Forging the new normal with serial hospitality entrepreneur Maneet Chauhan
May 27, 2020 / Share:
As restaurants across Nashville are taking steps to safely reopen to the public after months of empty dining rooms, “Take-out Only” signs, and employee lay-offs, Chef Maneet Chauhan has faith that Nashville’s hospitality industry will only come back stronger.
A six-year resident of the city, Chauhan is the founding partner and president of Morph Hospitality Group, which operates her four restaurants: Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Tansuo, The Mockingbird, and Chaatable. She is also a partner at Hop Springs Brewery, which includes concepts Steel Barrel, Mantra, and Humulus Project.
“Nashville has a welcoming attitude, not only for people who live here but for entrepreneurs, especially for entrepreneurs,” she said, noting how easy the city makes it to start and operate a business in comparison to New York, where she moved from in 2014.
It’s not only the slower pace of life in Nashville that makes it easier to run a restaurant, Chauhan said, but also the deep community connections through the industry.
“In New York or larger cities, you climb the ladder and there’s always somebody there trying to pull you down because they want to get ahead of you, and you feel it every day. Not only in the hospitality industry, but in every industry,” she said. “One thing that blew my mind when we came over here and were looking around, was that the first chef we met in Nashville was chef Deb Paquette at Etch, and she just had this warmth of ‘Come on! We need more chefs, more flavor in the city!’”
From the premature birth of her child on the eve of opening Chauhan Ale & Masala House 2014 through the recent COVID-19 pandemic, Chauhan has witnessed first hand that Nashville hospitality workers are willing to not only support one another, but also the community they call home.
“Everyone has been incredibly supportive and that has inculcated in me the true sense of hospitality, which is just to pay it forward. Whoever asks anything, we’re like ‘Yes, we’ll do it,’” she said. “I have a very simple philosophy that a rising tide raises all ships. So, there’s not just one chef who is going to get all of the glory, it’s all of us together.”
As the city reopens phase by phase, so will restaurants, and they need support from customers and one another to find a new normal, Chauhan said. The pandemic has offered a difficult but unique experience that caused the industry to grow even closer than before.
“The way the entire Tennessee hospitality group has bonded together over this COVID-19, it leads me to believe we will come back much stronger and swinging very hard,” she said. “In a way, the hospitality industry was the first line of defense — we fell down first, because the immediate impact was on our industry. This is a place where people come out, they meet, they hang out with each other; it’s all about togetherness, which is the one thing that needed to stop immediately.”
Chauhan’s own restaurants will begin to reopen through the end of May and into June, taking into account all safety guidelines that will keep her customers, employees, and family healthy. The Mockingbird will be the first to open on May 28, with socially distanced indoor and outdoor seating, with Chauhan Masala & Ale House and Chaatable opening the following week.
For Chauhan, it’s the first step into a future that will continue to exemplify all that Nashville’s hospitality industry has to offer and more, including the lessons learned during this unprecedented time.
“Be it us cooking for people who need food, or the frontline workers, to me, it was this really dark moment that was a really bright light. A bonding. It makes me feel like Nashville, Tennessee was the best choice that we made for ourselves, our restaurant family, and our family,” she said.