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people 2015-10-09

Casual dining brand offers unlimited indulgence- Uday Menon

In an exclusive interview to Restaurant India, Uday Menon, CBO, Barbeque Nation shares about the growing trends in the industry with social media becoming an influencer for the growth of the biz.

By Deputy Features Editor
Casual dining brand offers unlimited indulgence- Uday Menon

Barbeque Nation is one of the first restaurants to start the concept of Do It Yourself, backed by CX Partners which has a 25 per cent stake in the company, the restaurant chain today has minimum attrition rate of about 39 per cent as compared to the industry where it touches approximately 70-80per cent or more in a month. With a plan to open about 100 restaurants in next two years, Barbeque Nation has average strength of 4.7 customers per table. Here is the excerpt from the interview:

What’s keeping you busy these days?

We are busy doing our expansion. Our plan is to sit at 100 restaurants from two years from now which means we will be doubling the store count from now which is 52. From the industry perspective you can see that there are lots of food aggregators today in the metros and they are providing you the dining option at the comfort of your home or office.

Are you planning to go the online way as other restaurants are keen on sharing online space?

We have so far resisted the temptation to go that way because we think that the experience we give is very typical to having dining experience in restaurants. We want our customers to come, enjoy, and feel free at the long 130 minutes which we give. It is not only value for money that they realise but also value for their time that they are spending.  It is going to be very difficult to replicate that experience that we give, unlimited stuff at limited price. And we are not very sure that this something we want to do and our customers will be content and delighted by this. So, once we arrive at some sort of conclusion about the right business model for us we might think about it.

What is your view on the current trend that is backed by the food aggregators?

Food aggregators’ have taken the market by storm, I myself is their customer. I order my food from Freshmenu where they deliver within 45 minutes which is a reasonable period of time. They have a fresh and new menu every day and they deliver fresh so I like the way these concept are growing and they will have bright future as their market is growing.

Why investors are tempted to invest in the casual dining format?

Casual dining has the brands which is for the masses rather than for classes which means that your break even or future growth is more and fast paced and there is the flexibility because if you go to a fine-dine concept you have to stick to it or otherwise you have to kill the brand and do something else. Meanwhile customer’s sentiments are also a major point because casual dining segment is giving them the run for their money. Every day we are bombarded with food suggestions including and not limiting to the Masterchef Australia and shows that are there because every day there is bombardment on your senses, Fox Life is mostly about food and they present it in such a way that they show it as a way of life and not just recipe which is cooked in the world. It is connection to the daily life that breeds life into that food.

How is casual dining different from that of a fine dine model?

Fine dining concept is driven by a very specific theme of food and you employ specialist to deliver that kind of food and you stick to it. So, if there is a Punjab Grill you pretty much know what they are going to give and if there is a theme restaurant you know what you are going to get there because they have very specific cuisine to offer. You don’t find any influences there. Whereas for a casual dining brand it is more flexible to incorporate more elements of culinary experience among the chefs, use those abilities in the menu and give a wider selection to customers and satisfy your guest in more ways than one. So, casual dining chain is now flavour of the season in terms of food brands going further. Having said that fine dining space will remain there because there will be some set of people who will go there to experience and enjoy the culinary aspects where the food is the king. In casual dining food is not the king, experience is the king. For us it is an unlimited indulgence.

How has technology impacted your business?

Technology powers everything. We constantly have to see what the cutting edge of technology is. Few years back Face Book impact wasn’t so much but today they are an influencer. They won’t take the decision but they will help you take the decision. There are some reviewers on Zomato who are very famous on their own because they have a huge following which means people actually follow what they say and it helps in making the decision. So, Eight years back when we started the business there was nothing like that but today we are effectively tied up with Zomato, Evening Flavours and Just Dial. We are constantly updating, what is the impact of these online media, how can it affect our business.

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