Zafar Anvarov wanted soccer cleats and his own bicycle when he was a young boy. Anvarov eventually got both by earning money working in his dad’s restaurant at the age of 7. In 2005, Anvarov arrived in the U.S. from Tajikistan, a mountainous country in Central Asia that was once part of the Soviet Union. He came for college but needed to pay for his tuition.
“My life was to work in restaurants while studying English at night and in college,” said Anvarov. Cafeterias and cafes became another classroom in which serving patrons, busing tables, and washing dishes were the curriculum. He eventually rose to manager. That’s when he realized his dreams were as large as his commitment to learn everything about the food service industry.
In 2015, the 27-year-old was ready to open his own restaurant, Avesta Persian Grill. Years of carefully listening to owners around him, taking notes on their secrets to success gave him an understanding about the huge risks he would face. With help from his dad and his own money, time, and planning, he took the leap.
Going social builds loyal diners
“Social media was my most effective marketing tool,” said Anvarov, who immediately grew a large following of customers. “Earning a 5-star rating on Yelp was a very big deal.” He held that rating for six straight months including a comparable one on Google reviews along with positive feedback on Facebook.
“We really are fine-dining served fast with generous portions,” said Anvarov. “I was always taught by my father to be generous, never sacrifice quality, because that’s what brings customers back.”
A sole owner with no partners, Anvarov runs the kitchen, preps the food, personally selects the meats on the menu, and is the face that diners see coming in and out of the kitchen to provide table side service. “It’s my way of being familiar with our customers,” Anvarov said. “Without them, I could not have expanded the restaurant.”
His dad traveled from Tajikistan and helped him prepare the latest Avesta. Together, they reviewed recipes and operations. “The recipes come from my mom and I did a lot of barbecue cooking in the mountains, using spices that my friends loved.” He replicates that technique to grill lamb, chicken, shrimp, salmon, and beef kabobs.
Building a future in Westchase
“The most important thing I learned from other owners was location is critical: you have to be near residents, hospitals, hotels, offices, and other businesses,” said Anvarov. “That’s why Westchase is the best place for my restaurant. It has all of those. The access is easy especially to Beltway 8 and HCC nearby. This area is perfect for a Persian restaurant – I always wanted to be here.”
Avesta relocated to its new location in Market at Westchase after operating seven years across the street in Westchase Shopping Center facing Wilcrest Drive. “I kept that location open, while building out this one,” said Anvarov. “Everything here is new,” he said proudly showing off a special grill, custom ordered for his kitchen. “We don’t fry any meats. Everything is grilled fresh. The beef in the kabobs is Angus sirloin.”
“Everything I was able to buy was because of working in a restaurant,” said Anvarov.
Avesta Persian Grill
11165 Westheimer Rd
Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, Noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday