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Lite Bite’s Huge Pie

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, Vice President – Culinary – at , discusses the company‘s brands and formats at Mumbai‚International Airport and Metro Station, with

LBF has bagged rights to operate F&B outlets at Terminal 2 of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai. What does this entail for LBF?

We have won the bid to build and operate 32 outlets at the new Terminal 2 of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Mumbai. In the first phase we opened 14 outlets on 1st March 2014 in Terminal 2. These include Street Foods by Punjab Grill (3), Bakers Street (2), Bakers Street Bistro (1), Asia7 (1), Naashto (a new concept especially for the airport, and the very first one), franchise of , Pizza Hut, CCD (3), Fresco Cafe (1), Zambar (1), and Subway (1).

We are currently in the planning stage of designing and conceptualizing 18 more outlets in the domestic departures security hold area in Terminal 2. These are expected to open early 2015. Zambar and Asia7 are expected to open in Abu Dhabi third quarter 2014. Punjab Grill Washington and Punjab Grill Bangkok are expected to open in Feb 2015.

Building and operationalizing these 14 outelts in a short span of 90 days was a huge task which was very efficiently handled by our projects and operations team. All our outlets are works of art and have unique designs. Naashto is built like a brass cooking pot, Zambar has a design feature of a pagoda and also boasts of very intricate Kanjivaram saree border etched on the front façade. Street Foods by Punjab Grill is housed in a double decker bus and the entire food court has a very unique petal design etched in brass on the entire façade. This state of the art design is backed by the best and very robust imported and indigenous kitchen equipments to ensure Zero Down time.

We would like to expand our travel food and retail business, and we will bid aggressively on all upcoming opportunities.

Lite Bite Foods has also been awarded F&B concessions for Mumbai Metro…

We have been awarded the food and beverage concessions for Mumbai Metro 1. Mumbai Metro, which connects Versova to Ghatkopar; it was inaugurated on 8th June 2014. We will be operating 23 outlets across all 12 stations of Metro. We will operate 12 Street foods and 11 Bakers Street concepts. A state of the art, HACCP compliant commissary kitchen is underway to back up our Mumbai Aiirport and Metro operations. It will have a full fledged bakery and confectionary unit, hot kitchen, central warehouse and pre-prep facilities. All 23 Mumbai Metro outlets will be operational by 15th June 2014.

What turnover do you envisage with these expansions?

All these expansions will have a very positive impact on our revenues. We envisage a turnover of approximately Rs 175 crore in FY 2014-15.
QSR, Casual Dine, or Fine Dine? Also, which is LBF’s best performing format?

Although all the formats have their own niche markets, but with almost 450 million youth in the 18 to 40 age bracket, the Casual Dining no fuss concept is fittest for the Indian market. There’s no doubt that QSRs are easily scalable and popular but due to certain challenges like cost, I would rate them number 2.

Punjab Grill is our best performing brand. Quality and consistency are the major attributes to its success. We have a talented team of chefs led by Chef , who is continuously on the look out to create something new and exciting. Mediterranean, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisines are the most popular international cuisines in India. These, no doubt, have their experimental value but they cannot beat Indian regional cuisines, which attract maximum repeat guests.

What are the key factors for sustaining/growing a food service business in India?

First and foremost, listen to the customer. Keep a constant track of customer expectations and proactively, try to exceed their expectations. Food service is a very labor centric business, and performance is directly affected by the quality of the team in a restaurant. Right hiring and team motivation plays an important role in sustainability.

Food quality, food safety and creativity in product offerings also have an impact on the business. Use of the latest technology will ensure differentiation from the competition.  Good marketing campaigns that engage and bring back the customer, a menu that changes regularly, and consistent quality will help sustain and grow the business.

LBF also has a catering division Savour. What are the challenges in operating different formats?

Our catering division Savour is an amalgamation of culinary expertise of all the Lite Bite Brands. Our brand chefs and brand heads back Savour with specially created menus and innovative presentations. This division takes care of all kind of events from marriages to product launches from as small as 20 pax to 20,000 pax.

Challenges are exciting! They bring in an element of fun and surprise in our day to day operations and keep all of us on toes. We have very clearly defined brand standards for all our brands and that gives us an edge while facing the challenges like sourcing quality manpower, sourcing good quality cost effective ingredients, etc. Other challenges are keeping the team motivated, continuous training, hiring good resources, and finding good locations for our outlets.