entering the fray now.

M Mahadevan, chairman and MD of Oriental Cuisines, is the driving force behind the Writers Cafe, a quaint little restaurant situated in Peter’s Road, Royapettah. Having been a strongman in the city’s restaurant and bakery scene for close to three decades now, trying out something new and youthful came organically to Mahadevan.

Speaking about the new makeover, he tells us, Today, the notion is to move on from fine dining to fun dining. Colourful spaces, an informal or casual ambience is what we are looking at, with an aim to appeal to the young and yuppie crowd. The new cafe that we are launching in association with Higginbothams is one such outlet. We have 4,800 square feet of books and stationery, and of course, there will be coffee, sandwiches, different types of cookies served here. We are planning to launch the restaurant next week, as we are still waiting for the shipment of books to come from Higginbothams.”

One of the USPs of this book store cum coffee shop is that the menu here comprises piping hot food, not just sandwiches that have become the staples with such setups. Venturing into a segment that was marked by the presence of joints like Oxford Bookstores Cha Bar in Nungambakkam and Zha Cafe on LB Road in Adyar, Mahadevan has his work cut out for him. He explains, The choice of tie-up with Higginbothams was primarily because its a good brand. Also, I tend to gravitate toward businesses formed on the grounds of informal networks. My father-in-law and A Krishnamoorthy, promoter and chairman of Amalgamations Group (which owns the brand Higginbothams) are great friends. So I made a proposal to his grandson Gautham and he gave me an immediate nod of approval.

Emphasising on the need to think differently, Mahadevan says, Most restaurants tend to line up their walls with little photographs. I wasnt keen on doing that as I wanted to sell using every square inch available. So we are lining up the bare walls with bookshelves. I told Gautham they could put up their books here. If it sells, I can pay you. If it doesnt, you can take them back. Its mantra that I learned from the Chinese and the Singaporeans - to squeeze every single penny out of the business, but in a mutually beneficial way.”

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