Serving a premium family experience to its customers in the Dine-in and Delivery space, United Restaurants Limited launched its brand U S Pizza. In an interaction, Akbar Khwaza, Director, U S Pizza shares the further growth plans via franchising.
Namita Bhagat (NB): Share the concept of US Pizza with us.
Akbar Khwaza (AK): U S Pizza is a pioneering Pizza quick service restaurant (QSR) chain that serves salads, Pasta, soft drinks and desserts. Our mission is to serve a premium family experience to our customers in the Dine-in and Delivery space. Our endeavor is to serve every Indian a pizza that appeals to her/his taste. The brand is totally indigenised in ingredients and equipment to maintain a value offering to its customers.
NB: Being an Indian brand, how did you select the name 'US Pizza' for your company?
AK: Pizza is originally believed to be an Italian product. However, the Americans after the II World War took the Pizza to America as a war prize. As is their culture and practice, the Americans decided to assemble the pizza on an assembly line and super size it. In the process the Pizza became fluffy bread with tomato puree and just mozzarella cheese. We on our part decided to serve the American Pizza as we believed it was closer the Indian Taste buds then the Italian Pizza and thus, the name ‘U S Pizza’ originate.
NB: Why and when did you decide to take franchise route for growth?
AK: We started with owned stores in 1995, and grew to about five by 1999. We seriously started to pursue the franchise option in 2000, when we realised that there were many people who wanted our brand to partner with them at Bangalore and Ahmadabad. My study of the American brands showed that they are pricy and the taste is too bland for the average Indian to buy on a regular basis. Also, there was a growing need for a brand that really caters to the Indian palate. Knowing all this there was no other way to go but franchising our success story with partners who were keen.
NB: How many franchisee locations does the company have at present? Could you share the plans for expanding the brand’s footprint in India?
AK: Currently, there are 32 company-owned stores and 52 franchised stores. We first populated Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Now we have plans to expand to Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, NCR, UP, MP, West Bengal.
NB: How would you deal with competition from other global Pizza brands, operating or foraying into India?
AK: We do not focus on the competition; rather we work towards keeping our customer base happy. For example we have an offering that serves two soups, 24 salads, garlic bread and three pizza totally unlimited for lunch/dinner all ending up in a brownie with ice cream for just Rs 175-185 per person and Rs 109-129 for children. Being totally Indian our overheads are frugal, making us more cost effective and thus value for the customer.
NB: Could you elaborate on the operational aspects of the franchise model of your company?
AK: A franchise is the representative of U S Pizza in the territory awarded. The franchisee will need to undertake a detailed study to gauge the potential of the territory including mapping competition, dining habits of consumers, changing preferences etc a) To ensure that the Standard Operating Procedures are followed in the store b) To see that the product and service reaches all the relevant target consumer c) To ensure customer satisfaction d) To ensure a minimum sales in the allocated territory e) His key task is to develop the brand in the area of the franchise.
NB: What amount of initial investment is required in terms of space and money from the franchisee’s end to partner with you?
AK: Express and Mall stores are 200 sq. ft with an investment of Rs 12 lakh, Dinning stores 2,000 to 2,500 sq. ft with an investment of Rs 50 to 60 lakh.
NB: What kind of support and training is provided by US Pizza to its franchisees?
AK: We provide support in form of market study, store development, operations and administrative functions, script for suggestive selling, feedback and situation handling, cash & inventory controls, control measures to ensure profitability, formats and procedures, standardised product and service across all outlets. And the training comprises pre launch and ongoing training for a) product preparation b) service procedures c) guest interaction and complaint handling d) up selling and suggestive selling. The training schedules and annualised calendars are based on operational needs, service deficiencies, new product launches. Also we carry store audits in all functional areas such as operations, finance, HR, training etc and finally marketing support inform of brand identity and use of house colors, artworks and approvals for artworks coordination with the local agency for print, electronic and outdoor media and PR, tie- up with synergetic brands. We also extend IT support, Call Centre, R&D, Supply Chain Management etc.