Franz Kafka once said, "So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being". With an entrepreneurial bent of mind college buddies Munib Biriya, Chetan Sethi and Param Gandhi decided to build a business around food. They launched Ice Hospitality in August 2010.
With two brands on offer Zaffran a Mughlai restaurant chain and Bucket & Tuckets (B&T), a quick service restaurant (QSR) Ice Hospitality has over 14 outlets mostly in Mumbai. The team is confident of grossing Rs 25 crore in revenues in the next fiscal.
Zaffran came to life when two best friends from college Munib Biriya and Chetan Sethi started a bootstrap operation in Mumbai in 2003. In the initial years it was all hands on deck. The duo managed the kitchen as well as the service area till the first profits rolled-in in 2005.
The next leg of growth for Zaffran came when Munnib and Chetan joined hands with serial entrepreneur Param Gandhi to establish Ice Hospitality in August 2010. The first thing the trio did before expanding their presence in the marketplace was to strengthen their backend by setting up a central kitchen to service their operations in Mumbai. The rationale was simple, maintaining standardization and consistency of taste would be critical to scale up in the restaurant business.
The second move was to capitalize on the Zaffran brand and launch Ice Hospitality’s first dine-in restaurant in July 2011. Then, within a few months Ice launched its second offering, a quick service restaurant called Buckets & Tuckets. Stirring up a turnover of Rs 18 crore the company currently runs seven Zaffran restaurants and six B&T outlets.
Biriya says, "it is very difficult to maintain consistency in Indian food. It is that’s where the genius of Chetan and Param came in. Param has been very instrumental in defining the logistics and everything. We have a central kitchen and Chetan created the menu and made sure that the recipes remain consistent. I think personally that the three of us form a great team. We have managed to define our roles perfectly well and that is why we have been able to overcome these challenges very well".
Till a few years ago Zaffran located in Mumbai’s old commercial district Crawford Market was synonymous with Mumbaikars for late night binges. Today the trio at Ice has successfully transformed it from a causal diner to a family dine-in location. After launching the first outlet in July 2011 the other six followed in quick succession.
Biriya belives that they are giving a five star ambience and five star service but the pricing is the USP. The quality level is something they don’t compromise on. The average price per person comes in the range of about Rs 500 and that is somehow where they have managed to hit the mark right because people look for value for money as in terms of food experience. "We have managed to do that right", Biriya adds.
Standardization of the backend operations for Ice Hospitality’s QSR chain Buckets & Tuckets has made it quickly scalable. Starting with an initial capital of Rs 2 crore the brand launched its first outlet in October 2011 and today has four outlets in malls and few standalone facilities. Indian cuisine QSR space and its wide ranging menu is what sets it apart from other competitors.
Biriya says, "What we have as the first true blue Indian fast food concept of its kind where we have got, what sets us apart from other Indian QSR formats is that the product oriented like there is Indian style rolls. We have an entire gamete of products so it is simple product line. We have tuckets which are Indian style sandwiches with Indian fillings and we have biryani’s in buckets. We also have Indian drinks and Indian deserts. So, we have got an entire Indian experience and it is real Indian fast food because you have your order out to you in under three minutes".
With robust backend operations and a strong organisational structure this trio is looking to raise capital to scale up business. Munib, Chetan and Param are targeting a turnover of Rs 300 crore in the next five years and plans to rollout 26 Zaffran and 126 B&T outlets in the top six cities in that time.