MAHBUBANI...the expansion is more about coming into Kingston, it's not so much in Mobay (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

INDIAN, Asian and Thai cuisine restaurant Mystic Thai is coming to Kingston.

The company, which operates out of Fairview Towne Centre in Montego Bay, was forced to closed its Mystic India location, which opened in 2011, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Chief Executive Officer Kareena Mahbubani explains that the closure was a blessing in disguise.

"COVID brought a certain regression in the business by consolidating the two restaurants. It looked like there's just one restaurant and it's a smaller business; however, it's generating so much more revenue because the manpower is less and in my restaurants you need overseas workers and that includes plane tickets, work permits, their stay, their food and everything is on me so that was a big reduction," said Mahbubani.

She added, "Even though it did looked like a regress, it was more of a progression because the cost came down by so much more and we're still serving the same amount of food. It's not like the business has reduced, in fact it's almost to a point where it's double what it used to be."

Mystic Thai restaurant in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

She said the business also benefits from local and overseas catering jobs which helped to keep Mystic Thai afloat during the pandemic.

"It's about two weddings a year but then because of what we do and what we're able to provide, we can charge a lot and it's only labour, you're not investing in ingredients or space, we're not paying any rent. The hotels that the weddings are in they give us the kitchen, the people who hire us, they pay our plane tickets, so there's zero expense," she explained.

"In terms of the revenue, it's about 15 per cent for the year but that's compared to the fact that there is no investment. So, even if you're only doing two a year it's as good as doing three months of business, it adds to the profit side of the business," Mahbubani continued.

With that said, the Mystic Thai boss said she is ready to grow the business outside of Montego Bay.

"The expansion is more about coming into Kingston, it's not so much in MoBay," she told the Jamaica Observer.

"We have people who drive down to come and eat with us, they are willing to drive three hours just to eat our food and drive back, there's no other agenda except the restaurant and then we've had so many questions about when are you gonna open in Kingston? Kingston has what I consider the disposable income and my intention is to improve the quality of the experience. I feel like MoBay doesn't have the capacity to really allow me to bring that next level of dining quality to the country," she stated.

She stressed that patrons can expect much of what they have come to love from Mystic Thai in terms of experience, food and service in the Kingston location with an emphasis on next level service.

"We've already identified the location and we've started work already," she added.

She said the location is slated to open in March next year. Mahbubani also disclosed that she's already eyeing further expansion in Kingston.

"In five years we want to see at least two more restaurants in Kingston, and we've kind of identified a location for the third one for which the ground-breaking will start in 2024, but it is in process," she closed.

BY ANDREW LAIDLEY Senior business reporter laidleya@jamaicaobserver.com

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