In an exclusive interaction with Restaurant India, Rajeev Varman, CEO, Burger King India, shares his expansion plan for Indian market and the products he is offering here.
You have opened 14 outlets in four months. What is your next big plan for Indian market?
We will continue to build outlets in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and Pune and we are already building it. But our next big plan in India is to enter Punjab and Bengaluru market by entering cities like Chandigarh, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana. We have restaurants in Delhi which are under construction; we are going into a pipeline of restaurants which will continue to grow in Mumbai, Delhi and Pune in the months to come.
What is the number of outlets that you will be opening at these locations?
One of the things that I don’t do is throw out numbers; more important is to build good restaurants, the restaurant needs to be convenient to people, the rents too need to be convenient, and the economies need to be in place that helps it to grow properly rather than be just growing. So, for me, the definition of growth is growth that is profitable. And we will build as many restaurants as we can. People have already seen what we have done in the last 90 days, so we do not need to give numbers to show our growth.
Are you planning to enter other markets as well?
First, we will grow in these markets and then we will tap other markets to grow like in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Kochi, Kerala and Ahmedabad and into the eastern market and also open our outlets at airports. We are in talks with different markets; the concrete plan is really Punjab and Bengaluru. But we will continue to talk with other areas as well as we want to build a pipeline. Whether it will be the end of this year or the beginning of next year will be determined as we grow.
Are you facing any price war from players like McDonald’s, KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts operating in the same segment?
Our strategy is about everyday value pricing, so if you look at our stunner menu, a complete veg combo is for Rs 69 and we have non veg combo at Rs 79 and the sandwich alone is for Rs 35 and non-veg sandwich is Rs 49. We have cravers starting at Rs 25 and we have good pricing of all our premium products. We have the stunner menu and the cravers menu. So, we have items that we are selling at every price points. However, competition is there all around the world. We are all working in the same sector and everyone has a USP for the business that they sell. There is enough business in India for all of us (QSR players). If one looks at global markets, there the trend is much more penetrated. But here, there are a few McDonald’s and KFC outlets, but for us the penetration has not yet been started. And we all will be fighting in the same race because that is the nature of the business and we all are in the same area. And, I think, we are in at the best of the times, as the infrastructure is strongly set up and the clients are well versed on QSR formats now.
You have done a lot of research before entering into the Indian market. Why so?
We came here and started from scratch. All the 13 sandwiches and cravers and all other offerings have been done from scratch over here. So, it is very home built, all are suppliers are Indians, all our food is not imported it is from Indian market. There is some equipment that we buy from abroad because it is not manufactured here in the country. We are buying from McCain, Vista Foods, Venky’s, FieldFresh amongst others to keep our products fresh and of high quality.
You have opened 10 restaurants in 52 days. Was it the BK brand that made it possible or the team effort?
Last year we started on November 9 and opened 10 outlets by December 31st. It is always everyone put together. We work with Ever Stone Capitals, which is one of the top companies in Asia. We have a very strong team. My team is made of the cream of the crop with top professionals in India. We had great support from the Burger King brand in APEAC. But in the end, it comes down to the energy level.
Which according to you is the best item in your menu?
I am biased towards a lot of products, but my top picks are Tandoor Grill, mutton whopper and then the burger which is not talked a lot but is a favourite of mine, in our Royale series.
We have seen negative as well as positive vibes on Social Media. What is your view?
Most of the negative comments that we are getting through social media are from people who want the beef and pork item that Burger King sells out of India. We have decided not to sell beef and pork in any of our restaurants in India. The qualities of all the products are of BK standards as we have pushed the standard that Burger King has laid out in its global markets. We have also no-trans fat in any of the products or the cooking oil. We have low MSD products and that was the conscious choice that we made. And the work that India has done in building these products has been recognised by the Burger King system all across the world and these products are now going to grow in other countries. And this is for the first time in sixty years of history of this brand and they have never done the kind of research which is done in India.