In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India, Sharad Sachdeva talks about the current food trend, the expansion plans of Lite Bite Foods and the legalities involved in taking a restaurant overseas.
Tell us about the food business trend in India and what can we expect in near future?
Indians are experimenting a lot on foods now and the next big things is the innovative concept, introduction of molecular gastronomy and then different types of concepts on burgers, good quality foods and also the expansion of QSRs and Coffee formats in the country. In these areas expansion is going to happen.
Lite Bite Foods have marked their expansion overseas. What is the rationale behind it?
We are expanding in different geographies in India. We saw that food outside India is also very bold and developed. So, we thought why not to go in a developed market. We have a nice brand and we compete with the foreign brands and thought to make some money. We are now expanding in Bangkok, We are going into Dubai and Abu Dhabi and at the same time we are also planning to start our business at US market very aggressively. We are already operating an outlet in Singapore. So, we have seen that the market and the business are good and thus we are expanding outside India.
What are the legalities a restaurant needs to go through when taking his business overseas?
The right kind of expansion vehicle and if you are expanding through a joint venture you should have a right partner and a good business plan. How are you going to see yourself on the horizon of 3-5 years? So, all these areas have to be thought of. The funding option outside India, the legal framework in which you are working there should be very strong, your patent register should be there and all the food related assignments need to be done like licensing of food, licensing of liquor (if you are selling liquor). All these things are very critical to start the operation because food is much regulated outside India.
What are the technologies that the restaurant industry is using to make their business more profitable?
Any business is around process. If you have a right kind of process then the business is bound to expand. We are implementing Airline Control Programme (ACP) in our company to streamline the entire sourcing, selling and indenting. Technology is very important that’s why we have invested heavily into technology. We are the pioneer to ACP, it is the first time that a food and beverage company is going to become an ACP based company.
Please justify the statement, Fast food industry: Healthy or just hanging on?
Fast food has done mirage. Because it is economical, quick, and lot of youth identify with fast food easily. So, I think fast food is going to stay for a long time. Youth today are turning out to be health conscious, KFC is launching grilled chicken rather than fried chicken. Subway has emphasised all its marketing on healthy foods, they are selling subs, they are selling salads all are very healthy and are fast foods. And it is going to stay for a long time.
Tell us about your responsibility as COO of the company?
As the pilot of the plane is not responsible for flying the plane but also make sure that the staffs are happy, the customer is happy, you are expanding in the right direction, you should make sure that you are making money, you should make sure that all the stake holders should be happy. And I think that’s what I am trying to do. So, not only running day to day operation I am also putting my mind towards strategising. Recently we have got a very good contract from Bombay Airport. We are opening 32 outlets there. So, it is a mix pack to see what is happening today and what will happen six months down the lane and what might happen three years later. So, that’s the role that I’m planning to play.
Please tell us something about your journey as a GM- Business Development, GMR Airport Holdings Ltd to COO Lite Bite Foods.
I joined GMR and worked on terminal 1D, the entire retail planning, the space planning and the core of it was commercial development. And then when terminal 3 was to launch, I did commercial planning for terminal 3 and I ran the operations of terminal 3 for one year and then I felt there wasn’t any action happening and personally I like action to create something but GMR was done and delivered by that time. So, I thought to move on and joined Lite Bite Foods and to take it to the next level, processes, man power planning, future strategies, function, growth and profitable delivery. And I thought it is something which is going to be challenging and I never planned for a COO it just happened and now I am trying to look that role every day, every week and every month.