Bonnie Saran had a great life in India. After working for companies like PepsiCo and General Motors, she founded a successful event company, 4 City Events, while pursuing her master’s degree. But when her father died in 2000, her world was instantly turned upside-down. So when the opportunity came along to go to America and work as a consultant for a successful Indian restaurateur, Girdhar Gopal, who owned Jaipore Royal Indian Cuisine in Brewster, New York, she gladly welcomed the chance to get away from her troubles and start anew.
While working in the food industry, she came to the conclusion that “if you can open a place regardless of size, make it affordable, keep the food fresh, and concentrate on volume,” then you have a great recipe for success.
In February 2011, she opened her first restaurant, Little Kabab Station, in Mount Kisco. The first month, there were only about 50 customers totaling around $3,000 in sales. That changed just one month later, as her sales increased by 300 percent—thanks in part to Martha Stewart’s raving about the place.
“Bonnie produces great food and [offers] exceptional customer service,” says Everick Brown, who frequents Little Kabab Station up to five times a week. “She has a passion like no other—she prepares food like she is creating art.”
Since many customers were curious about the spices and teas used at Little Kabab Station, Saran opened Little Spice Bazaar in February 2012—two storefronts down from Little Kabab Station. When the space between her two spots became available, Saran opened Little Crêpe Street in December 2012, which, like its “Little” cousins, has enjoyed accolades and success.
In a mere three years, Saran has managed to create a constantly growing and expanding business that is projected to gross more than $3 million in 2013.The three businesses combined service 500 to 600 people per day (more on weekends). That number is even more exceptional when you consider their sizes: Little Kabab Station has 14 seats, Little Spice Bazaar has 12 seats, and Little Crêpe Street has 22 seats inside with an additional 12 outside.
Saran gives back, too. “Bonnie does so much for the community,” says Namrata Bhan. “During Superstorm Sandy, her restaurants had power and she was welcoming everyone in the area to come in and bring their laptops to work.”
But the customers aren’t the only ones who are happy with Saran’s “Little” empire. Since she opened her first location in 2011, she has never had an employee quit or be fired. If any leave, it is to go back to school, and they always return during breaks. Her original staff of five has grown to 35 full- and part-time employees who work at all three spots.
“I came from a very modest background, but I had a dream, worked very hard, and sacrificed a lot,” says Saran. “I just wanted to create something that everyone could enjoy, and I hope I’ve done that.”
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