Lite Bite Foods was conceptualised with the idea of rolling out a pan-India chain of food and beverages services outlets under different formats and brands. The venture is jointly promoted by three entrepreneurs — Amit Burman (in his personal capacity) of Dabur India Ltd, Tejpavan Singh Gandhok and Rohit Aggarwal. The company, which became functional last year only, finds food and beverages services retailing as lucrative as value retailing.
Tejpavan Singh Gandhok, co-promoter and CEO of Lite Bite, has held partnership roles in private equity and strategy consulting with leading firms such as Halcyon, AT Kearney, Stern Stewart & co; the Boston Consulting Group and advised many Indian and international corporates on their organised retail entry/growth strategies. In an interview with IndiaRetailing, Tejpavan Singh Gandhok, sums up his plans and vision for the company. Excerpts:
IndiaRetailing (IR): Your initial plans were to roll out 200 restaurants in India, with an investment of Rs 2 billion, to establish a pan-India chain of restaurants. What have been the achievments so far and what is the road ahead?
Tejpavan Singh Gandhok (TSG): The plan of 200 restaurants, with an investment of about Rs 2 billion (Rs 200 crore) is on course. As of now, we have 40 outlets, under 9 different formats and brands. In the casual dining space, we have Fresco (a restaurant chain with a distinct mediterranean presence), Punjab Grill (a product of the JV with Jiggs Kalra), Asia 7 (pan-Asian format with specialties from across the Asian continent, including China, Japan, Thailand and Myanmar).
In the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) segment, we have offerings like Street Foods of India, a QSR format providing high quality Indian cuisine, Rapps, which offers a variety of rolls, Pino’s, which is an Italian food outfit. We are also the largest franchisee for Subway in India, with 12 outlets. Our ice cream and beverages format, Big Gulp and bakery product outlet, Bakers Street are also in an expansion mode. At present, we have around half-a-dozen outlets in each of these QSR formats. In all QSR brands, we want to open 50 outlets for each brand in the next year-and-a-half.
IR: What is your roll out plan for expansion, geographically?
TSG: In the QSR format, we are rolling out first in the national capital region (NCR). Further, we will adopt the cluster approach to grow in north India first, before moving to other regions. In the casual dining space, we will move on from the NCR region to other metros, before moving on to other cities.
IR: What are the new formats of restaurants in the pipeline?
TSG: We are working on the concept of a south Indian QSR, a super premium ice cream parlour. Also, several other casual dining restaurant concepts are in the pipeline.
IR: Apart from your existing JVs with the Eat Out group of Spain (Fresco is being rolled out under this JV) and the separate JV with Jiggs Kalra, are you also working on any new JVs?
TSG: Yes, we are working on a couple of more JVs, but we are not in a position to talk about them right now. Also, we have a strategic alliance with PVR cinemas, whereby we have an agreement of co-location for our food court brand, Food Union in the locations that PVR is present in.
IR: Pertaining to the ongoing financial downturn, have there been any major alterations in your plans?
TSG: We wanted to grow at a faster pace but real estate prices and dynamics were proving to be a prime roadblock. However, the real estate prices are beginning to get more realistic and we really want to pick up more speed.
IR: Your vision for the company…
TSG: To be a Rs 10 billion company in about seven years time. We want to convince the developers, that an attractive and consumer friendly eating out option is a necessity for an attractive shopping centre proposition. However, we do not seek to open our outlets only in shopping centres, but in all locations where consumers expect us. These include high streets, airports, office complexes and institutions.