You have launched restaurants in different categories. Which according to you is the most revenue generated model and why?
The food and beverage industry is one of the most exciting and challenging sectors to be as the overheads and government taxation changes every year with the introduction of the budget. The QSR segment, which was earlier known as fast casual sector (Loco Chino) is our most profitable venture keeping in mind the quick turnover, economies of scales and less overheads with the increasing outlets.
On an average, every outlet caters to about 250-300 orders a day wherein an average spend per consumer is about Rs250- Rs300. It generates good volumes and thus provides efficiency in the area of economies of scale.
We see that these days, investors are keen on investing in casual dining chain. What is your opinion?
According to an independent survey, the fast casual dining segment is seeing an annual growth rate of 21 per cent, which constitutes to about 42 per cent of India’s 75,000 crore restaurant industry. The change in demographics with working families who have at an average two meals out on a given week has seen this industry grow at a booming rate and it will only grow on from here. Mobile application and Internet-based ordering has only helped boost the takeaway model for such outlets and thus increased the volumes of business.
What are the essentials that you incorporate in all your restaurants to serve authentic foods?
We solely believe in serving the highest quality of food at the most affordable prices. Around 75 per cent of our ingredients are imported to maintain the authentic taste buds. We also believe in serving fresh and healthy food and thus we are very stringent on our standards. We use no artificial colour or preservatives and also use no MSG (monosodium glutamate) in any of our ingredients. We have also set up an in-house Research and Development Team to cater to the new trend of progressive molecular gastronomy.
How important is design in a restaurant business? How have you incorporated design in all your restaurants contrasting it with the cuisine?
The most critical and vital key in this sector is to be clear on your concept and to get it right. Once we build the concept of the restaurant, the look, feel and the vibe caters to delivering it out in a clean and fresh environment. For example, with Loco Chino, a revolutionary concept serving the best of a Live Tex-Mex station and Chinese, we have used bamboo dim sum boxes as lights and our walls are painted with lively Mexican Characters and Sombreros are worn by our service team. With Asado, being Mumbai’s only Latin American Restaurant, we have transformed the place into a street in Argentina, with three dimensional paintings giving you the vibe of Casa Batlio (street in Buenos Aires) in Argentina. The sky has been painted with clouds, we have birds perched on the lights and the street lamp posts all around to give you the cosy ambience of a lively street and coupled with great Latin music specially curated for the place.
What is the supply chain process at your restaurants?
We believe in centralising our supply chain systems and believe in leveraging with the local vendors. Around 75 per cent of the ingredients are imported from quality suppliers and vendors throughout the world through a systematic supply chain network created in-house. Even with local vendors, we have yearly contracts with approved FSSAI vendors to maintain the quality and to counter any price fluctuations that may appear for a period of 12 months. Centralised ordering, quality checks and then the dispatch to outlets help us maintain the consistent quality in all our products. Centralised inventory along with par stock for all perishable and non-perishable items has helped us in the successful execution of our supply chain systems.
What is the marketing strategy you incorporate to promote your brand?
Customer is king and customer satisfaction is very imperative. Building a customer database is the biggest asset for us. After successfully building a great customer database coupled with some critical information such as birthdays and anniversaries, we make every customer special and a part of our ever- growing family. Coupled with technology and the growing social media, customer rewards is the most important key to have, not only to repeat and satisfy consumers, but also to keep building the database. We are soon launching a ground breaking loyalty programme where the consumer can garner points on any of the outlets and this can be redeemed at any of our outlets.
What was the initial investment that you made? Are you looking for external accruals?
Balu Hospitality is a self-funded hospitality company. We believe in adding value to every restaurant we launch. We believe in complete growth of not only our external stakeholders, but also the most vital internal stakeholders which will drive us forward and a complete all round development of our large Balu family together.
What is your expansion plan?
We are very aggressive with expansion in all our formats. We look at having about 50 Loco Chino outlets by the end of 2017 which will not only include the metros but also Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities.
We have placed considerable attention to keep the model scalable and at the same time increasing our customer database day in and day out with expansion across geographic territories. Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru will be lined up this year followed by the other metros and cities in the next year.
We shall expand all our formats in the Indian Metros. This is just a stepping stone and yet we have miles to go before we can compete with some of the leading F&B Companies in the country.