Years ago, a simple woman, Usha Batra, dreamt of re-defining the art of culinary and hospitality in India. Her sons, Sharad Batra and Vikrant Batra decided to give wings to her dreams by presenting Delhi with what its people love the most – a wonderful mix of food but with a quirky yet comfortable twist.
Usha Batra is the lady behind introducing the Delhi to the concept of cafés. Her sons took her legacy forward with the opening of Cafe Delhi Heights. They say they haven’t looked back since.
Since the launch of the first outlet at at Cross Point Mall in Gurgaon, the Batra family has opened eight more, taking the total number of Cafe Delhi Heights outlets to nine. The eateries are spread across Delhi/ NCR.
In an exclusive conversation with Indiaretailing Bureau’s Charu Lamba, Vikrant Batra spills all – why they set up a café, his cautious expansion plans, what the future holds and a lot more.
Explain the concept of Cafe Delhi Heights. Why did you decide to go with a café and not a restaurant?
A few years ago, when Delhi was growing rapidly into a modern metropolis with international tastes, we realized that the new generation was curious and liked experimenting and innovating. For them, good was not good enough. These kids were global citizens and they craved global food. It was from this observation that Cafe Delhi Heights was born. The first CDH opened on June 01, 2011 at DLF Cross Point Mall in Gurgaon. We wanted to give people a brand which becomes a part of their daily life. Our endeavour was to create Cafe Delhi Heights as a brand which is synonymous to the café culture in New Delhi or rather Delhi NCR.
What is the estimated market size of the segment that you operate in? How much has it been growing over the years?
Over the years the growth has been rapid which has come from the customers. Every day there are innovations that are being done to keep up with the trends. Foodservice is emerging as a key segment in the Indian economy with a value of US$ 48 billion which makes it larger than pharmaceutical and FMCG sector in India. The Food and Beverage Industry is one of the highest employers in India. Approximately 5.8 million people are employed by this segment. The number itself says it all.
What is the reason behind your seemingly cautious expansion plans?
We are cautious with our expansion plans because we don’t want to just expand to increase the number of outlets. Before opening any outlet we go through a rigorous research and recee procedure. We want to make sure we are at the right locations where we can easily reach our target customers. Another important factor for me is to ensure that all my outlets are in profits.
Which one is your best performing outlet so far? How much revenue does each outlet contribute?
All of our outlets are performing extremely well according to their respective sizes. For us our performance parameters are quite different. It is not about the volumes or numbers, it is about how many customers come back to our cafe on a regular basis. Assessing by that parameter I would say Cross Point Mall (Gurgaon) is one of the outlets which has the most regular customers. It is also Cafe Delhi Heights’ first outlet.
What is it that differentiates Cafe Delhi Heights from other cafés in Delhi?
Our café is based on comfort food. We are a casual dining place which gives you quality food like fine dine. We serve food from all parts of the globe but with a Delhi twist to it. Our flavours are fit for the palate of the Delhi social circle as well as the inbound traveller. So is our decor and service, people find comfort here. Irrespective of whether they come with family or friends or all alone they find a space to suit them. That’s exactly what makes Cafe Delhi Heights a part of their daily lives and differentiates it from other cafes.
Which particular cuisines do Cafe Delhi heights focus on and how have you seen it evolving over the years?
A majority of it is European cuisine but our focus is to provide our customers with the comfort of all cuisines. We have a well-balanced menu that caters to all three generations. Being in a big joint family, when all the three generation would like to go out together we used to struggle upon which place to go and dine. To find a place where my mother and my daughter both will be comfortable to go. A place which will be hip enough for my son yet have a few Indian items on the menu to make my father happy. When you pick up our menu you will find everything from a pizza to a parantha, masala chai to martini and khow suey to sindhi kadhi. We have something in store for everybody.
What are the major challenges of running a cafe in Delhi where the licensing and other restaurant operating policies are so stringent?
The biggest challenges are the laws around opening a restaurant. There are so many licences and protocols that one has to go through. It is extremely time consuming which makes it difficult to setup a restaurant in Delhi. Having said that there has been a breakthrough in the process in the South Delhi Municipal Corporation. The Mayor has started online procedure for acquiring the MCD licence. We really appreciate the move and hope that soon online procedure is opted for acquiring all the other licences as well.
Throw some light on your pricing strategy.
We are purely a value for money café. Our pricing strategy is such that caters to people from all economic backgrounds of the country. It comes from the big portions we have viz-a-viz the pricing and the kind of ambience we give.
What are the key trends and innovations that Cafe Delhi Heights has introduced so far?
When we talk about a café, the term café was started with Barista and then Café Coffee Day. For a very long time people perceived a café to be only a coffee place. In India, there are many players who don’t use the term café in their names but their setup and the food that they serve is what you get in a café. A lot of our friends and customers tell us that before Cafe Delhi Heights the term café was not very popular, so that makes us a trendsetter. Five years back when you said café, you only thought of Barista, CCD and Costa but now things have changed.
Going forward, what will be your approach to expanding the brand’s presence?
We like to keep it simple and are looking at a very organized growth. By 2017 we want to touch 20 outlets in Delhi NCR and Mumbai. As of now we are not looking for any franchises, we will be a self-owned company/ outlet.