Succeeding Inno Veggie last month… The emphatic runaway winner of the Worst Restaurant of the Month award for April 2016 is Khana Khazana. Here’s the explanation why…
The history of this issue started when arranging a group booking for 7th October 2015. The reservation was made explicitly clearly for an all vegan buffet (as per previous bookings made to there). That seemed to be too much to ask for. The manager brought out and included a yogurt dip among the buffet items. It was thus explained to the manager that yogurt contains dairy produce. The offending item was removed from the buffet. A pretty amateur blunder to start with but let’s move on.
Then came the issue that was to become key to this award. A couple of people at the event ordered alcoholic beverages as they are perfectly entitled to do. Nothing was thought of this at the time. Then at the beginning of November press headlines were made by the Irish booze giant that is Guinness. Specifically Guinness announced their plan to upgrade their brewing equipment by the end of 2016. The outcome of this upgrade would be Guinness would no longer need to be made with animal derived processing aids. It beggars belief that manufacturers would throw any of cow, pig, fish, crustacean shell, milk or egg into booze during manufacture. However as recently explained on this website this is a fact of life (or in the case of the cows, pigs, fish etc, a fact of death). Much of the world’s booze is not vego friendly.
Prompted by Guinness press coverage of non vego booze an email was sent on 7th November 2015 to Khana Khazana using the email id on their website. The key part of the sent email is:-
Dear Sir / Madam,
You may have seen the extensive news coverage this week re Guinness. Namely they announced plans to move away from non vegetarian ingredients in their drink. This is a timely reminder that many alcoholic drinks are not vegetarian. The vegetarian society weblink below explains this well.
In this regard could you advise please? Have all of the alcoholic beverages on sale at Khana Khazana been checked to ensure they are 100% vegetarian?
Any info is appreciated.
Not rocket science. Various chaser messages were sent to Khana Khazana by email without reply. After contacting them via whatsapp Khana Khazana responded on 4th January. A phone call was made by the CEO of Khana Khazana’s umbrella company, Fusion Concepts. That person calling was Shivein Shukla.
He started by blaming the lack of response by email on issues with their email infrastructure. As if a commercially driven enterprise having sub standard email systems could be a justification for ignoring customer concerns. Regrettably things went downhill all the way from there.
He offered an invite to come into his restaurant to discuss concerns with complimentary tea and dinner. It was interesting though that when he did so (especially the offer of dinner), he did so in a pausing, hesitant tone. The tone painted an image of a man clearly uncomfortable with the dinner he was proposing. His discomfort aside this is a common tactic in the food and beverage industry. Anyone causing any sort of issues, get them into the restaurant and sweeten them up with some free grub and a drink or two on the house. So often a cheap way to buy someone off to make the issue go away. Mr Shukla’s dinner invite was thus declined.
This phone call though gave an opportunity to suggest a constructive way forward to Khana Khazana:-
* www.barnivore.com is a quick and simple way for a first check of whether or not an alcoholic drink is vegetarian
* anything not listed on Barnivore should be followed up with suppliers. If suppliers can’t answer then subsequently follow up with the manufacturer directly
* anything that cannot immediately be verified as vegetarian gets withdrawn from retail pending confirmation of the vego status of the booze. Anything that cannot be verified as vegetarian shouldn’t be sold to customers in a purportedly vegetarian restaurant. That is a sure fire way to protect the vegetarian purity of their clients. And so building and maintaining a solid reputation as being a genuinely vegetarian restaurant can be achieved.
The points suggested verbally to Khana Khazana were sent by email to them the same day. This ambiguous, unconvincing and underwhelming email was received three days later in reply:-
Thanks for your reply. Barnivore.com would be very helpful and we are moving in that direction.
Thanks once again.
This thus generates a situation of some discomfort. Being aware of the shortcomings of Khana Khazana and the seeming lack of concern for protecting the vego integrity of their customers, what to do? Sitting in silence would be complicit in allowing them to perpetuate misleading their customers. Their customers pay Khana Khazana good money for Khana Khazana to take the effort of verifying that all they retail is vego. Thus to be transparent, Mr Shukla was notified as follows:-
* the continued appalling contempt for the vegetarian principles of his customers has been published in an online review (on happycow.net worldwide restaurant directory)
* further lack of action on the part of Mr Shukla and co would result in this info being broadcast widely elsewhere (e.g. Facebook, Trip Advisor)
(Khana Khazana clearly market themselves as a vegetarian entity. Yet they don’t verify everything the sell is vegetarian).
Another option would have been just to rock ahead to widely broadcast the info in question without pre notice to Khana Khazana. Immediate wider broadcast though would remove the option of them being able to actively tackle the issue without them risking further reputational damage. It seemed fair to thus offer them a further chance.
The following replies were sent by Shivein Shukla by email:-
Let me start by saying that I come from a vegetarian family and been a practicing vegetarian by birth. Most of our other stakeholders are also committed vegetarians. I am sure with that we do not need to espouse our values and ethics. Khana Khazana is more than a business to us and we invested our hard-earned cash in this vegetarian restaurant when there were hardly any vegetarian businesses around solely because we believed in it. If we did not hold our customers in high esteem we would not have lasted this long.
All that would sound brilliant if it weren’t such staggering rubbish. A quick look at the Fusion Concepts website reveals four restaurants in their portfolio. Only Khana Khazana of the four is listed as vegetarian. The simple reason for that is Khana Khazana is the only one of the four that is vegetarian. So the situation we have here is a man claiming vegetarian moral high ground. The same man runs a business in which 75% of his restaurant estate is based on selling slaughtered animal parts. There’s more…
I am sure a vegetarian customer would be wise to make an informed choice. You would appreciate that based on an unverified resource such as a website referred by you, we cannot just remove an item or items. What you are saying below tantamounts to blackmail and we are afraid we cannot accede to every such request until we are absolutely sure that products in question are non-vegetarian.
Try to show someone a way forward and they reply with accusations of blackmail. Further, in a reply to a later email he stated…
You have already written your review and we will respond through appropriate forum. If your vegetarianism makes it a vendetta to impose your wishes on others then we can only disagree with that. Our principle of vegetarianism remains in mutual acceptance and respecting everybody’s choices. Khana Khazana is indeed a commercial venture but with a social motive. We stand against violence of any kind including the verbal one.
Bringing two of Mr Shukla’s sentences together:-
- we cannot accede to every such request until we are absolutely sure that products in question are non-vegetarian.
- our stand is principled and unequivocal on this issue.
It seems the tag line should be something like this:-
Khana Khazana: proudly determined not to verify what we sell is vegetarian.
Also it isn’t just blackmail he is making accusations of. It’s also a vendetta he states. And how about the line about standing against violence of any kind? This man runs three restaurants based on selling meat. Perhaps he has certification that all the dead animals he sells died of natural causes?
He did though clearly state any reviews in public forums would be responded to. Sounds good. So as well as happycow.net Mr Shukla has been emailed links to these reviews of his restaurant on:-
The Facebook page above is an independent page. Two Facebook pages appear owned by the restaurant themselves. The moderators of these two Facebook pages have blocked the critical review being added to each of these two pages. The review added to the independent Khana Khazana facebook page has yet to be replied to by Mr Shukla nor anyone else. Similarly despite their claim they would do so they have not yet replied to the reviews on Trip Advisor or happycow.net.
Shivein Shukla has not replied since 19th January 2016 to emails asking he tackles this issue. From the subsequent actions he has taken with others to try to stop this negative press being published about his business it is clear he has seen the emails sent to him.
To sum up the concerns with Khana Khazana:-
* Everything any vegetarian restaurant sells to its customers should be verified as vegetarian
* Some concerns have been expressed to Khana Khazana on the previous bullet point. Khana Khazana steadfastly refuse to treat this concern with any seriousness
* Rather than own the highlighted issue they prefer to cover up the information in question and persist in treating the vegetarianism of their customers with contempt
* And just to throw into the bargain the hypocrisy of Shivein Shukla’s sanctimonious pseudo vegetarian moralising. Mr Shukla’s moralising has the same credibility of when Richard Nixon stated his five most famous words. The same applies to Mr Shukla’s hollow claims of replying to the highlighted concerns when these concerns are raised in public forums.