LONDON: When qualified professional dentist Muhammad Waqaas was offered a much sought-after job to treat patients for their issues at a London hospital, he declined the position to focus on the eatery business that his father established in a tiny shelter around 30 years ago.
Waqaas had bigger plans in his mind than working as a dentist. After five years of fully joining the Royal Nawaab chains of restaurants, he has made the eatery a household name amongst the Pakistani and Asian communities for one reason that beats all others.
Today, the Royal Nawaab chain of restaurants offers over 130 dishes at its sprawling two locations in London and Manchester. No other Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi restaurant anywhere in the UK or Western Europe offers this range of buffet to its customers.
In an interview, Waqaas shared that the weekly footfall at three locations of Nawaab stands at over 50,000 customers per week.
“No other restaurant offers the range of dishes we offer and no other restaurant has these many people visiting to enjoy authentic Pakistani food,” he said.
The story of Royal Nawaab started from a tiny shelter nearly three decades ago. The restaurant was started by Waqaas’s father Mehboob Hussain who came to the UK from Gujjar Khan as a child with no qualifications and started working as a labourer in a factory for over two decades.
In the early 90s, the factory was shifted to Germany and Hussain and others were paid off and made redundant. From the amount that his father received from the factory, he started a small Asian restaurant in Manchester with help from two associates who also worked with him in the factory.
The restaurant started doing well as Hussain, who himself liked cooking Asian meals, threw all his energy into his business to make it work. That’s how the name Royal Nawaab came into being and the partners built the first branch in Manchester.
Hussain is the same person former prime minister Imran Khan praised during his first telethon for the flood victims. The PTI chief, who spent a considerable part of his life in Britain playing cricket, often visited Hussain’s restaurants to hold charity balls. Almost always, Hussain would not only give his facility for free to Khan but would also contribute handsomely to the charitable cause and would get others to donate too.
While Hussain worked round the clock at his restaurant, he sent Waqaas to Pakistan to study in boarding at the Lawrence College Murree and then at a medical college to get the Pakistani experience.
Waqaas recalls that when he visited the UK during holidays or when his medical college would be off, he would end up working full time in the kitchen where his father focused on training him.
“I have worked as a chef, cook, floor cleaner and dishwasher. I have done everything that’s required in this business. When I finished my medical degree, a part of me wanted to become a doctor but then I realised that I wanted to take our business forward and give it time,” shared Waqaas.
Initially, Royal Nawaab was known as an Asian eatery but Waqaas worked to turn it around to make it a Pakistani restaurant.
“Even today, there are Pakistani restaurant owners who don’t want their businesses to be known as Pakistani businesses. We have no such issues, we take pride in the fact that we are the largest Pakistani-specialist restaurant with more Pakistani dishes from all parts of Pakistan than any other restaurant outside of Pakistan, or at least in the UK and Europe. Customers from all backgrounds come to us especially to enjoy Pakistani food. Even English and Europeans come to us every week just to enjoy Pakistani cuisine,” added Waqaas.
Every evening, large queues are formed outside the restaurant. Families, groups and couples visit the restaurant to eat to their fullest. The buffet range is almost endless and customers can eat as much as they want and whatever they like for a fixed price and it’s left to them to decide when to stop.
Our motto is that eat as much as you can and we try to satisfy the appetite of customers with both quality and quantity, he said.
In the last 10 years, Waqaas has introduced over 130 dishes to the menu as previously the range consisted of usual famous dishes.
“Not just that, we add seasonal dishes all the time. We have dishes from all corners of Pakistan as it has a huge diversity and food and taste differ in various parts from Nimkeen Gosht to Mandi to Paye to Nihari and Haleem and so on. You name it and we have it. I am confident that no other restaurant anywhere in the world has this much variety.”
Studying and growing up in Pakistan has made Waqaas aware of what it’s like in Pakistan and why it’s important for third-generation overseas Pakistanis to help their country in whatever capacity they can. Waqaas said he buys all spices, rice and ingredients from Pakistan. “For 40 years, we have used the same buyers and retailers.”
He said his father always taught him that his strength lies in his roots, and origin.
“I was born in the UK and I take pride in my Pakistani and British identity. We have a duty towards both countries. It’s very important for the new generation to get university qualifications first and then get into jobs and businesses. Sadly, a lot of our youth want a shortcut in life for quick success but there is no such thing. Our business has grown and we today employ hundreds of people but I work every day from 12pm to 12am, for the full attention to detail,” he highlighted.
Due to his business contribution and innovations in the field of the Asian restaurant business, Waqaas recently won the “Most Successful Business Person of The Year Award 2022” at the Pakistan Achievement Awards ceremony held at the Wembley Arena where former premier Imran Khan also spoke to over 8,000 people who attended the event.
Waqaas, who is the managing director of the Royal Nawaab Restaurants chain, received the prestigious award for his services to the Asian restaurant industry in Britain. In particular, the award was given to Waqaas for creating hundreds of jobs and introducing authentic Pakistani cuisines to a large section of the Asian and mainstream English populations through two large-scale food establishments.