In an exclusive interview with Restaurant India Frederick Houston, VP- Franchise Operations for UNO talks about brand's vision for India.
UNO Pizzeria & Grill would constantly get inquires for India but they could not find the right partner who had a vision that matched the Chicago- Deep dish pizza brand until they met both the Dhunseri and Ambuja Neotia Groups. “Being successfully internationally means you need to have the right partnership and we found that with these two groups,” shared Frederick Houston, VP- Franchise Operations for UNO during his India visit. Read, what he has to say on his India operations:
The Journey of ‘Pie’
We were contacted by Dhunseri in the spring of 2016 about bringing our brand to India. Mrigank Dhanuka had our pizza while studying in the US and loved it. I meet them in Chicago to review the opportunities and shortly after that I met his father Mr. Dhanuka and we sampled our entire menu. He was very full but enjoyed the pizza and the cookie Sundae. We were able to finalize out deal in late 2017. After we had reached an agreement for the Master Franchise rights for India with Dhunseri they brought in Ambuja Neotia as a partner.
Franchise as a Best Model
In order to be successful in a market place you need to understand the market. We can’t do that from the US so we rely on our partner in country to know the markets and the guests. With this in mind we prefer a franchise arrangement. Also, by franchising we are able to grow our brand presence both domestically and internationally. We are able to get our pizza out to many more guests. We are able to leverage local knowledge and expertise to grow more prudently and effectively. Finally, we can grow quicker.
Learning from Global Experience
With my many years with the brand I have seen successes as well as obstacles that needed to be overcome so I believe I bring a very balanced and honest approach in helping our franchisees understand our heritage and brand. It is all about working together to provide our guests with an extraordinary dining experience so that that brand can grow.
UNO in India
We have opened restaurants in Kolkata, Noida and Bengaluru and we are looking to add more sites in these regions before moving on to new cities.
The Right Customer
All our markets are different and our franchise partners do a wonderful job bring our brand to life but I feel the market with the greatest potential is India. We appeal to a wide range of people but our core is anyone in the age bracket of 20 to 45 year old as well as families.
Localising the Menu to Suit Indian Palate
We are working with the team in India on the menu and we have tweaked the flavors on the menu in order to give our guest in India the flavors they are looking for when they eat out. We have also added many more vegetarian dishes to balance out our menu.
Trends happening in India
One of the biggest trends is that guests want authentic foods with bold flavors. As a result our team headed by our executive Chef Andre Fuehr along with Indian corporate chef is creating dishes that provide our guests with items that are unique, fresh and of flavors that suit Indian palate. We do two menu rollouts each year in order to keep our menu fresh and in addition to these we do four limited time menu rollouts each year.
Expanding the Business
We want to be prudent and measured in our expansion plans. India is a very dynamic market with a great deal of opportunity but in order to maximize the opportunity in front of us we need to be thoughtful in our approach to finding the right sites for our brand. Our goal is to open over 40 restaurants over the next 5-7 years and I believe with the team in India we can achieve this