Photo by Diane Bondareff for American Express

Unapologetic Foods’ Roni Mazumdar Shared His Philosophy on Fostering Creativity and Culture with Team Resy


From September 12-15 American Express welcomed its global marketing community ‘back to school’ with “Marketing U: Back to School Week,” a global learning and development series designed to give marketers tools and resources to excel now and in the future.

Resy kicked off the program with Roni Mazumdar, restaurateur and ‘driver’ of restaurant group Unapologetic Foods, who spoke about building brands that innovate through storytelling and authenticity.

Aaron Ginsberg, Resy’s Vice President of Restaurant Partnerships sat down with Mazumdar to ask about the ‘secret sauce’ behind his successful restaurants Semma, Dhamaka, Masalawala & Sons, Adda and Rowdy Rooster.

Mazumdar said he has focused on building trust with his team and creating a strong company culture. His work at Unapologetic Foods has shaped his perspective on entrepreneurship and the hospitality industry and taught him that being rebellious isn’t a bad thing. “Why is ‘rebellious’ a bad word?” he asked to the crowd.

Here are some of the session’s top takeaways.

Vision isn’t everything

“Vision alone doesn’t execute,” Mazumdar said. “You need for every single person to show up day-to-day.” He emphasized that every person on a team needs to understand and believe in the vision and “truly find a little bit of themselves in it.” Taking your vision and acting on it is where the magic happens. “I grew up believing Indian cuisine wasn’t worthy enough for any accolades,” Mazumdar said. Now, his Indian restaurant Semma has a Michelin star.

Start from a place of vulnerability

“It’s scary to be vulnerable, but it’s far worse and confining to not be vulnerable,” Mazumdar said. “When I talk to our group about the work we do, there’s a direct emotional connection,” he said. “I feel something. You should seek that feeling out. I think there’s no bigger marketing vehicle in the world than having people and yourself feel something.”

Question everything

“Question every [darn] thing that’s out there,” Mazumdar said. “Do not believe that anything is set in stone,” he added. “Because if that was the case, we just would not exist.” He pointed out that he simply had a “different” and “disruptive” perspective, and that’s a big part of what made him successful.

Whatever you do, make sure it has soul to it

“I know it sounds a little hokey,” Mazumdar said. “When I talk about our group about the work we do, there’s a direct emotional connection,” he said. “If we can do that, it doesn’t matter what the buzzword is. What matters is somehow every person walking into our restaurant walks away feeling something.”

Innovation is about looking ahead and getting into uncharted territory

If every person who eats at Mazumdar’s restaurants walks away having created a memory, “that’s a recipe for innovation,” he said. Innovation is about “looking ahead and getting into that uncharted territory,” he said, “and actually doing things that have a larger impact. Mazumdar looks at how his team can do things in a new way – where it shifts the perspective of the people around them.

Someone asked Mazumdar how many restaurants he plans on opening in the next five years. “I don’t have an answer,” he said. “What we have set out to do is not measured by the number of restaurants,” he added. Rather, it is “defined by how many hearts we’ve been able to change in order for people to look at how our cuisine is different.”