Spread of organized
retail has brought both expansion opportunities and growth pangs
for stand-alone eateries
Saumya Roy, Mumbai - MINT, 3 March 2008
There's nothing even remotely North American about Tushar Jaiswal's
Red Indian pizza - replete with paneer, red peppers, onions
and capsicum toppings. But it's held its own against exotic
offerings from large pizza chains in Vadodara.
Jaiswal's Pizza Inn vegetarian pizza chain has grown
to three restaurants over the last six years, even as some overseas
brands have had a hard time keeping their only outlet going
in the city. Jaiswal's Indianized pizza chain is now set to
make a debut in other cities - in malls that are cropping in
various parts of India.
Kshitij, a chain of 11 malls being developed through a $80
million (Rs319 crore) domestic fund raised by Kshitij Investment
Advisory Co. Ltd, part of the Future Group, has hired a food
and beverage chef to help stand-alone restaurants expand into
malls and groom them to become a popular chain of food outlets
that offer standardized food and a similar experience wherever
they might be. And Jaiswal's Pizza Inn is its first assignment.
Dhiren Kanwar, a chef who left his catering business to start
Kshitij's food division, has signed on Pizza Inn, along with
several large food chains, for its malls in Vadodara, Ahmedabad
and probably Pune and Jaipur. Kanwar who says his division was
set up after consumer research showed that people would come
into malls as much to eat as to shop and "wanted something different"
will seek to bring a different flavour by signing on more such
local brands and run something of a finishing school to help
The growth of organized retail has brought both expansion opportunities
and growth pangs for India's traditional, stand-alone, family-owned
restaurants. They have emerged as magnets in malls where as
many as 80% visitors to a mall may go to food courts compared
with about 65% who visit hypermarkets and 50-55% who go to department
stores, according to estimates by the Retailers Association
of India, an industry body. And with as many as 320 malls coming
up across India by 2010, according to an estimate by real estate
consulting firm Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj, developers are strengthening
food offerings to create differentiation for their malls.
Developers are also seeking to reach stand-alone speciality
restaurants in new locations to fill the growing need for varied
Kanwar, who has been surveying eating out options nationwide
says many cities are usually less vegetarian than expected and
there is demand, but no chains for chaat or thali, a reference
to snacks and a complete meal on a plate, respectively.
Insights such as this have encouraged developers to fill these
gaps in formal and informal ways. At Mumbai's Inorbit mall,
the management realized that the mainly vegetarian area (the
mall is located in Malad) would need the services of a vegetarian
who understood such palates and worked with a first-time operator
to design and operate her eatery.
Jaiswal says his restaurant could start serving meat as he
moves into markets outside Gujarat, where the population largely
consists of vegetarians. Jaiswal, who left the family's construction
business to start his pizza chain after a trip to the US, has
adopted American inspired management systems, equipment, ovens,
and look and feel and coupled with the Indian taste, encouraging
Kanwar to sign him on.
Now Kanwar will train Pizza Inn's staff on how to deal with
the typically large number of customers at malls, maintaining
quality standards, design a kitchen intended to be open for
customers to see, design seating and train staff on food safety
"Many of these restaurants know about the local market tastes
and have pruned their menu to fit what customers want," says
Kanwar, who has been scouting for restaurants across dozens
of cities over the last six months. "What they need help with
is polishing their branding, service and presentation."
But that polish may also draw away from the distinct character
that makes these stand alone restaurants popular, says Devangshu
Dutta, chief executive of New Delhi- based retail consulting
company Third Eyesight.
"Restaurants are typically single entrepreneur ventures where
it is hard to replicate the same thing across locations. But
scaling up is also akin to dumbing down. To scale, you have
to make things process-oriented and person-independent. In this
process, something good will go, along with some learning of
standard operating procedures."
Kanwar will have to maintain this balance as he signs on more
brands and prepares them to become professionally-managed chains.
He will ask restaurants to have manuals specifying how long
each cooking process will take, call brand designers and architects
to design the look and feel of the restaurants, and help them
Jaiswal whose maiden mall restaurant will open at Kshitj's
first mall to open in Vadodara in March, will send design plans
for approval to Kanwar.
All of this will help him grow and compete with large pizza
chains elsewhere too, says Jaiswal, who now works out of an
office above the restaurant supervising 200 employees- an increase
from the 35 he started with.
Some of his time goes into ideating on what his first meat
pizza should be.