Tarun Mahadevan finished his grads in the UK and then joined a private equity in London and worked with them for a while before coming back to India and joining his father’s business who has set a new benchmark for the restaurant brands in India and Global market. “It was always in my mind that I would come back to India but after spending some time there learning aspects of businesses,” shared Mahadevan whose father’s ( M Mahadevan) restaurant brand Oriental Cuisine had to go buy back getting investment from the private equity company. “It was then he asked me to come and join the business as he was mostly looking at international operations,” added the young restaurateur who is now all set to revolutionise the empire that Mr. Mahadevan has built in over two decades. Excerpts from the interview:
What made you comeback to India looking after your father’s business?
I signed a three years agreement with my parents and told them that if I enjoy this would continue it else I would do something of my own. More than the job it is people that I love working with, people who have been associated with us for long and are now like a family. Our entire company believes in promoting culture, family, informal structure and no bureaucratic structure where we have kept everything very transparent. We have the highest retention rate in terms of other hospitality majors in India.
What gave the birth of Cool Cream Milano?
Oriental Cuisines was started by my father back in early 1990s that was the parent company that had many brands we have today. After PE investment buy back wherein the PE guys wanted the scalable formats like French Loaf and Wang’s Kitchen and we decided to keep the fine dining formats and we are using Cool Cream Milano as our new investment vehicle and our all brands will be under this brand.
How are you changing the brand according to the new generations?
We are working a lot on giving brand a fresh look as nobody in Chennai today wants to pay 600-1000 bucks for a meal if it’s not a 5-star restaurant. It has become a very price sensitive market. Today, you can’t fool a customer because they know what a good Burritos and Tacos etc are. Today, it is hard to find a continental restaurant as it is much more defined now; it is about Italian, French, Korean restaurant. Also, a lot of chefs who are doing epicurean concepts are focusing on localization. Hence, we are focusing a lot on customer satisfaction and engagement.
Which is the top brand under your portfolio when it comes to getting more customers and revenue?
When we talk about our brands and when look at loyality programs and data, people who come to eat Indian foods their frequency is 6 times higher than any other of our Italian, Chinese or any other concepts. We have a restaurant called The Marina which is a sea food restaurant that does a significant amount of repetitive customers. We have a chinese, chettinad and a tandoor kitchen and a south coastal kitchen that caters to a lot of people. Another brand that is doing very good is The Writer’s Café wherein we are working with specially-abled people. Today, most customers don’t have time to give to charity so while providing such concept wherein people can give some time to charity along with a good cup of coffee is a great idea. Also, we are working on scaling lots of concepts, working on their models, generating lot of new customers. At group level we have repetitive customers of about 60-65 per cent which is the last three months average.
What is your expansion plan?
Tie-II and tier-III cities are a lot on our target. We are looking at cities like Hyderabad, Surat, Jaipur to name a few. If Mumbai’s rental decides to behave themselves we will look at Mumbai also. In next five years we will be present in a lot of cities in North and West India.
How are you creating a difference at the brand level after joining the business?
I am spending a lot of time understanding customer and market. I have been trying to understand the business in India and my father and his team has been a great support in making me understand about the market. It’s not about what’s different but what’s needed for the market right now. I am working a lot on building our social media presence, technology and helping the supply chain and backend by using the latest technology, enhancing customer experience as well as the employee experience. Aggressive growth with technology would be something that I would be focusing on.