By Lakhram Bhagirat
With a brotherhood that is just over two years old, Ken Rampersaud and Michael Kassim are considered the proverbial “two peas in a pod” when it comes to their ideals and business acumen.
Collectively, the duo operates the Dada’s brand located at Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo, and according to Ken, they are “young enthusiastic men working to shape the Dada’s brand while being bounded in kinship for the partnership to go ahead.”
Under the Dada’s brand, there are a number of ventures namely Dada’s Grill, Castle Royal Hotel, Ten 11 Lounge all located in the Tuschen area. As part of the Dada’s foundation, they are also heavily invested in the operation of a kids’ home on the West Coast of Demerara and would constantly give back to communities within Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara).
Ken, a 37-year-old microbiologist by profession, said that Dada’s was a concept put together after some relatives visited from overseas and he realised that they needed to travel out of the region to have a good dining experience. That caused him to begin thinking about establishing a space that offers fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere and that is how Dada’s Grill came about.
“I wanted a place that offered some upper to middle-class experience for us so we decided to give thought to establishing something like that. The owners of the property are key investors in it (Dada’s Grill). Myself and Michael are managing personnel here in terms of getting the whole idea on the ground,” he said.
When the two came together they both had a similar vision of how they wanted the Dada’s experience to be.
“We wanted to establish somewhere that persons on the west side (West Demerara) can have that type of ambience where they can experience a chilled environment, an area where they would be able to experience good dining concepts and be able to touch on a variety of foods that can be able to tantalise them rather than the regular (fast options) that we would often have on this end,” Ken recounted.
Dada’s Grill was opened at Public Road Tuschen in October of 2019 and was immediately a hit with the patrons at that end. However, in order for the young team to get the restaurant to where they wanted it to be, they had to overcome a number of challenges.
“The concept of outdoor recreational facility is something that isn’t quite popular on this one end so it’s a Miami California kind of concept that we would have merged and we had to work to convince them (customers) that this is what they needed,” Ken explained.
Michael is the person that is more on the ground pushing the Dada’s Grill brand whether it is procuring supplies or training staff. He said that as a unit, the management believes in sticking to their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) so as to ensure that every customer gets the best experience.
While the food may be the star, they believe that the ambience is what keeps their customers returning for more.
“We do regular trainings with our staff to ensure that we offer the service that persons are going to be impressed with. We are differentiating ourselves from the others and we have been pushing for it at all our facilities,” Michael said.
The 30-year-old mixologist said that initially, they would have had issues in getting the right staff to complement their vision but noted that they are now at a place where they have the right staff to execute the vision.
It makes no sense being in the food business and not have an appreciation for food in all forms. Luckily, for Ken and Michael, they are both “foodies”. While Ken lives more on the healthier side of the food lane, Michael just “digs in” on what is placed in front of him.
For them, the main challenge would have been crafting a menu that offered a little bit of everything for everyone.
It is no secret that Guyanese are quite reluctant when it comes to exploring the culinary world and that is understandable because Guyanese cuisine is so vast and an incorporation of so many cultures.
Nevertheless, Ken and Michael embarked on an intense food education drive and hosted several sampling meets before they decided on what their menu would include. Now, they can successfully say that they have converted most persons to shy away from the regular fried rice, chowmein and chicken and introduced them to lamb chops, steaks, various kinds of pasta and wine.
They are actively working on introducing new items on their menu on a monthly basis so as to shy away from becoming a robotic establishment with limited options.
“Our big sellers have been chicken over rice, our BBQ pork have been something that been rushed after. We offer 8 variety of wings so we are known as the wing spot at this end. Our doubles is something that goes fast here and another is the roti and balanjay choka goes excellently. Trust me when you have that roti and balanjay choka you will never want it from anywhere else,” Michael boasted.
The duo is also planning on extending the Dada’s brand to the various regions in Guyana and also the Caribbean. They have been in talks with persons in Trinidad, Barbados and Suriname to establish there.
COVID-19 and philanthropy
Months after opening and building a following Dada’s was forced to halt all operations after Guyana discovered its first set of COVID-19 cases. The then Government imposed restrictions and that saw the restaurant industry being brought to a standstill.
“For the first three months (after COVID-19 restrictions) it would have impacted us greatly in the sense that we had to lay off all the staff and close business,” Michael said.
With both men coming from humble beginnings – Ken, a farmer’s son from Bonasika Creek and Michael from Berbice – they both have been heavily involved in philanthropic activities. They realised that Dada’s offered them an avenue to become even more involved in helping out the community.
After they laid off all their staff, they still supported them by offering loans to meet expenses and distributing hampers. On a monthly basis, the Dada’s team would distribute over 50 hampers to persons in need within their community.
“Our passion is more in philanthropy and giving back to the community. We work with the Guyana Police Force, the NDCs to give back to our communities and that has been something that has assisted us significantly with the business in terms of partnering with these personnel and letting the community know that we care. By persons knowing that we are not all about making money, they would choose to support us because they know when they do that then the community will benefit.
“We are passionate about philanthropy and at the end of the day, I don’t think nothing makes a human feel better than impacting another human being where they have nothing to gain in response other than that joy. In that type of aspect, we want to try to touch lives. Dada’s grill is something that is impactful. This isn’t only about money but the impact on our communities. We came from humble beginnings and we think we can really make an impact on the lives of young people,” Ken said.
Since the restrictions were lifted, they have reopened while adhering to the guidelines outlined by the National COVID-19 Task Force. They have also turned to other parts of the world for best practices in operating during COVID-19.
For now, Ken and Michael intend to continue serving up exceptional food with a side of philanthropy not just to Region Three residents but to all of Guyana.