By Sourish Bhattacharyya
MASTER CHEF Bakshish Dean, formerly with Amit Burman and Rohit Aggarwal’s Lite Bite Foods after a dazzling stint at The Park, has of late been a mystery wrapped in an enigma. All that we know is that he’s Executive Director of Prime Gourmet Private Limited, a restaurant company floated by luxury real estate developers Vishal Chaudhry and Sachin Goel, who now preside over Keystone Asset Holdings, with Gaurav Sharma.
Infiniti Bay, a real estate development on National Highway 17A at Mormugao, Goa, was the first big project to be rolled out a decade ago by Chaudhry — a former event manager and television producer who has also represented Princess Yachts — and Goel, who is said to also own Subway franchises. They then collaborated in running the company, Restaurant Concepts, which operated one of the early Gurgaon eateries named East 101 Oriental Bistro at the Global Business Park, DLF City Phase III. Some of you may even remember Chaudhry’s first venture into the hospitality business with Suede Bar & Grill.
Dean’s wife, the vivacious Rupali (they met at IHM Ahmedabad) keeps hinting at how the chef is busy perfecting the art of flipping burgers. What business does the master of fine dining have with burgers? Well, the answer is Johnny Rockets (www.johnnyrockets.com), an Aliso Viejo, California-headquartered, diner-style hamburger chain, which was incorporated in 1986, and now operates 330 restaurants in 30 American states, 16 nations, 17 Six Flags amusement parks and 11 Royal Caribbean cruise liners.
The chain, which was bought over earlier in the year by privately held investment firm Sun Capital Partners (www.suncappart.com) from RedZone Capital Management, has sealed a deal with Prime Gourmet to roll out 20 outlets, starting with New Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon, followed by Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata. “There is a large, growing segment of upper middle class and middle class Indians with a high propensity to eat out,” Goel is quoted as saying in a Johnny Rockets statement. He adds: “With its menu of all-American favourites, timeless ambience and engaging dining experience, Johnny Rockets will satisfy a consumer need for a quality product in the QSR and Casual Dining arenas.”
The Johnny Rockets statement points out that a Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research (www.rabobank.com/en/research/FAR) report has pegged the compound annual growth rate of the QSR segment in India at 30 per cent until 2015. “This growth is three times that of the Indian foodservice sector as a whole, and is attributed to a younger population, larger disposable incomes, higher rate of urbanisation and exposure to western lifestyles,” says the media release, adding: “The National Restaurant Association of India (www.nrai.org) also reports that 50 per cent of consumers dine out at least once every three months.”
The folks at Johnny Rockets are upbeat. “With a population of more than 1.2 billion, second only to China, there is a tremendous audience for our all-American dining experience,” says Steve Devine, President, Johnny Rockets International. Seeing the experience of other QSR chains, notably the most recent addition, Chili’s, he has a good reason to be betting on India.