Restaurateur Nonpareil

Restaurateur Nonpareil

A.D. Singh, Founder & Managing Director, Olive Group of Restaurants, is a well-known entrepreneur, having pioneered concepts straddling gastropubs to cocktail bars, and introducing Japanese and Mediterranean cuisines in India. Among several laurels he has earned over the past 23 years, he was honoured with the ‘Industry Icon Award’ at 30BestBarsIndia, 2023. Vikram Achanta caught up with him in Delhi recently to find out what makes his ventures cli(n)ck! Excerpts:

Could you give me a quick glimpse into who A.D. Singh is? And your brands?

You know that my education was in engineering; my first employment stints were in multi-national companies; and my turning to the restaurant business was a stroke of good luck. I began with organising boat parties in Mumbai (Party Lines).

From 1990, I looked at exclusive entertainment-cum-dining ventures such as Just Desserts (a jazz café that served only coffee and desserts), The Grammar Room (all-day cafe born of a love for grammar, food and coffee), Serai (culinary cocktail bar), The Fatty Bao (Asian gastro-bar) and Canton (Chinese bar).

Then came Mumbai’s first floating bar (Suzy Wong), its first gastropub (Monkey Bar) and Guppy, one of India’s first Japanese restaurants. In each of the 14 brands I have built, I have been able to offer my customers a different cuisine, a different theme and ambience, a different experience – and at different price points.


What has made the Olive group of restaurants so iconic?

The concept behind Olive brand, which I launched in Mumbai in 2010, was that of casual fine dining. These are sharply detailed and conceptualised restaurants, a departure from 5-star hotel restaurants and coffee shops.

In all the stand-alone Olive properties (now in Delhi, Goa, Bengaluru and Chandigarh) you can eat, drink and party, all in one place. Here you can laze around and enjoy a timeless dining experience.

In 2003 I opened the Olive Bar and Kitchen in New Delhi; in 2005 we opened Olive Beach in a quaint bungalow in Bengaluru; and in 2018 we launched the Olive Bar and Kitchen in an alfresco space on Vagator beach in North Goa.

I seem to have inculcated my vision for the Olive group among my management and operations staff – that of hard work, treating the customer as king, intensive follow-up on actionable items and focus on betterment of products and services.


How have you been able to sustain the impeccable service that Olive is known for?

A discerning customer is not impressed only with the food and beverage offerings. The focus of the management and other staff is to look for ways to better present our F&B offerings and render our services. I am not a chef, but I do ensure that each person on Olive’s payroll gets a secure working environment. We look after their genuine needs and keep them motivated.

I have several people on my staff (management and operations) who have been with me for a decade and more. It is they who make a big difference to the brand and attract customers over and over again!

We try to focus on people with a certain level of taste, and who expect certain product standards. This keeps us always striving to remain fresh. It’s probably why we have managed to be around for this long!


Was Ek Bar (Delhi) ahead of its times? What are your favourite bars in India?

My vision for Ek Bar was to have an Indian cocktail bar serving a fresh, regionally inspired modern menu and award-winning innovative cocktails. It was a continuing evolution since the gastropub. I think we hit the proverbial bull’s eye with its launch!

I was impressed with PCO (Delhi) and think it was a game-changer. Hoots is also very well put together. And Native (Bombay) has a good space and ambience. Goa is exploding with new ventures and experiments – and Hyderabad is not far behind. By the way, I am a big fan of (mixologist) Yangdup Lama!


What’s your opinion about the comparatively low representation of women working behind the bar? Is that something that you think that Olive group can work on in terms of fostering in some way?

As a group, we really see the value of women and we’re quite sad that there are not more women in the workplace. Here, for example, if you look on the floor, not just the guest relations executives, but on the floor also we probably have 6-8 women.

A lot of women are involved with Olive group. But we want much more at different levels. Good women bartenders are very hard to find. We are an organisation that tries to be very sensitive and supportive for the women who work for us.


What’s you take on the spirits and liqueurs scene in India?

Beer is a growing beverage, as I have seen from Hoppery, our micro-brewery in Hyderabad. India-made gins have also left their mark on how we consume it. But the sector that is exploding is cocktails! You cannot go wrong with the classics, but there have been a lot of experiments in mixology across the country in recent years. I have taken a liking to cocktails made from Tequila!


What about expansion plans and taking the Olive brand abroad?

We are already refurbishing Monkey Bar and ‘Soda Water Bottle Opener Wala’ (a Bombay Irani café and bar that serves typical Parsi and Irani specialties) and plan to take them to more cities. I want to replicate Ek Bar in many more markets across India.

Interested in more information? Visit, or follow him on Facebook and Instagram @adsingholive.