Top eatery recognised for award

WINED AND DINED: Ajay Sharma pours a glass of wine for a waiting customer. Photo Mark Rieder D6078-04

ROQUETTE restaurant owner Ajay Sharma says being a finalist in the Bay of Plenty Hospitality Awards doesn’t mean they will rest on their laurels.

Having taken ownership barely a year ago, Mr Sharma said having the business recognised as one of the region’s top three restaurants was especially meaningful for him as a newly-arrived immigrant.

“To be nominated as a top three restaurant and me being of a different nationality, it is a positive message,” he said.

The restaurant is in the running for the Gilmours Tauranga Outstanding Restaurant Award, which is given to restaurants with a “fantastic a la carte menu complimented by an outstanding wine and beverage list”. It is for “establishments with professional and knowledgeable service and a welcoming ambience and style”, according to the award’s criteria.

Mr Sharma believes the nomination is a result of his focus on customer service.

“We treat people as our valued customers – we open the door for them and we cater to those people who have special diet requirements,” he said.

One of the challenges he has faced since taking ownership of the restaurant is customer perception around change.

“The food is still fantastic because we have the same chef but the perception is that everything has changed,” he said.

He said he appreciated that his customers expected top quality food and service and he respected their opinions if they were unsatisfied with either.

“We work hard to improve our service all the time. We take any negative feedback from the customer with a positive attitude and I think that’s the key,” he said.

“We work for the customer. We don’t tell them ‘you have to have it like this’.”

He said it was important the restaurant kept up with its reputation.

“We want to keep that quality high, we can’t compromise on the food. We are expensive because we use premium products and that’s why we’re one of the top restaurants,” he said.

The winner of the award will be announced at Mills Reef Winery on November 5.