Macchiato is an Italian restaurant and bar conceived by Ripu Daman Handa (Master Chef Winner), Alok Tiwari (CEO & MD of Venezia Food & Beverages) and Carlo Boschetto (Managing Director Genesi Italia). The idea behind Macchiato is to bring authentic Italian culture and food with the warmth of delicate Italian standard hospitality services within the range of Indian Middle Class. With more than 80 percent of the youth population being the prime customer base, the Italian restaurant and bar will open five restaurants within this year. The company takes a franchise route for expansion, unlike other food start-ups who are pushing the growth through funding.
In Conversation with Alok Tiwari, CEO Venezia Food & Beverages
Alok Tiwari, CEO & MD of Venezia Food & Beverages shares his thoughts and experiences on restaurant businesses. Edited Excerpts.
Posist: When did you think of starting up your own restaurant? What was your approach at the initial stage?
Alok Tiwari: In 2014, I visited Italy and post that while I was having lunch with Ripu Daman Handa that the idea of starting an Italian restaurant came up. That was the time we started thinking about it, did our homework, and brainstormed the concept.
We also pondered upon the name, as the name should match the concept and the overall image of what we wanted to offer. Initially, we’d thought of some other name, but eventually, we agreed on “Macchiato” (pronounced as mah-kee-ah-to), which is an Italian coffee. When the thing was ready on papers then we started hunting for a good place for our Italian restaurant.
Posist: What were the initial hiccups and how did you overcome them?
Alok Tiwari: For us, it was only ‘location’, location and location’. Since Ripu is an expert and knows about food very well in terms of what we should serve to our customers, and I have expertise in handling business. Delivering awesome tasting food and generating business was not a big challenge for us, but finding a right location was a major hurdle so as to get the right kind of weekend crowd and more and more walk-ins. It took us 10 months to find out the right location for our first restaurant after finalizing the concept. Our maximum time and effort were gone into hunting for the right location. This was also because we were trying to find such location which was close and nearby to us so as that we can monitor it well. Then finally, we got the location on Palm Beach Road, Navi Mumbai.
Posist: How easy or tough is to get the permissions and licenses to operate the restaurant and bar like yours?
Alok Tiwari: I must tell you, it is a complicated process! But one good thing happened was that instead of starting a brand new restaurant, we acquired an existing multi-cuisine restaurant named as Amchi Magarita that was closed for more than two years. So, we didn’t need to obtain new licenses. However, since the licenses were expired, we needed their renewal.
Posist: What kind of licenses do you need to obtain to operate a restaurant & bar?
Alok Tiwari: For running restaurant business you need to have the Eating House license from Municipal Corporation. Other licenses like FSSAI for food, fire department, and liquor licenses for having the bar are some of the important ones.
Posist: What is the USP of your restaurant? And who are your target customers?
Alok Tiwari: We bet on two things on our restaurant, one is obviously the food and other is the ambience which is more of a casual dining experience. We have received an excellent response to our food quality. We have more than 1000 of reviews in which the customers have given the highest rating to our food primarily. We have a large number of youth customers. If you look at our Facebook followers, 80 percent of the followers are aged between 18-40 years. We have a young crowd, with millennials such as college students, young professionals, couples, although it is very rare to see families walking in.
Posist: How did you reach your target audience? What was your marketing strategy?
Alok Tiwari: Initially, we took a traditional offline route like flyers in papers and advertisements. Post that we started poking social media to reach them. We have now more than 13,000 followers on our Facebook page, which is a good number in just five months of the launch. Most of the time, we update our customers through Facebook itself. We did the in-house activity on Twitter and Instagram. Also, we got a good response from Zomato. So, you can say we use two tools Facebook and Zomato to reach our target audience.
Posist: What kind of technology you use for customer feedback and managing the restaurant?
Alok Tiwari: Initially we started manually to take the customer feedback through a ‘feedback-card’. Most of the data coming from that then we later enter into our system. Now we have an in-house application from where customers can directly comment on Facebook and provide feedback to Zomato. For managing the restaurant we have a proper POS system. For maintaining stock and store, we have management information system which gives all the details of our sales, revenue, costing and stock left. We have the complete integrated system.
Posist: Do you plan to expand further? Please share your plans.
Alok Tiwari: Yes, we have plans for further expansion. We are coming up with the almost five new restaurants this year. By the end of this year, we will open our fifth outlet. We have areas like Bhopal, Bangalore, Pune, Kolkata and Mumbai in our mind for further expansion. Right now we are not looking at Venture capitalist to expand. However, we are giving franchise. We are already receiving franchise requests from different people. People are showing interest in our brand and business. We are profiling the applications based on the location and the key interest for the business.
Posist: What is your franchise model matrix?
Alok Tiwari: The initial cost of the franchise is Rs 20 lakhs, post that we have royalty which is 10 percent of the net revenue. The 20 lakh fees and royalty are for marketing, designing branding, and controlling operations. The franchise owner only needs to look at the finance and accounts of day to day operations. The franchise owner will also have access to our raw materials which are being imported from Italy. Our target is to generate profits for both for the franchise owner and as well as for us.
The franchise fees are different from the set-up cost. The set-up cost depends upon the location and area of the restaurant. Then it also depends on the franchise owner to have the bar in the restaurant. So the cost of the set-up cost ranges from Rs 40-lakhs – Rs 1.25 Cr.
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