In an exclusive interview to Restaurant India, Deepak Datwani, Owner, Fat Luluâ€™s shares, how the idea of opening a pizzeria chain came into his mind.
How and when did you decide to open a restaurant of yours? How was the investment managed?
We moved to Delhi from Goa after selling The Republic of Noodles to The Lemon Tree Resorts in 2010 and decided to open a Pizzeria, inspired from our travel to NYC that summer, specifically to Brooklyn and the family run pizzerias there, that have elevated pizza making to an art.
All the partners dipped into their savings to open the first couple of stores at Arjun Marg and Galleria Gurgaon.
What are the challenges faced to manage a restaurant?
A lot of infrastructure related issues especially the electricity, backup, the environment; the Internet etc is a major concern. The other challenges are related to training and performance and quality and consistency of supply and product.
Fat Lulu is known for Pizza or mainly Italian dishes. What inspired you to introduce something like this? Who do you see as your competitor in the market?
We used to have a regular poker game every Friday and invariably someone would order pizza, but we were never quite happy with the quality of the large delivery chains and craved the thin crust wood fired pizzas we had tried on our travels, and hence, decided to open the pizzeria.
There are a lot of exciting new players and anyone doing good quality product is our competition, but to name a couple, it would be Amici Café, Anna Perenna and NYC Pie.
What is your view on the FSSAI law? How much do you agree with the law?
The law caused a lot of supply disruptions and increased prices, we personally feel it’s a bit unnecessary, as in some cases, it’s not practical to list all the ingredients, the main ones should suffice and also the order sizes might not be large enough for the manufacturers to specify the “India Clause”, although well intended, a more practical implementation is required.
How do you decide on pricing keeping your target customers in the mind?
We do work back on our costs and a lot of the costs are not just with the food but the cost of infrastructure and staffing etc, and at the same time, we have to keep an eye on what’s on offer in the market and the value perception for our customer.
What is your view regarding the transformation in the taste of customers in India?
As people travel more and the markets open up, the aspirations and the taste of the customers definitely has undergone a transformation, now people are willing to pay for and appreciate quality products and expect a high standard of consistency and quality of the food. The willingness to experiment with different cuisines and ingredients and a high level of awareness with regards to any new foods or products e.g. Kale, Quinoa is there with the customers. It’s exciting to be able to introduce new ingredients and have customers understand and appreciate them.
What is your marketing approach to survive in this market? How do you see social media as a marketing medium?
We have always kept away from an aggressive marketing plan and have relied on listings and local area flyer drops especially for the delivery market and word of mouth and participating in events and festivals for awareness. Social media is very useful to get the message out real quick and also in receiving feedback from customers.
What are your expansion plans? Are you also planning to take franchisee route?
We are keen to grow on our own and all the outlets so far have been self funded and managed. We would like to retain control over the quality and experience and would rather grow at our own pace than rush into an expansion. For us, Franchise would happen only if the Franchisee is willing to buy into our vision and is on the same wavelength with regards to providing customers a unique experience.