By Sourish Bhattacharyya
LITE BITE FOODS launched itself in 2001 as the Indian master franchisee of Subway, when the international chain opened its first Indian outlet at Saket. Twelve years on, the Rs 120-crore F&B brand, which has seen a 30 per cent growth in its topline year-on-year, is looking for franchisees as it sets itself the target of becoming a Rs 500-crore company with more than 300 operational locations in 2014.
|Amit Burman, Chairman, Lite Bite Foods, says, "The DNA|
of our franchisees is very important for us."
Any talk of franchisees at once raises the spectre of compromised quality, but Lite Bite Foods Chairman Amit Burman, who's better known for turning the fruit juice brand Real into a 'real' success story, set at rest any doubts by stating: "The DNA of our franchisees is very important for us. And here's how we'll operate. Each outlet will be franchisee owned but operated by Lite Bite Foods. We will have a system of operation manuals, surprise visits and mystery shoppers in place to ensure consistency of quality."
This assurance comes at a time when Lite Bite Foods, an umbrella spanning 12 brands (four in casual dining and six quick service restaurants, one catering unit, and a growing chain of food courts) with a yearly footfall count of 2.5 million, is in the thick of expansion. Punjab Grill has spread its wings of Bangkok and Abu Dhabi; the upcoming Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2 (439,000 sq. ft. when complete) in Mumbai will have 32 Lite Bite outlets; and the company is looking very seriously at international expansion across Hong Kong, Dubai, London and the United States. Lite Bite Foods recently acquired Scalini, a fine-dining Italian restaurant in London, which the company now plans to take to more locations abroad.
|Rohit Aggarwal (white shirt and hands in pockets), Director,|
Lite Bite Foods, at the company's 7,000-square-foot
commissary in Udyog Vihar, Gurgaon
To give muscle to the company's drive for consistency across outlets, Lite Bite Foods opened a 7,000-sq-ft central commissary at its headquarters two years ago in Gurgaon with an investment of Rs 3.5 crore.
As Rohit Aggarwal, Director, Lite Bite Foods, gave me a guided tour of the gleaming facility, where 300 kilos of sauces for pastas and pizzas are produced daily (among many other products), he said the commissary serves three purposes: maintain the consistency and quality of food products at Lite Bite Foods outlets; reduce the time taken to develop new products from 45-60 days to two weeks; and reduce kitchen space across outlets, which is very important in this day and age of expensive real estate.
The commissary's product line extends from 60-70 kilos of batter for the idli, dosa and appam served at Lite Bite's airport outlets and 50 kilos of hummus to more than 7,000 pieces of bakery and confectionery items prepared daily, and right above it is the quality assurance and hygiene laboratory that keeps a hawk's eye on Lite Bite outlets. It consumes six tonnes of maida and two tonnes of atta per month. It supplies marinated meats and seafood to Foodhall outlets in Delhi and Mumbai. It has helped Lite Bite Foods achieve 15-20 per cent capital expenditure saving and brought its food cost down by 4 per cent. And it is the watch tower from where Burman and Aggarwal plan to ensure consistency across a network of franchisee outlets that will power their expansion plans.