The Chocolate Spoon Making you taste the Toothsome
The Chocolate Spoon Company, spearheaded by its innovative CEO Rachel Goenka, is a setup popular in the market for its mouth-watering cuisines. Ms Goenka is a young and seasoned entrepreneur, best known for her innovative delicacies and trademark desserts. She attended The Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, where she trained under celebrity chef Rachel Allen, and then moved to Le Cordon Bleu in London to specialize in patisserie. Ms Goenka, in a candid chat with our Assistant Editor Vikas Jha, talks about the modus operandi and other key features of the company. Here are the excerpts:
Business Connect: Tell us a bit about the company including its services. How and why did you decide to create it? How does it sit within the entrepreneurial ecosystem of India today?
Ms Goenka: The Chocolate Spoon Company (TCSC) is a restaurant holding company that was incorporated in 2012. Our core business is the operation of a chain of premium casual diners and bars. We are best known for our flagship brand, The Sassy Spoon, a multi-award winning European restaurant concept. We operate multiple other brands across various concepts and cuisines including House of Mandarin (an upscale, authentic Chinese dinner), Baraza Bars and Bites (a Portuguese taverna themed resto-bar), Wicked China (a quirky and vibrant modern Asian eatery) and Sassy Teaspoon (a chain of quaint patisseries and bakeries).
Being a foodie myself, I founded the company with a view to bringing new ideas and concepts to the South Mumbai dining circuit. Over the past 6 years, we have grown from 1 restaurant to 15 outlets and 2 central kitchens. I have also diversified beyond just in-restaurant dining to include ancillary income from event catering, corporate catering, private labelling and a corporate lunchbox program. Currently, we are one of the most diversified players in the industry both in terms of concepts as well as revenue streams.
Business Connect: What problem does your company solve and how are you different from others in the field? What makes you a brand in the industry?
Ms Goenka: We sit within an essential industry and provide quality food and service to elevate the dining experience across various market segments. We stand out in the industry given our diverse and widespread scope of cuisines and concepts. Our fun and inviting brand image also dinner us apart from competitors.
The F&B industry is incredibly competitive given its virtually non-existent barriers to entry. As such, we appeal to various market segments with restaurants from Indian, Chinese, Continental, Patisserie and Bakery. With continuously evolving trends and shifts in taste, it is important to capture the right market segments and monitor their trends. This allows for a lot of creativity and innovation on our part, and allows us to achieve our goal – creating fun spaces with great food that keeps people coming back!
Business Connect: What are the challenges that your company currently faces?
Ms Goenka: There were multiple significant challenges over the past few months which have directly affected business – demonetization, GST, the highway ban etc. There are also perennial legislative challenges like regulations, licensing, and permits. Most critically, the exemption of the restaurant industry from input tax credit on GST has had the most significant economic impact on businesses. It has been a steep but rewarding learning curve adapting to such challenges.
Business Connect: What is your current business model?
Ms Goenka: We are one of the few truly multi-cuisine restaurant companies in the industry and operate in 2 cities – Mumbai & Pune. Our top line is driven largely by in-restaurant dining. However, we have been aggressively developing alternate revenue streams such as
– Outdoor catering (corporate functions, weddings, private parties)
– Event Catering (including Miss World, Miss Universe, NCPA, Royal Opera House, NSCI)
– Corporate lunchbox plans (we have tied up with multiple MNCs such as Mastercard, American Express, BMC, McKenzie, Deutsche Bank, TCS etc.)
– Private labeling (we manufacture deserts and breads for other restaurants)
– Retail (we supply to retailers such as Godrej Nature’s Basket)
– Delivery business (our first cloud kitchen is launching in October)
We offer delicious cuisine including Continental, Chinese, and patisserie, and innovative mixology as well as great customer experience. Internally, we focus on product and service delivery and manage our success through a strong focus on kitchen, operations, sales, marketing, finance, PR and HR management.
Business Connect: Who are your clients?
Ms Goenka: Our customers include retail as well as corporate customers. We currently cater to 30,000 plus covers across the restaurants per month. Our corporate customers include Mastercard, American Express, BMC, McKenzie, Deutsche Bank, TCS, UBS, HSBC, Tom Tom, BMC, Zs Associates, ZocDoc, Warburg Pincus, Blackstone to name a few.
Business Connect: What’s next for the company? What do you see happening in the company industry in 2018-19?
Ms Goenka: The past 12 months have seen the Company grow exponentially. We have experimented with and created brands are now imminently scalable. We have 3 more restaurants in the pipeline as more patisseries. We have also made significant inroads into the corporate and outdoor catering verticals and our central kitchens handle a large volume of private label business.
Business Connect: What advice can you give entrepreneurs who want to venture into the same domain in the future?
Ms Goenka: This is an industry with an abnormally high mortality rate because everyone thinks they have what it takes to run a restaurant, let along 15 outlets! Taking the right risks is essential to achieve success in this industry. Moreover, there are no short-cuts to success and in this industry, success is not just financial. Every restaurateur dreams of creating a legacy brand and short-term thinking are one of the most basic mistakes one can make.
Business Connect: With such a fast-growing team, how do you make sure everybody stays motivated and how do you support the corporate culture?
Ms Goenka: Our organizational culture involves keeping it simple yet having lots of fun with a balance between great food, impeccable service and constant innovation that comes from lots of sass of course! We strongly believe in being true to ourselves and our customers, as well as enjoying the journey to pursuing our passions. Our work involves constant experimentations and signature twists that set us apart from everyone else.
We boast a very low staff turnover as we are an extremely employee friendly organization, which is a source of pride for us. Hence staff training is taken extremely seriously, both for the front of the house and the heart of the house. We have internal and external training.
Business Connect: What are the big achievements?
Ms Goenka: I’d have to say the approach we’ve been taking to expanding the brands has been a massive accomplishment. After the formative years of getting our basics right and strengthening our foundations, we have been expanding exponentially. In terms of recognition, the restaurants themselves have won multiple awards over the past 5 years including “Best Restaurant in India – Critic’s Choice” by Timeout. On a personal level, I was recently awarded “Young Restaurateur of the Year” by Restaurant India (formerly Indian Restaurant Congress).
Business Connect: What are the Future plans?
Ms Goenka: We are targeting 100 outlets in the next 5 years.