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Gloucester Road is so quintessentially Bristolian, it’s no surprise it wins the award for having the most independent shops, bars and cafe’s than anywhere else in the UK. But whilst so many businesses come and go, the charmingly inviting Cafe Ronak seems to go from strength to strength. I caught up with business owner and manager, Kia, to talk about his labour of love and what he has in the pipeline.

The journey to get to where they are now has been a long and arduous one, packed with learning curves and fuelled with an endless passion. It took just 2 months for Cafe Ronak to transform from an idea into a thriving cafe in one of the most popular shopping streets in Bristol and since first opening, it has maintained it’s ethos to evolve with the changing markets. From menu changes to staff changes, to a complete renovation of the building itself, Kia tells me Cafe Ronak is unrecognisable from how it was 7 years ago.

Aged 19, working in Subway, Kia was saving to go travelling to India when his Dad posed the question “how about investing your money in a business?”and like most teenagers at the time, parting with such a large sum of money wasn’t an easy decision. At first I just wanted to go to India, but Dad insisted that I went to India but kept some money behind to invest. Every couple of weeks I’d get £100. I still had plenty of money to keep me going over there.”

Like any business, the first few months are the hardest and Kia soon realised how tough it would be to set up a successful, popular cafe.

“After three months of opening this place without having a day off, I went to India for four months. When I came back I had so much energy and inspiration, but also guilt. I’d spent the last few months on beaches carving coconuts enjoying the sun, whilst everyone else had been here working hard, so when I finally returned, I had a reserve of energy and was ready to throw myself into the job.”

Like all things in life, there isn’t a better way to learn than through experience and with no prior background in running a cafe, Kia was free to be imaginative in his approach. Kia absorbed ideas from other local businesses and combining his favourite things from the best places he visited, he was able to build a formula that to this day continues to execute outstanding customer service, wholesome, health conscious food and an ambience that will keep you coming back.

“The changes have been vast, from the manner of service, to the quality of food and the items that we sell. The one thing that has been the same is the love and energy in which we operate with, and that family-friendly all inclusive vibe.”

In a city that is so aware of its eating habits and with certified vegan and vegetarian eateries popping up left, right and centre, it was important for the development of Cafe Ronak to keep up with this growing awareness and amend its menu accordingly. Kia spoke to me about his initial reason for creating a menu that can be enjoyed by all, and what he plans to do next.

“We started addressing our menu options three or four years ago when our staff were requesting more vegan and gluten free options. They have always been a key part of our growth and evolution, and with each staff member that comes and goes they leave a bit of themselves and their experience with us. Conscious eating seems to have reached a plateau and we’ve got some exciting changes coming up over the next few months that will focus on improving it.”

But vegans and vegetarians aren’t the only groups Ronak have been trying to target; their menu includes sugar free options, gluten free and dairy free options as well. As Kia said, “becoming more health conscious as a whole is the direction we’re moving towards but we’re also very environmentally conscious. A big part of the business is to retain our ecological stance by reducing our waste, making sure our packaging is biodegradable, and where we can, we source from local producers.”

Ronak’s menu is heavily influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine but don’t worry, all your cafe favourites are on there too, just with a little Ronak twist. Kia recommends the Persian breakfast, the Ronak stack which he describes as “peng a leng” or one of the “fingerlicking good” smoothies. I opted for a home made vegetarian sausage roll with a flavour packed, herby salad with quinoa and puy lentils, accompanied by a much needed iced latte made using our Ethiopian Organic Fairtrade Amharic beans from Wogan Coffee, lots of ice and topped with cold milk, yummy!

If you’re in the area, Cafe Ronak is a sure fire way to get a wholesome, healthy meal without breaking the bank. The staff are friendly and welcoming, there is a relaxed atmosphere, and then garden is wonderfully tranquil. Cafe Ronak has been one of the few constants on Gloucester Road over the last few years and I can only imagine that as Kia and his team drive the business forward, it’s success will stand for many more years to come.