Utorda-based Zeebop restaurant is a big hit with foreign tourists and high-profile Bollywood celebrities for its food and unmatched service
By Michael Fisher | B&C
Zeebop, a seafront restaurant at Utorda, is probably Goa’s only F&B service exporter. “We have organised food festivals in the Maldives, UK, Mumbai and Kathmandu and have flown our chefs and the F&B team to Sri Lanka and UK to cater to corporate events and parties,” says its owner Sergio Dias.
Zeebop’s value for money service clearly demonstrates that the word of mouth recommendation made by guests is still the most effective way to win new customers.
The 400 sq mt spacious shack-style beachfront restaurant offers five-star fine dining with a wide spread of mouthwatering Goan food and ample of beverages. In spite of the overall poor tourist footfalls Goa has seen in this season, Zeebop has bucked the trend. Sergio’s strategy is offering five-star services at competitive pricings that draw foreign and national guests from surrounding starred hotels.
What is the one thing that makes Zeebop really special? “It has all the qualities of a clean and hygienic environment. Besides, Goa’s sunset scene starts from Zeebop,” says Dias. “We have a lot of British, Russian and Germans guests, but our mass market comprises the elite Indians. We intend to keep it open during the monsoon to attract desi tourists. The Germans come at the beginning and stay till the end of the season, but this year they are not so keen. The travel market has collapsed which is being attributed to the rift between Russia and Ukraine, and the ruble has dropped to its lowest with the parity of the Rupee. So far we have been an oasis of stability serving 200 covers. We have over 50 staffs serving both the restaurant and banquet. Unlike other businesses, we have not reduced wages and staffs. They have to work harder and smile more. The only way we can get out of this crisis is by offering more for less.”
What also draws tourists here is the spectacular natural settings. It is spacious and kept clean every 30 minutes, thus making it is one of the key attractions.
“In seafood, the fresh catch of the day is prepared in butter garlic. The king crabs are served with crab-cutters which is what the British prefer with Goan curry and since it is seafood they order a glass of white wine. The Russians enjoy it grilled from the Indian clay oven. The Germans enjoy the local Goan fish stakes in red snapper,” he goes on to add. Citing an example, Dias says a seafood platter comes with calamari, muscles, red-snapper, fillet, shark stake, tiger prawns and baby rock lobster served for 4-5 people and costs Rs 1,800.
Dias recalling the early days of his career that is as colourful as the setting sun each evening. In the 80s when tourism was picking up, Sergio joined Cidade de Goa. “I was promoted in all departments and as I gave my very best. I gained knowledge in managing a hotel. Later, I left the five-starred hotel and decided to build a restaurant in our family property. It was a time when Goa was still undeveloped. I liked a song sung by Carlos Santana of the fame Black Magic Woman, with the word `Zeebop’ and I named my restaurant `Zeebop by the Sea’. Later, many hotels plagiarised the name like Luisa by the Sea, so I shortened it down to Zeebop,” he says.
Owning his own beach restaurant, he serves the elite ‘crème de la crème’ customers who encouraged him to try and emulate his five star neighbours. “Now 25 years have passed. Our elite clientele includes the who’s who from Bollywood, be it Bachchans to the Priyankas and foreign celebrities who like to keep it cool and quiet. European tour companies also come here to organise photoshoots. Meanwhile, a beautiful lady who would frequent the place caught my eye, and this resulted into marriage. We are blessed with two kids,” he says smilingly.
Being in the hotel industry, Dias says they are creating an experience. “It’s not enough to deal with people in a normal way anymore. I make it a point to inject passion and innovation into the staff. I started the business 25 years ago meeting all sort of people. It was a difficult decision to move on to an independent restaurant then, but it worked very well and the restaurant is very popular today,” he says.
Adjacent to Zeebop is a spacious space for events such as weddings and festivals that is paying off. Last year, they hosted 25 weddings and numerous corporate parties. This year bookings have started pouring in. The key to popularise Zeebop lies in banquets and catering, reveals Dias. In addition, Zeebop also caters to corporate parties from the industrial estates.