Having begun in 2016, Copperleaf has become Goa’s favourite restaurant with two outlets, where one can enjoy the ultimate dining experience which promises great food and excellent service with a wonderful ambiance
Vishwamukta Group is a multi-business venture comprising of hotels, restaurants, cloud kitchens, real estate, software, and other verticals, which was founded by Shreekant V. Pai Bir, Sachin S. Pai Bir, and Vishwanath S. Pai Bir. They are the faces behind the famed Copperleaf multi-cuisine fine dining restaurant located in Porvorim and Panjim. Shreekant is the Chairman of the Vishwamukta group; Sachin is the CEO and Vishwanath is the COO.
The Pai Birs hail from Betim- Verem (Reis Magos), and the brothers completed their schooling from this little village. Both graduated from Goa College of Engineering, Farmagudi with degrees in Computer Engineering with a gap of four years between them. Sachin went ahead and completed his Masters of Engineering (ME) in IT; while Vishwanath completed his Master of Science (MS) in IT Project Management while working in the US.
They stepped into the hospitality business in 2003 when they took on lease Hotel Blessings in Panjim. They ran the hotel for 15 years and gained a rich experience in the varied functioning of the hospitality sector. They also got an opportunity to run Hotel Ashirwad on CHOGM Road, Porvorim, which marked their entry into the restaurant business. Back then CHOGM road was yet to be developed and since their guests did not have dining options they opened a restaurant called Bhojan and later expanded to Campal with Daawat. Copperleaf was born in 2016, in Porvorim and later another outlet was opened in Panjim, in 2021.
Vishwanath spent almost 15 years in the IT industry, having done various stints in Bangalore, Chennai, and later went to the US where he spent 11 years while being involved remotely in the growth of his family business.
Sachin, meanwhile, decided to use his IT skills to teach at the Rayeshwar Institute of Technology, Shiroda, Goa and when Bhojan opened up in 2009, he left the job to focus on the business. With both parents coming from a service background, they had little knowledge of the business world and the brothers were the first ones to take up the mantle of being entrepreneurs.
The Beginning of a Brand
In 2016, Copperleaf which is Sachin’s brainchild was set up in Porvorim, at a time when a restaurant of this scale was yet to come up in the area. With a seating capacity of 150 people, it was a gamble for them back then, but thanks to their experience in the hospitality industry and their engineering backgrounds, they could utilise their analytical skills and logical thinking, to manage and take their business forward.
The whole idea behind Copperleaf was to stick to the basics of customer satisfaction in terms of food quality, ambiance, service and the overall experience of a fine dining restaurant. Having done their research on various other restaurants, they realised that many places lacked all of the above qualities and Sachin was firm on ticking all the boxes required for a quality experience. He adds, “Generally, business is conducted for profits. But we had a different mindset. We wanted to build our brand which is customer-centric. For us, the primary focus in our business was the customer and their experiences. Our motto is ‘From the mind to the heart’ and with this philosophy in place we started Copperleaf.”
Ambience was the first thing that the brothers wanted to tick from their checklist and were lucky to find a spacious place to set up their dream restaurant. Next was the food and they began building a team which was dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic. There were various trial and errors, with taste-testing of varied cuisines which would earn their place on the menu. They used the same ideologies to set up a front office and administration team; that were given extensive training on customer satisfaction. “The whole concept of Copperleaf is customer-first and we are here for our customers. If there is no customer, there is no Copperleaf – something that we have ingrained in ourselves and our staff,” says Sachin.
Slowly and steadily, Copperleaf picked up and as word spread people realised that there was a fine dining restaurant offering all amenities which promised food and an atmosphere along with service that would suit their budget.
Expanding to the Capital City
In 2019, the brothers acquired a place in Panjim and by the time they completed formalities of acquiring the premises, setting up a team and having the basics in place, Covid came knocking on the door. Everything came to a halt and they were in dilemma as to how they would proceed, given that they had invested substantially in the new outlet. Due to the restrictions placed, acquiring manpower and materials proved to be a daunting task but they plowed on and managed to at least have food deliveries in place. They opened the kitchen in August 2021 focusing on deliveries only and took things step by step. With a seating capacity of 300 guests, the Panjim outlet is the biggest, and having opened up in the midst of a crisis, it managed to make a name and place for itself in the heart of the people.
The outlet in Panjim boasts of spacious seating, spread across 10,000 sq. ft. of ground and first floors. It has two dining areas called Cilantro and Citrus on the ground floor and on the first floor, they have the Infinity dining area, Bellini seating bar, 10@Infinity Semi-Private Dining Room and Solitaire Signature Private Dining Room. It is an ideal location for corporate lunches / dinners and all kinds of celebrations, with a soothing atmosphere for families and groups. The facility includes 5 star amenities, such as splendid international standard washrooms, wheelchair accessible entrance, wheelchair accessible washrooms, grab bars in washrooms as well as a baby diaper / nappy changing station.
Vishwanath explains the concept behind all the amenities at Panjim. “Porvorim gave us an opening into hospitality business on a big scale. We decided to up the experience in Panjim. Every section at this outlet has a washroom which is accessible to the disabled as well as senior citizens. We also have a diaper changing station that makes it possible for families with small babies and toddlers to dine and enjoy themselves. We also have our own wheelchairs which are kept at the entrance and if anyone needs to make use of these, our security guards are present there to help people. We wanted to utilise the property in the best possible way, so that everyone can enjoy our offerings.”
Copperleaf is not only a hit with the adults; it has also managed to carve a place in the hearts of children. “We have what we call as young ambassadors and parents tell us on a regular basis, that their kids insist on visiting our restaurant, be it the Panjim outlet or the one in Porvorim,” adds Vishwanath.
The Citrus section has been designed to accommodate large groups and celebrations involving 5 or 6 groups of 20 people each are often held simultaneously here.
Food and Bar Specialties
When it comes to their menu, the brothers mention that the ubiquitous fish thali is the most sought after item at both outlets. “We have extended our fish thali menu to include a variety of fishes to suit everyone’s palate. All the items remain the same, but what changes is the fried fish which includes prawns, kingfish, chonak or the everyday fish like mackerel, depending on what one would like to savour,” says Vishwanath.
Sachin goes on to add that their focus is on all cuisines and equal importance is given to Indian, Chinese, Goan, Seafood and Tandoor cuisines. “Each cuisine has its own bestseller, with Butter Chicken being famous in the North Indian section, Banarasi Kababs in the Tandoor section, Prawns Butter Garlic in the Seafood section while the Chicken Cafreal tops the list in the Goan section. Our menu itself has more than 200 items and one has a plethora of dishes to choose from, depending on what they are craving for.”
Their desserts section offers Goan, Indian as well as international fare. Vishwanath explains the concept behind their famous Mini Gadbad ice cream. “Our regular sized gadbad was served in a tall glass and more often than not customers would tell us they were either too full or pressed for time, to finish the entire serving. We thought of introducing a mini version which was welcomed by all our customers and instantly became a bestseller.”
With regular feedback from the guests as well as the team they have introduced desserts like brownies, Serradura, Gajar ka Halwa and a variety of ice cream flavours.
The spectrum of liquor available at the bar is similar at both places. Sachin explains, “Indian as well as foreign liquors are available on our menu. We also have bartenders who have been trained over a period of time to whip up specific cocktails. We have three bars in Panjim, one for each section and each of them have their own special cocktail, depending on the barman. While we have a static bar menu, there is something called the Barman’s special which we change weekly, fortnightly or monthly. The Bellini Bar has a seating at the bar itself, where many customers enjoy watching the barmen concoct a cocktail or mocktail for them.”
Calendar holidays and events often have specialties that end up being assimilated in their menus depending on feedback from the guests.
Every guest is given a feedback form which Sachin and Vishwanath go through personally, at the end of each day. “We take up their suggestions and try to incorporate it in our menu or make improvements to our service. It is an important feedback mechanism for us and it helps us understand the vibes of our customers,” adds Vishwanath.
The brothers work on the psychology that they are their own competition and try to innovate on a regular basis. “We instruct the chef to prepare new items; we taste it first and then introduce it to our customers. If they are a hit we include them in our menus and this is something that happens periodically,” says Sachin.
Copperleaf has their own fleet of delivery bikes with a full-fledged delivery executive team who deliver food to their customers. They also provide a ‘No Cap Discount’ unlike other online platforms which has a cap.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Having had made a place for themselves in the hearts of their customers, the brothers wanted to give back to society. Vishwanath elaborates on the CSR carried out by Copperleaf over the years. “The Central Government of India plans to make India Tuberculosis free by 2025, five years ahead of the globally set deadline of 2030. To facilitate this, the Indian Government started something known as Ni-kshay Mitra where we provided nutritional baskets, as nutritional support to TB patients, to the Medical Officer In-charge Dr. Atul Pai Bir, CHC Sankhali in the presence of the Chief Minister Dr. Pramod Sawant. We were given a list of items required by a patient for a month and we have contributed to it. We also participated in the Purple Fest, a one of its kind festival for disabled people which was held in Goa in January this year. Having invested in making our outlets disabled friendly, we made sure to have a hand in this festival. We have donated books to school libraries and keep on helping the community in whatever way we can. It’s our way of giving back to society.”
He continues, “On 26th January 2022, we launched the ‘Armed Forces Discount’ as a token of respect and appreciation for the armed forces. After running it successfully for a year, we decided to continue the discount throughout. This special discount is applicable for active, former and retired servicemen including our Goa Police Personnel.”
“In April last year, we launched a ‘Corporate Discount Program’ to provide discount benefits to various employees of the companies who are enrolled with us under this program. This special discount is applicable on dine-in, takeaway and delivery services. Family members of the employees are also included in this program. There are 24 companies which are currently enrolled with us which includes various banks, pharma companies, IT/software companies, hospitality groups, BNI members, and the list goes on,” Vishwanath adds.
Challenges and Roadblocks
Sachin says, “The main roadblock was the availability of manpower and once the people were available, the availability of people who really wanted to work was an issue. These are two different things. Everyone wants a job but they don’t want to work. For us to find the kind of manpower we are looking at, is a real challenge.”
COPPERLEAF: AWARDED FOR EXCELLENCE
Over the years, Copperleaf has won various awards, some of which are
Food Connoisseurs India Awards (West India Edition) 2023 – Best Seafood Experience (Goa).
• Incredible Goa Awards 2022 – Excellence in Restaurant Business – Businessman of the Year award presented to Sachin S. Pai Bir
• Business Goa Awards 2022 – New Restaurant of the Year for Copperleaf, Panaji
• TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best 2021 Award
• Food Connoisseurs India Awards 2021 – Best Restaurant of the Year (West)
• Food Connoisseurs India Awards 2021 – Best Goan Cuisine Restaurant
• Times Food & Nightlife Awards 2021 Goa – Best Multicuisine in Casual Dining
• Times Food Delivery Icons Goa 2020 – Iconic Multi-cuisine Restaurant
• TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice 2020 Award
• Times Food Awards 2020 Goa Winner – Best Multi-cuisine Restaurant
• TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2019, 2018, 2017
• Times Hospitality Icons 2019 – Iconic Seafood Restaurant
• Gomantak Excellence Awards 2019 – Excellence in Hotel Industry
• Franchise India Restaurant Awards 2019 – Best Coastal Cuisine
• CEO Insights 50 Best Restaurants & Bars 2019 – Best Restaurant
• CMO Asia – Goa State Best Brand Awards 2018 – Brand Leadership Award
• Times Food Awards 2017 Goa Winner – Most Popular Restaurant
• Big FM Goa Pride 2017 Award Winner – The Best Goan Fish Thali
• Business Goa Awards 2017 – Best in Indian Cuisine
The brothers consider themselves as their own competition so they are propelled by their own will to make their brand better than what it was yesterday.
Vishwanath says, “We make sure not to forget our basics and focus on all the important aspects to run a brand like ours. We follow the following mantras in executing our day-to-day business – Consistency, Innovation, Sincerity, Quality, Persistence, and Aspire for Better along with a Customer-Centric approach”.
Sachin adds, “We go through each of the feedback forms provided by customers along with online reviews and ratings on a daily basis and we ensure that the customer feedback helps us in improvising our operations resulting in better customer experience”. They stand by their philosophy that Copperleaf is the brand it is today because of the customer and their satisfaction is what the brothers aspire to live up to.
To enhance and understand their business better, the brothers founded a software company – Megalon – through which various software, apps, tools, digital marketing, data analysis, automation, AI/ML solutions are being built for brand Copperleaf to drive innovations and decision-making. This was possible due to their Computer Engineering background. “We are in the early stages of this startup and are hiring software developers in full swing. We hope our startup will help us with backend integration and take the Copperleaf brand to the next level,” says Vishwanath.
With two outlets in the North, the brothers plan on expanding to the South now and are on the lookout for the right kind of premises. Vishwanath says, “We would like to expand outside Goa and internationally as well and a lot of planning is being done in this direction. After covid we realised that anything can happen to hamper plans, but we are working towards expanding in more places in Goa to serve our loyal customers while also planning to offer the best to new ones”