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Massive Restaurants aims at Rs 500 crore turnover; to introduce gourmet confectionery brand


Restaurateur and Czar of Indian cuisine, Jiggs Kalra, has endorsed every aspect of fine dining for more than 40 years. Taking the legacy forward is his son, Zorawar Kalra, who is known for putting an extra emphasis on the plating, making the simplest possible dish look enticing enough to make you think twice before eating.

Massive Restaurants aims at Rs 500 crore turnover; to introduce gourmet confectionery brand
The chain is currently in the second phase of its expansion and is looking at launching restaurants in seven to eight new locations, across brands, in India as well as overseas

Touted as the Prince of Indian cuisine, he is blessed with an entrepreneurial bent of mind and a genetic love for food. Counted among one of the youngest, and most successful restaurateurs of India, Kalra – who has extensively studied the Indian food and beverage market – has combined a penchant for Indian cuisine with his natural business acumen and a rich heritage spanning over four decades in the Indian culinary space and hospitality industry.

In an exclusive interview with Indiaretailing Bureau, he opens up about his views on demonetization, GST, his future plans, and a lot more.

Take us through your journey as a restroprenuer so far. Which have been the major milestones, accomplishments and how have they shaped and influenced your career?

Post my MBA at Boston’s Bentley Business University, I returned to India in early 2005 to commence my first entrepreneurial venture ZK Restaurant Concepts in 2006. Under this concept we first introduced Streets Foods of India brand and later in 2006 launched Punjab Grill, both in quick service formats.

With the aim of showcasing authentic Indian food, in September 2007, I established Wrapster Foods Pvt. Ltd. in partnership with Amit Burman (Vice Chairman, Dabur India). Under this banner, we introduced the hugely popular concept Punjab Grill as a signature, fine dining concept by the name of Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra, introducing the flagship property situated at Ambiance Mall, Gurugram in early 2008, while Street Foods of India continued to expand as a quick service concept across the region.

In a short span of four years, not only did Punjab Grill by Jiggs Kalra garner national and international critical acclaim, winning numerous awards and accolades, it also became one of the fastest growing fine dining restaurant chain of Indian origin with restaurants situated across Singapore, Delhi, Gurugram, Bengaluru, Chandigarh and two in Mumbai.

In 2011, I successfully exited from that partnership with the idea to launch my own venture – Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd. in late 2012, with a vision of putting Indian food on the global palate, permanently. Under the umbrella of Massive Restaurants we established two culinary concepts, the flagship, premium, signature contemporary Indian fine dining restaurant Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra and the smart-casual Made in Punjab.

In less than three years hence, we operate under five brand verticals of Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Made in Punjab, Farzi Café, Pa Pa Ya and MasalaBar across over 14 locations in India and overseas and are looking at increase our presence in different cities in India in the new year.

Our focus is to keep expanding our current brands at an exponential pace and introduce new concepts as and when the opportunity arises. We want to be a Rs 500 crore turnover listed entity by the end of 5 years.

How many restaurants are you operating under the umbrella of Massive Restaurants?

Massive Restaurants operates five restaurant concepts – signature, premium fine dining, serving progressive Indian cuisine Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, smart-casual serving traditional cuisine Made in Punjab, modern Indian bistro serving contemporary Indian cuisine Farzi Café, high energy dining, modern Asian cuisine Pa Pa Ya and high octane laboratory style MasalaBar across 14 locations in India, with Farzi Café also being present in Dubai. We are in the process of launching new locations in the coming few months.

Are all your restaurants company owned or franchisees?

All the five restaurant concepts are 100 per cent owned by the Massive Restaurants.

Elaborate on your business model.

As mentioned earlier, we launched our new venture Massive Restaurants in December 2012 after spending close to a year carefully studying the Indian hospitality market and researching on the untapped opportunities it offered.

Founded with an aim to develop India’s premier brands of restaurants that specializes in targeting all segments of the market, the basic principle on which we established Massive Restaurants was innovation and that has been the backbone of everything we have been endeavouring since.

As an Indian and an avid lover of the robustness Indian food (on the whole) offers, we (my father, Jiggs Kalra and I) take immense pride in our cuisine. We believe that it is up to us Indians to make the effort to elevate Indian food, reintroduce it to the world in its modern avatar, retaining its traditional roots.

With this thought in mind we set out to establish Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, which has today become synonymous with a progressive Indian culinary experience offering innovative dining, using elements of molecular gastronomy.

While the idea behind Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra was to break away from the monotony and showcase the robustness Indian food offers, the idea behind our hugely successful modern Indian bistro concept Farzi Café was to bring Indian food back “in-vogue”.

While we continue to innovate and bring in contemporary techniques of cooking and presentation throughout the various modern concepts we own and operate, we also love our regional cuisine, with Punjabi cuisine being everyone’s favourite. Therefore we established our smart-casual concept Made in Punjab to be able to serve traditional Punjabi fare to our guests where the innovation is mostly on presentation.

When we started working on the concept of MasalaBar, the aim was to create a truly cutting-edge bar, unlike any before. The idea was to create a high-octane space, using scientific techniques to innovate on beverage offered, which was never done before while also using, combining them with a specially curated and an equally innovative tapas menu.

The inspiration behind Pa Pa Ya, our modern Asian, comes from my deep admiration for Asian cuisine and that in India; it has seen little innovation with mostly similar concepts being mostly replicated. Pa Pa Ya is a complete reinvention of Asian cuisine on a global scale, revolutionarizing the cuisine and turning it around completely on its head. It employs modern culinary techniques such as elements of molecular gastronomy and presentation, offering a highly specialised, contemporary cuisine.

What makes your restaurants different from other restaurants in Delhi?

The parameters of a successful restaurant are great food, combined with brilliant service and hospitality. Diners are looking at getting involved and enjoying their meals coupled with international standards of service. It is now about adding that extra flair, doing a bit of table theatrics, the chef meeting and talking to them personally during the course of dining and more importantly the restaurant offering an avant-garde dining experience.

We at Massive Restaurants strive hard to consistently deliver excellence across all these parameters, are constantly innovating, both in terms of the menu and presentation of dishes, to stay a league ahead of our competitors and believe that our guests’ returning to dine across our restaurants is testament to the fact that we are on the right track.

What are the new concepts and innovations that you have introduced at your restaurants?

Driving innovation and having introduced the concept of molecular gastronomy in progressive Indian cuisine, Massive Restaurants is considered to have created an unprecedented benchmark in the business of hospitality, introducing five highly successful, critically acclaimed and multi-award winning dining concepts in under three years of its flagship launch.

Our restaurants Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra and Farzi Café have been credited with introducing molecular gastronomy in Indian cuisine to enhance the experience of the dish in terms of not just the flavour and visual appeal but also to introduce an element of surprise into the fray.

At our modern Asian concept Pa Pa Ya and MasalaBar, through a mix of cutting edge cooking techniques such as molecular gastronomy and mixology, we combine art with science to deliver a truly global dining experience.

Take us through the challenges of operating a restaurant business in India.

Setting up a fine dining luxury F&B brand in India is not a simple task because the kind of investments required in developing a high-end brand is very steep as compared to the returns. Another factor that must be kept in mind is the time it takes for reaching break-even point. These are some of the key reasons why not many restaurateurs explore getting into the luxury space.

Some hindrances which pose roadblocks are already slowing the growth rate. Some of the key issues which continue to challenge the growth of the sector, especially the fine dining and casual dining verticals are high real estate costs, rising food costs – more so with the declining rupee, lack of integrated cold chain system, effective warehousing, fragmented supply chain systems, dearth in quality manpower and licensing issues to name a few. Bottlenecks in basic amenities such as free flowing electricity and water supply add to the costs, along with continued hike in prices of commodities hit margins hard. It is not practical to continuously keep raising menu prices and thus we end up taking a hit in our bottom line.

Have all your restaurants reached the break-even point? What steps did you take to make them attractive for the diners?

All the restaurants operating under the Massive Restaurants umbrella are highly profitable and we achieve operational break-even within one or two months and most of our restaurants are able to achieve 100 per cent ROI within the first year.

Innovation is part of our DNA at Massive Restaurants. We are constantly innovating, through painstaking research and numerous trials, to make sure the presentation of dishes is done beautifully and give our patrons a better experience and that is something we are proud of, even though fundamentally the focus of the meal is always on taste. We do not expect our patrons to eat the same kind of food which is why we change our menus very often. By changes I mean radical changes not just a couple of dishes on the menu. For example, Farzi Café has been into existence since 2014 and we’ve already changed the menu three times.

Some of the unique innovations include Tempura Fried Prawns, Nimboo Mirch Air and Phirni Oxide at Farzi Café, Jalebi Caviar at Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, and Tandoori Bun Tikka at MasalaBar – all of which use elements of molecular gastronomy, which not only elevates the aesthetic appeal of the dish but also lends an element of surprise into the fray.

In an industry where competition is tough, it is extremely essential to keep evolving so as to stay ahead of the curve and give patrons something exciting each time they choose to dine at our restaurants, across different concepts.

How digital are your restaurants?

With the advancement of technology and advent of social media, it has become easy for us to digitise our restaurants and connect with our guests on a one-on-one level to share news, updates and developments as well as get first-hand feedback of their experience at all of our restaurants across India.

Please share details of revenue forecast for current fiscal.

We are looking at touching Rs 200 crore run-rate before March 2017.

Any plans to raise funds in future? If yes, when and how are you planning to utilise those funds?

We are looking at raising US $20-30 million for domestic expansion.

Elaborate on your future/ expansion plans (national + international).

Our focus is to keep expanding our current brands at an exponential pace and introduce new concepts as and when the opportunity arises. We want to be a Rs 500 crore turnover listed entity by the end of 5 years.

In the coming year, we also hope to launch our long standing gourmet confectionery brand as well. We are currently in the second phase of our expansion and are looking at launching around 7-8 new locations, across our brands, in India as well as overseas.

With Massive Restaurant’s successful foray into the international market with the launch of Farzi Café in Dubai, we are gearing to increase our presence further within the Middle East and are exploring other locations globally to place our concept restaurants on the world map.

How has demonetization impacted the foodservice industry?

In the initial weeks post the announcement of the demonetization, the National Restaurant Association of India reported losses for the hospitality sector averaging up to 40 per cent revenue. This was true for small businesses as well as suppliers of consumable goods, who often transact in cash with their wholesale counterparts.

The restaurants business – both in hotels and standalone – have experienced a short-term slowdown in revenue and growth due to the reduced availability of cash. For the organized sector, whose primary customers are predominantly users of plastic or alternate modes of payment, there has been little change, with a rise in the ratio of plastic to cash transactions and the demonetization drive will benefit the organized hospitality sector in India the most. However, with the inability of customers/tourists to easily spend on frills due to lack of available currency, the general performance of the industry will witness some stress till the situation stabilizes.

Pls share your views on GST.

GST is definitely an amazing move by the Government as it will create a lot of transparency and help establish a level playing field. We are all in full support of the GST, however it will be great if liquor can also be included within the GST network.