In an exclusive interview to Restaurant India, Triman Chandok, Owner, Balu Hospitality, shares his plans of growing the brand in Mumbai and then entering other cities.
Please share your entrepreneurial Journey and what led to the birth of your Brand?
I had joined the family business of manufacturing of automobile components at the age of 15. During my numerous visits to our customers across more than 50 countries in the world, I experienced a different culture and hospitality of our customers. The different facets of hospitality always encouraged me to expand our Hotel Division into the Food and Beverage Industry. At the age of 18, I opened Imperial Cafe, a rooftop restaurant in our Hotels Division. The Arabic Themed Lounge seemed to be the step in the right direction and I believed In having passion and love for anything I do. At the age of 21 after finishing my Bsc in Management Studies, the most notable achievement took place wherein we set up the food and beverage division of Balu Hospitality with the vision of being the fastest growing and leading F&B brand serving the highest quality of food and service. We decided to expand into various sectors in the Food and Beverage Industry from Sports Bars to Fast Casual Dining Restaurant to Cocktail Bars, etc.
How many stores are there within your brand today and what is the average store size?
We have a Mexican Asian QSR named Loco Chino which is present in 4 locations in the city. We have introduced the fast casual dining concept in this brand, wherein we look at serving the best quality food with the use of imported ingredients at economical prices. All of them are currently owned by Balu Hospitality. The company itself is expanding in more locations other than Mumbai..
We have a Cocktail bar launched known as Asado the Cocktail Street. This is India's first street style cocktail bar with the ambience set around 3d walls, false sky and spread over 2000 square feet. We are looking at expanding this brand into South Mumbai soon and thereafter other places will follow.
We also have a Sports Bar and Grill namely Zouk in Andheri. This is a sprawling 3000 square feet Sports Bar. The bar boasts of drinks and food carefully crafted with the use of Molecular Gastronomy. Our notable achievement has been that we were voted as one of the best places in the world to watch an Arsenal Game by an independent British Tabloid known as Bleachers Report. We have officially tied up with the official Supporters Club of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool of Mumbai. We have had the great Football players visit us during screenings including Robbie Fowler, Nicholas Anelka, etc.
Please give a Break –up city wise where you are present across various cities/countries? How many of these are franchise outlets, if any?
All our outlets are currently based out of Mumbai with plans to expand them in other metros, Tier 1 c and Tier-2 cities. As of now, all outlets are owned 100% by the company and none are franchise outlets.
What are the challenges with growing your (franchise) business – i.e. maintaining standards, brand integrity, customer experience etc. and how have you met these challenges?
As of now, all the operations are centralised and under the arm of Balu Hospitality. We have not yet franchised out. Maintaining the brand standards is a great challenge as expansion gets aggressive. We have put up all these outlets in one year. We have always had a strong belief among all out employees that customer is king and we have supported empowerment of employees. Empowerment of employees in decision making helps in implementing the standard measures and Brand standards across all outlets. This helps in brand equity and brand integrity.
Can you tell us more about your Business operations from the standpoint of Loyalty Program, technology (Hardware & software), raw material sourcing and talent recruitment & training?
We have a centralised Operation Structure within our company. We are proud of our technologically advanced Central Kitchen which caters to the needs of all our outlets and at the same time maintaining the desired quality and standardisation of our products. All departments right from the Marketing to Training and Recruitment to Human Resources Department to Purchases and Store (Centralised Buying and Economies of Scale) sit in the corporate office chalking out programmes to optimise the present resources to maximise the benefit. Special analysis and audits are carried out to ensure smoothness and success of operations. We are just about to launch our own innovative Loyalty Programme, which will help customers to use and redeem within the whole umbrella of Balu Hospitality.
Do you have growth targets for the next few years and can you reveal any strategy for how you intend to achieve this? Where would you like to see your Brand in the next 5 years?
The vision of Balu Hospitality is to be the fastest growing & leading Food & Beverage company providing its patrons highest quality of food & service, keeping in mind the long term viability & profitability of the organisation. We believe that value and innovation are key drivers to derive a competitive advantage in the industry. Seizing opportunities, creating value will facilitate growth lead to customer satisfaction. The consumer is the king and the ideals of serving the highest quality of food without any compromise will lead to customer satisfaction and brand equity. We believe in scaling our models aggressively. With Loco Chino, our fast casual dining concept, we have successfully set up 4 in the first year owned by the company. We are looking at more locations in the city , expanding to other cities including Delhi and Bangalore and then expanding to Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities. Our cocktail bar concept is getting great tractions and will be soon upcoming in more locations. Our immediate growth target is to have 50 Loco Chinos by 2017 and Balu Hospitality to have more than 100 outlets accross brands in the next 5 years. This is a stepping stone to the food and beverage industry and we have miles to go to become the leaders.