The restaurant industry is a challenge and I love a challenge. In our industry you have to stay ahead of the game, be on top of trends and also constantly innovate. Desserts have a unique edge over other food types, in the fact that they intrinsically excite the imagination and always make people happy.
Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
Soak up the big moments! The massive accomplishments over the last few years go by so quickly. I wish I had just taken a moment on each occasion in the early days to just take it all in. Instead I was working so hard. I’ve learned to do that recently and it’s the best feeling watching all our hard work and dreams come to life. Each new opening and new menu launched is priceless.
What time do you wake up?
I’m an early riser, so probably around 5:30am/6:00am, doing stuff to help get the kids ready for school or prepping before my day. It’s a great time to focus.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee, 100% - but it has to be good coffee!
What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
Dishoom is definitely up there as one of my favourite London restaurants, they incorporate menu innovation with traditional Indian cuisine. Its also a 5 Star experience without the fuss.
What motivates you?
My family, my kids and my employees. Its great spending time with our Head Office team or in the stores brain storming ideas or talking about Creams of the future. Where to next!
What keeps you up at night?
I’m an ideas man. Mostly it’s a new dessert or a concept for a new store.
Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
I often take inspiration from other brands and I found that the Nando’s founders really inspired me in my approach to the restaurant industry. It took passion and commitment and a love for the food to get to where they are today. I feel the same way about Creams Cafe. Nando’s also had an amazing diversity policy and look after their people. I always remember hearing them say “At Nando's we're all about the people. It's the people that make the chicken and it's the people that bring the passion to our restaurants".
How often do you check your email?
I’m more of a WhatsApp man, but I’m on my phone and email all day. I like to ensure I’m available if our franchisees and my team need something.
How do you let off steam?
Bit of cycling and boxing normally on weekends helps me let off steam from the busy week.
Worst business decision?
When I was a kid, I wanted to start my own business having seen local businesses being run by friends of my family. I thought it would be a great idea to start selling my lunch at school and make some cash. First day was great, but I soon realised toward the end of the day, I’d have to use the money I made on my way home as I was starving and wished I had eaten my Mum’s lunch. In a way I’ve always been an entrepreneur.
Best business decision?
To start a dessert parlour brand and make our own Creams Italian-style gelato. I couldn’t have made a better decision than to push ahead. We are the UK’s favourite dessert restaurant and the largest. Its been the best journey of my life.
Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa?
Family time is really important. A chilled night on the sofa is my idea of a perfect night with the kids and my wife. Normally its after dinner that we watch a movie or play a board game. Especially during winter.
What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
If you must know I actually don’t make too many desserts at home, I normally get into dessert innovation when I’m out in stores or in our test kitchen. However, I do love cooking mainly Italian pastas and homemade pizzas as it’s a very therapeutic and most of the recipes I learned when I was travelling in Italy with my business partner finding the best Italian gelato.
What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
It's easy to have a great idea, but it takes courage to see it through. Believe in your abilities and don’t be afraid to ask others in the industry for advice or help. We all had to start somewhere.
What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
Flown to the US with an ambition to join forces with the US Cheesecake Factory Bakery brand and Creams Cafés. I had only a plane ticket and an idea of where their head office was. Well it worked let me tell you that much. So, no regrets.
If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
The demise of the high street, unfortunately we heavily rely on other businesses to also drive footfall to our stores. Creams is a destination, normally our guests have planned an outing with a meal prior or activity. With footfall decreasing on the high street and a rise in online commerce we have had to adapt. Thus, focusing on home delivery, our own platform strategy and click & collect.
Born in April 1977, Mani grew up in the humble surroundings of Lancashire. As a son of a bus driver, his father’s mission was to have all his children and grandchildren to study hard at school, and be better one generation to the next. So, at the insistence of my father, Mani studied at university (business and computer science), but couldn't wait until it was over. The day he got his degree in the post, he handed it to his dad and said: “There you go dad I’ve done what you’ve asked me to do and from now I will do my own thing.”
Mani first founded Creams Café in 2008 along with his business partner Balal, and opened his first site in 2011. Soon he had two restaurants and the small gelato manufacturer couldn’t cope with the demand. So, in 2011, Creams opened up the Gelato factory with the ambition of becoming the UK’s favourite dessert-only restaurant. Before he knew it, Creams was opening 20 or more restaurants a year. To date the gorup has 90 locations across the UK with impending sites opening to reach its first 100 stores in 2021.