In a tete-a-tete with Restaurant India, Fouad Abdel Malak, CEO, ZIZO shares â€˜How difficult it was for him to introduce the brand into the Indian marketâ€™.
What made you to re-launch ZIZO into fully stocked bar, live belly dance Sheesha lounge and new gastro menu? What is your expected growth from this?
It is the people very much, people dictate on how we go. At the beginning they were very stubborn, sticking to the authentic. Then we realised that we are gaining popularity but not at the base of what we want to because the people who are coming here are very culturist. Initially, we introduced Lebanese food in a very reasonable price for everyone. When we took the feedback that what is missing, we came to know that in India people are very social and they go in big group where choice differs. People like comfort food here.
The expected growth has already started. In last two months, we have seen 33-36 percent growth month after month. People like businessman, lawyers, engineers, students and now even big family is coming. Things are picking up and the response is also getting good. In weekday’s 50-60 people come on an average and in weekends there are 150 plus.
What are the major challenges you are facing to operate your brand in India?
There are couples of things. First is the acceptance of cuisine, country like India which adopted Chinese, Mexican etc. Indian cuisine is the biggest challenge, it is so rich and people are so addicted to it. The start in Indian is slow for Lebanese food, a lot of talking, promotion and consistency is needed, it will take time.
Other problem are authentic Lebanese food, availability of honest and qualified brokers who helps us to expand, quality research, accurate data, and correct statistics is very difficult to find. Even getting good staff to believe in our brand, as it is a new brand and the positioning is a huge problem.
What are the different types of cuisines served at your food joint?
We are serving Lebanese cuisine. Now, we have added QSR products like burgers, juices, drinks and desserts. It is a multi faceted; some come for fine dining, some for drinks etc.
What is your view regarding the transformation in the taste of customers in India?
It is very slow going. I have never imagined, the whole world is going for healthy and organic food but here Indian wants to eat unhealthy food. People complain that it is simple, not fry, spicy etc.
I have done research but I am confident that eventually our place will be recognized. People will understand the essence of good quality food. This is a misconception that only spicy food will be tasty, even healthy food can be tasty.
Do you see any threat from your competitors?
Yes I do see threat from my competitors. I have seen successful lounge bar, in India if you want to succeed you should have exotic, loud music and cheap drinks.
What is your expansion plan in terms of no of outlets?
Four outlets are coming in Delhi NCR within three months. After that we will start with Mumbai then Bengaluru and Pune very soon. So, we will be opening 10 outlets in next six months.
Any new launch is expected in near future?
Absolutely, in three to four months you will see us at cyber hub ground floor; it is not only about great food but also entertainment, authentic music and belly dancing. You will see a great exposure.
Now we are also planning other parts in India, even a Night club. We will make some big announcements in next month like Express model.