Having studied textiles, Umer Hussain never imagined opening up a restaurant. Despite some hesitance from his family, due to inadequate experience in the field, Umer managed to make a name for himself in the food industry. Sweet Tooth is known for introducing quirky desserts and now fast food as well, from chocolate gol gappas to cheese stuffed burger buns, Umer has done it all. He describes why art is such a prominent part of Sweet Tooth be it paintings or music. We sat down with Umer to talk about his new ventures and how he manages to keep the standards high across all his branches
What inspired you to establish a dessert centered restaurant?
When we started Sweet Tooth there was no other competition in the market. I always had a sweet tooth and felt like there was a huge void in the market. Since I loved desserts so much I jumped into the business myself. It was never my thing; I was into textiles, so I would say my love for desserts inspired me to bring Sweet Tooth into existence.
What is the process of developing a new menu or a new dish at Sweet Tooth?
One of the most important things that we keep in view before creating a new dish is that none of the other restaurants should be doing it. There are no cooks or chefs here at Sweet Tooth, the workers here just follow a recipe and the recipe is developed by me!
What is your favorite thing from Sweet Tooth’s menu?
Everything! It has to be my favourite or it wouldn’t be on the menu. My preferences keep changing however, these days I really enjoy Fruitylicious from the menu.
What motivated you to establish a branch in Hunza and Mushpuri after Lahore and not in the rest of the big cities?
Sweet Tooth has never been about money. It is more about experimenting and testing our limits. Team Sweet Tooth tends to think out of the box in all matters. The idea behind opening up restaurants in Mushkpuri, Hunza, Gawadar and now Quetta was that whenever somebody looks up Pakistan on Google, all the places that pop up, that is where Sweet Tooth should be at.
In your opinion what differentiates Lahore and Hunza in terms of taste and food choice?
Since there is a lot of local tourism, a lot of people from Punjab are already familiar with us so it’s pretty much the same, I would say.
Art is a big part of Sweet Tooth’s décor and it certainly isn’t limited to a single art style. Where do you get your inspiration from for such unique art work?
It’s not just the décor that is filled with art it is much more than that. Everything we do has to be a piece of art. I am not exactly an artist but I sure am a huge admirer of art. Everything that you see in a Sweet Tooth restaurant is designed by me. There’s never an interior designer in the team. I draw my inspiration from all the things that are around me.
How is Sweet Tooth’s menu different from what other dessert restaurants are offering?
“Creating a whole new ice-cream culture” was the tag line that we started off with. We are creating desserts like never before. We have a chocolate burger, chocolate pizza and chocolate gol gappay, and then there is the butter scotch lava cake and so on. We came up with all of these things first and the rest of the restaurants followed suit. Since we are the pioneers, anything that the rest of the restaurants are offering is going to be off our list. We didn’t have a good experience with marketing our products as they got falsely claimed by other restaurants. Now we are trying to be more hush about the ideas that we are going to bring fourth until we execute them with a bang.
We know you have a close connection with art since you’ve been promoting music and new artists. Are there any gigs happening in the near future that we should be looking forward to?
Sweet Tooth live was an attempt to provide a platform to new artists who take music as their passion. We had a live session in Hunza just the other day; it was a huge success and very entertaining. The sad thing is that most young people these days are more into raves and drugs and have forgotten what it is to experience good live music. Regardless, Sweet Tooth is always going to have live sessions, so yes there are a lot gigs coming up.
We’ve heard you will also be trying your hands at lawn pretty soon, is that true?
Yes, that is indeed true. It’s going to be called Sweet Tooth Ki Lawn. Most of our patrons are women, and what does a woman love the most? Chocolates and these days lawn. Since textiles are something that I have a degree in, I wanted to incorporate it into my work as well. The idea is wear your cravings. Desserts from our menu have been designed into clothing.
What is the secret behind sustaining a successful restaurant?
People need to know that it is something that is done out of sheer passion. There are always going to be problems but you should have a game plan. We have standard set SOPs and all my employees are loyal to me. So a good team I would say.
What are some of the challenges of being a restaurateur?
Opening up in Hunza was a challenge; it’s hard to manage a single restaurant in Lahore how much more difficult it would be managing a restaurant in Hunza. It was a test to explore our own capabilities, to test how well we perform even while being remotely inaccessible. A while ago somebody threw pampers in the washroom of Sweet Tooth Mushkpuri and we had to dig it all out, four feet down, destroy the floor and redo the entire sewage system. Setbacks are always going to be there, what matters is how you cope with challenges.
What is in store for Sweet Tooth in the future?
If we speak locally, Sweet Tooth is coming to the inner city with the most exquisite interior and art work teamed with of course, exceptional food. Other than that, we are expanding into the US, Canada, Australia and UAE. We are going to have two restaurants in Canada, one in Mississauga and one in Brampton. In America we are registered in seven states. Here in Pakistan it was more about exploring and experimenting. The reason that we don’t open up in Islamabad or Karachi is because it was never about money. We’ve been aiming high since the beginning and we just got started so there is for sure a lot in store for Sweet Tooth.