Zeebop By The Sea is not in competition with any other Goan restaurant, reveals Sergio Diaz. A Carlos Santana fan, Sergio has kept it simple.
By Geneive D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | May 01, 2022
We were recommended to try out ‘Zeebop By The Sea’ when we were in Goa for a short visit. We drove a good 30 km to Utorda where this restaurant is situated and was not disappointed. Today, wherever you set foot, you are greeted by North Indians running restaurants in Goa and that has taken away the ‘taste’ of the Goan cuisine.
Embraced by an inviting ambience, good food, good service and friendly staff, it was the icing on the cake to learn that this restaurant is owned by a Goan, Sergio Diaz.
After our meal, we were told that Sergio had arrived. I was introduced to the friendly owner, a Carlos Santana fan, who agreed to an interview.
Now you know where the name ‘Zeebop’ comes from!
How long have you been running Zeebop By The Sea?
I have been running this restaurant for the last 30 years. I was working in the hotel industry and that’s where I learned the art of running a restaurant. It was small when we started, but now it has grown. One thing I have made sure of is that it is kept simple.
Is this your father’s business or have you started this by yourself?
Previously it was owned by one of my relatives with who I ran the restaurant since 1991. I purchased it from him in the year 2000.
What would you say is the USP of this place?
Good food, good service, good ambience, and like I’ve said before; I’ve kept it simple all these years. I could have taken it to another level but I didn’t want to turn it into a restaurant just like the others. We specialize in seafood.
There are very few restaurants facing the sea. One is Souza Lobo, in Calangute. Would you compare yourself with Souza Lobo?
No. I wouldn’t compare myself with Souza Lobo. Souza Lobo has its ambience. It was also a village earlier, now it has become a commercial area. We, however, are still in the village and away from all the commercial activities. During the past 5-10 years, there have been just 2-3 restaurants that have come up here in the village.
So, do you feel the heat of the competition or do you have a strong, repeat client base?
I have my clients strong, very strong. Since we’ve been running this restaurant for the past 30 years, we have customers coming over again and again. Our loyal customers have also recommended us to others. We also have outstation crowds coming in, on a repeat basis and that is very encouraging for us.
Does your outstation crowd give a word-of-mouth advertisement?
Yes. Since I have opened this place, Zeebop has never advertised in newspapers, Instagram or anything. It’s just word-of-mouth. And I have kept it this way all these years.
Do you also have weddings out here?
Yes, we do a lot of corporate dinners, lunches, weddings, pre-wedding parties, and after-wedding parties. This has been going on for years. Earlier, we used to be tied up with a lot of travel agencies, and they used to recommend Zeebop By The Sea to groups of people from the ships which used to dock in Vasco da Gama.
What is your forecast for the next five to ten years? Are your children into this business?
My son is still too young, but I have asked one of my nephews to help and support me since he has shown a lot of interest. I live in Panjim so I travel 50 km every day—here and back.
How did the first wave of Covid 19 (March 2020) affect your business, and how did the second wave (April 2021) affect it?
From March 2020 onwards to October 2020, no restaurants were open. We got permission to open only in October. I took up some renovation work and did not open in October because most of my staff come from different parts of the country. They were also hesitant about coming and we didn’t know what was going to happen, and that time was the peak of the virus. Then, we opened in January 2021, after the New Year. In April 2021 again, we had to close up everything because of the lockdown. Tourists also stopped coming in. In October 2021 we started getting back to business.
So how much of it has impacted you personally? And how much of it has impacted your staff?
It has impacted my staff a lot because there were times I had a lot many people working for me. I had to cut down the staff. But I did look after them even when they were in their hometown. Even when I opened and closed again because of the second wave, I made sure that my staff were taken care of.