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We have created brands that are trendsetters and changed the eating out market: Zorawar Kalra

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, Founder and Managing Director of Pvt. Ltd, which operates popular and cutting edge brands such as Masala Library by , , , , among others, is appreciatively hailed as the ‘Prince of Indian Cuisine‘. A pioneer and innovator, he is one of the most admired and influential restaurateurs in India and credited with setting several benchmarks in service and hospitality excellence through his innovative F&B brands and novel dining concepts.

We have created brands that are trendsetters and changed the eating out market: Zorawar Kalra
Massive Restaurants’ most notable achievement would definitely be the creation of several new genres

Sanjay Kumar of Foodservice India catches up with the trendsetting restaurateur to get him to talk about his love of the foodservice business and his relentless pursuit of unique concepts and novel formats through his pioneering brands, which have helped introduce many enduring trends in the country‘s eating-out market.

Which new F&B concepts did you introduce this year at your restaurants?

It has always been our constant endeavour to delight patrons with novel, memorable dining experiences. This year Massive Restaurants launched quite a few F&B novelties. We introduced our first craft beer brewery – BBQ’D – showcasing an assortment of unique, handcrafted, premium craft beers in UB City, Bengaluru. BBQ’D is a modern, cutting-edge grill and brewery concept which, for the first time, amalgamates serious dining and a fun brewery atmosphere under one roof. We also launched a freestyle bar and kitchen concept with KODE and another modern Asian bistro concept at Colaba, Mumbai, with .

How much do you believe in these concepts standing the test of time and resonating with the ever evolving consumer tastes?

All our F&B brands have won critical acclaim and top awards, which testify to the enduring appeal of their concepts. , since its inception, has always been at the forefront of culinary innovation and excellence. In the smart casual dining format, Made in Punjab is a name to reckon with. Farzi Café has pushed the envelope of the modern Indian bistro concept. Pa Pa Ya and MasalaBar offer a cutting edge, postmodern, scientific laboratory style bar experience to revolutionize the Indian nightlife. Similarly, the launch of our sixth concept – KODE – raises the bar of post molecular dining experience with global cuisine reinvented in a freestyle bar and kitchen setting.

With God’s grace and our continued efforts, Massive Restaurants has already achieved unprecedented growth over the past year. Having said that, this is just the beginning. In the works is a new signature gourmet Indian confectionary concept, which will be yet another ‘by Jiggs Kalra’ concept to be introduced shortly. The coming months shall see our brands expanding across some key cities in India and globally as well.

Which of your restaurants you would like to mention for having shown exceptional performance and what are the reasons that you would attribute for their success?

A lot of our restaurants have shown excellent performance and results. We don’t want to name any single one out but definitely our brands such as Farzi Café, Masala Library and Pa Pa Ya continue to show impressive growth. Our new freestyle bar and kitchen concept KODE has also developed an amazing fan following and is growing extensively. Similarly, our new brand BBQ’D has also been received very well. Overall, we are very
happy with the performance of our F&B brands.

What is your take on the foodservice business this year and how do you see it shaping up next year?

The foodservice business this year has taken a bit of beating because of various events such as the implementation of GST and demonetization and also partially on account of the liquor ban. Thankfully, their impact has now mostly been reversed. But the industry perhaps had one of its worst years ever due to circumstances outside its control. Though some of the effects of GST and demonetization seem to have tapered off, the end results are still lingering. We expect the second half of the year October–March to be significantly better than the first half has been.

Due to the season time coming in with better conditions across the country and with the general propensity to consume to slightly improve due to better sentiments, the business of eating out will be back in the groove. So I think there might be some kind of an increase in business going forward. I am definitely expecting the numbers to be significantly better than the first half of the year. But the downward pressure of some of these major economic events will continue to have a drag effect on the overall sales forecast. The companies that are able to survive this period will come out as much stronger and we expect the sentiments as well as the consumption patterns to significantly improve starting from the first quarter of fiscal year 2018–2019.

Which are the technology tools you have adopted for better service delivery and customer satisfaction?

We are extensively doing a lot of CRM activities and have incorporated a lot of software into our system to be able to better improve our customer relationships and through that our overall sales. The use of IT is imperative to the growth of F&B brands. It is not just limited to the back-end tools but also pertains to the use social media. In fact, 90 per cent of our overall marketing budget is towards social media. We are also in the advanced stages of incorporating a high level ERP system through which our overall systems and processes can become a lot better. For delivery, our company does not use any software as we do not believe in deliveries at the moment from our retail outlets. We are very keen on online reservation systems because they help in becoming an extension of our marketing department and have amazing sales attributes that can help us in the lean periods as well as in the peak hours.

How do you manage to run and operate so many brands in different formats at the same time?

It is difficult but it is also worth it. If you can find the one thing that you would do for free and for the love of it and then fi ure out a way to make money from it, then everything seems to fall into place and flow smoothly. You must have raw passion and determination to follow your hobby till the very end. I have an absolute love for the business of hospitality and managing my different brands comes to me naturally.

What have been your life and business lessons running these different format brands?

The basic principle on which we established Massive Restaurants was innovation. And that has been the backbone of everything we have been endeavoring since. Our aim is to offer the finest cuisine and experience to our patrons with the hope that they enjoy the efforts put in by the team at showcasing the same. Over the years, our patrons have been extremely appreciative of the culinary innovations showcased through all our concepts. We are truly overwhelmed with the response received from them. While the restaurant sector in India is among the major contributors to the country’s economy, it is still at a nascent stage. Compared to the business internationally, there are a lot of improvements required for seamless operations of our restaurants in India. There is a need for the sector to be more organized, have an effective cold chain and supply chains, which I feel we are in the process of achieving slowly but steadily.

In your experience, which is the most lucrative and profitable format?

It is very difficult to suggest which single format is lucrative. All our brands are highly profitable. We tend to have higher margins in our fine dining concepts and our luxury concepts. There are also the luxury concepts that give us higher volumes. So in real terms, it turns out to be more or less the same. We like formats that are more dependent on food as liquor sales tend to be unpredictable. Also, there is a much higher level of longevity to a food-based brand. So we like all our brands and definitely tend to give equivalent importance to all.

What do you consider to be Massive Restaurants’ most notable achievement so far?

Massive Restaurants’ most notable achievement would definitely be the creation of several new genres. The ‘Modern Indian Casual’ format is something that Farzi Café created. ‘Molecular Gastronomy’ is something the Masala Library pretty much brought to the fore in India. Also, the general level of innovation that all our brands produce is something that the industry has truly acknowledged. Each of our brands is a trendsetter. They are the first to market and they are the format that creates a new experience for the guest. So, I think that overall we have been lucky to have such formats. Even if we could have even one of these brands it would have been a great value proposition. But we have six such brands and it gives us immense pride that we have been able to build brands that people appreciate and that are considered top of the food chain. They are brands that are liked by critics and our customers. So I think the most notable achievement could be the creation of brands that have been trendsetters and have changed the way the market eats out.

What are your plans and targets for the future?

Our plans and targets for the future are very aggressive. We intend to be a major global company in the next five years. We aim to cover the entire length and breadth of India, including Tier II cities because a lot of our formats are suitable for those markets. We aim to have at least 300 to 400 stores, including franchise stores in India and across the world. We also hope that we can become one of the top foodservice companies through our constant endeavor to excel.