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INTERVIEW

“We would like to retain our investment every 2-3 days”
Monday, 10 June, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Caffe Ritazza is a UK-based chain of cafes which currently has a presence in 21 countries, including India, where there is tremendous potential for the coffee market, because the average consumption of coffee is still as low as just 100gm (vis-a-vis the US, where it is 4kg).

It is a franchise company that prepares each of its offerings in-house. Food and beverages constitutes 35 per cent of the company’s franchising, which is of utmost importance in a country like India, where the penetaration of F&B brands is very less.

In an interaction with Vijetha Iyer, Sukh Tiwana, group commerical director, SSP Group, and Gaurav Marya, chairman, World Iconic Brand, shared the company’s plans, offerings, etc.

What are the differences between the Indian food and beverage industry and the one in the UK?
There aren’t any differences anymore. While Western trends are coming to India, many Indian trends are coming back to the West. A number of Indian restaurants are opening in London, and are leading the way. There is more of terminology wherein new trends are being brought in, coming up, etc.

How is the Indian market for cafes different from those overseas? Are there any inherent Indian challenges to establishing a business of this nature? How have you overcome the same?
There are more similarities than differences. Caffe Ritazza is in 21 countries as a brand. In every country, we adopt the menu and the core principles either, for the coffee or for other dishes to develop ourselves. We cook fresh food in the store, which is not the case in mainstream restaurants. So, this is probably a step up for us. We see more potential  in India for the market. For instance, in India, the per capita consumption of coffee is still very low. In India,the average consumption of coffee is 100g and in the US, it is 4kg, so you can see a huge difference between both the markets. There is a myth in India that tea is still big, but I am sure coffee is growing at a faster pace.

Comment on the trend of cafe chains opening outlets across India.
There is lot of mainstream coffee chains, including Cafe Coffee Day and Starbucks, so our main strategy is to differentiate from them. As I said earlier, the food is much better, and we cook fresh food all the time. The quality matters more and there is no compromise on it.

Is it a profitable venture in the country?
Yes, of course. If we look at the cost of building, there is a slurry level within the other countries, and the reach uprising is so much on top in some countries. We would like to retain our investment every 2-3 days.

Talk us through the process of inking the deal with the globally-renowned hospitality brand, and the details of the deal.
In terms of franchise, we have three brands. We started with Milies cookies initially. That was our first brand to be launched in India. We have plans to launch our brand in other places in India. Caffe Ritazza is our first cafe to be launched in Mumbai. The second one will be opening in Pune, which is under construction. The will be followed by outlets in Hyderabad and other places. Our aim is to open one store every month, but once we get momentum, we will make sure avid developers will open stores themselves for our franchise.

How is your brand different from the competition with regards to price points, offerings and other USPs?
We have freshly cold brewed coffee and nitro coffee. In food, we have added handmade pastas freshly baked in-store, sandwiches, freshly-made pizzas and handcrafted desserts. So, we are bringing a lot of freshness with the proper pricing. Pricing is quite similar to other coffee brands in the market. We call ourselves a brand in the affordable category, so it is not overly expensive, and similar to what you expect to pay in any coffee house brand across the country.

Does your menu comprise signature dishes? How are they different from the offerings of other players?
The menu does comprise quite a few things made in-house which not all the coffee house brands are doing. The kind of menu we have would expect that fine-dining restaurant, rather than a coffee shop, so basically, we are non-commercialising a bit of that and making it much more affordable food. Every time you come to the store, there is a freshly-made item for you, which is we believe as our unique selling point. The signature dishes are handmade ravioli, handmade pastas, handmade pizzas, salads and freshly-baked baggase, which would be our key categories.

Tell us about your chain’s expansion plans in Mumbai as well as pan-India?
This cafe will be the first one in Bandra. The second one will be in Pune, and the third one in Hyderabad so it is a pipeline. We want to become the mainstream chain that does everything same everywhere, including local ingredients, local recipes, etc.

Mr Marya, do you believe you age was an advantage or a deterrent to enter the growing food and beverage industry?
I wasn’t that young. Any business you do, there are challenges and there is a learning point. We are a franchise company so it needs a lot of learning. I am very proud of this business. We want to be a franchise business. Thirty-five per cent of franchising is food, and it will be continue to grow, so 35 per cent of my business is F&B, and particularly in India, as there is very less penetration for F&B brands. People are becoming health-conscious, ordering online and many more. So, this is the best time to enter the F&B industry, because consumers always carve for a change.

Being a youngster with a new venture, what were the challenges you faced when you were setting it up? How did you overcome them?
The challenges is all about execution and finance. Sometimes, when people have a lot of money, they don’t know how to execute it properly, and if you have good execution skills, you run out of money, so any enterprise will continue to struggle between these two things. We run a global venture, so mainly we focus on our balance sheet.

Talk us about the concept of coffee on tap.
Coffee on tap is something catching on as an experience. It is a non-alcoholic beverage, which people would like it. It is launching with Caffe Ritazza. It is something a new rather than the other competitors. Caffe Ritazza is bringing a lot of new things like fresh food, coffee on tap, keto diet and a balanced menu. People are becoming more health-conscious in the UK and  in other developed countries. People keep checking their calorie count. Similarly, it would happen in India soon.

Are you targeting any specific group of people as your audiences? If yes, tell us about it.
The main target audience is the younger generation. I feel food is mostly consumed by younger people. People make plans for social connections, where food is always there.
 
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