The Belgian Waffle Co. is a well-known franchise brand, serving a wide variety of waffles. With over 205 outlets the brand has an extensive presence in 29+ cities of India, making it one of the most accelerated start-ups in the country. The Belgian Waffle Co. delivers more than 20,000 waffles every day.
Ankit Patel met Shrey Agarwal, founder & owner of the popular waffle brand The Belgian Waffle CO. accidentally. As Patel had a deep-seated understanding of the market and a knack for analyzing consumer behavior, Agarwal realized that their ideology of running the business was very similar found Patel a perfect fit for handling the brand’s management and operations. This was when Ankit Patel became the CEO of The Belgian Waffle Co.and has been since then working to take the brand to greater heights.
In Conversation With Ankit Patel of The Belgian Waffle Co.
In an exclusive conversation with The Restaurant Times, Ankit Patel CEO of The Belgian Waffle Co. talks about the growing trend of dessert parlors, the everyday challenges faced what it takes to make a waffle QSR chain a success.
Choosing The Right Location
According to Patel, the ancient real-estate maxim that location is a critical factor deciding the success of a business is just as accurate for an FnB business. The restaurant location is just as important as deciding the menu, marketing, or managing customer reviews. Before one identifies the neighborhoods fit for the restaurant, it is vital to categorize the minimum number of target market consumers. It is essential to distinguish between five and eight neighborhoods that are highly saturated with the target patrons.
The Belgian Waffle Co follows the franchise model and while it is a great model for scaling the business in a short time, it also has the advantage of leveraging the Franchises’ local expertise. In a new city, no one knows the areas better than the people living right there, and this is where the local expertise of franchise owners come into play.
‘Franchise model helps us in getting hold of the right set of location across cities, as they provide us with local expertise.’ says Patel.
Dealing With Competition
Whenever a new brand opens, it naturally creates a sense of anxiety for nearby existing establishments because people like to try out new things and the FnB sector is no exception. The advantage of competition is that it keeps everyone on their toes. Analyzing competitiors’ menu is a good way to see where the customer trends are moving.
The competitive intensity is high in the QSR space and even more in the desserts category. Waffles and pancakes have seen tremendous demand in the last few years and local bakeries and home-chefs are also thriving a lot. ‘When we started in 2015, there weren’t many desserts brands, but today there is a plethora of cake brands, waffle brands everywhere,’ says Patel.
Waffle as a product is very convenient to eat. At BWC, waffles are presented in a way that doesn’t require a plate, knife, or fork to enjoy them. This format allows patrons to grab a freshly baked waffle on the go making it quick, mess-free, and super comfortable.
As long as the product is good, and more importantly, consistent in terms of taste and quality, generating customer loyalty becomes easy, a feat BWC has achieved quite exceptionally.
Overcoming The Challenges
Finding the right equipment, managing the staff, and ensuring consistency in operations are some of the major challenges popular in the FnB space, but as long as you have processes set in place, you will ultimately overcome them. Delivery is also a major issue that poses hurdles in terms of delivery time.
‘We are working towards all of this every day. This industry will always have its share of hurdles when it comes to sustaining the right service standards, quality, retaining the right staff, but so far we have managed to survive,’ Patel says.
According to Patel, there are several categories of personnel in the restaurant business. Each has a specific role, and they all contribute to the operations of a restaurant. When the restaurant is new, one may find that some of the duties will cross over from one functional role to another. For example, the manager may double as the host, and servers may also bus tables. Because of this, it is highly important to hire the right set of people, and then taking the right steps to retain them.
The most important aspect of staff management is attrition at the outlet level. The outlet-level staff is unskilled or semi-skilled at a large scale. These employees are also very price- conscious, so it is essential to maintain a firm policy. People drive organizations, so it is essential to manage the team well for scaling a brand. It is important to have processes, as processes bring in efficiency,’ says Patel.
Waffles Have To Look Good To Taste Good
According to Patel, when it comes to food people perceive it with all their senses. People already develop a perception about food in their minds and many a time people exclaim,’ Wow! The food looks good, my mouth is watering’. This excitement is the result of the way the food is presented that is not based on its taste. Thus, it is imperative to maintain the presentation, and if not done well, can highly dilute brand perception.
‘A happy customer is the best marketer of the product. If customers like the food, they will post it over all their social media platforms which would automatically advertise our product and brand,’ says Patel.
Marketing is not only a medium for creating awareness about the product but it also creates a certain level of consumer connect. ‘For a brand like BWC where the target group is less than 25 and below, marketing plays a very vital role for us. Given the clientele that we cater to, we have to use digital the mediums. We use social media pages in a big way. We also work on creating different marketing campaigns to enhance our reach,’ says Patel.
Patel concludes by saying that in a country where the maximum population is vegetarian, BWC’s eggless batter especially designed to provide consistency, with no compromise on taste has really worked in their favor.