Making People Chocoholics India & Across!
Realizing the huge potential of chocolate desserts in India, Vikas Panjabi voyaged from Australia to India in 2007 to launch the first-ever chocolate cafe brand, The Chocolate Room. The brand is known for its Chocolate Café, Gift Hampers, and Bakery.
First launched in Ahmedabad, the brand has a presence with 395 outlets across India with an extended presence in around 11 countries The Chocolate Room (TCR) serves around 20 flavours of Italian hot chocolate, chocolate fondues, cakes, and unique hand-made chocolate desserts prepared with the finest Belgian chocolate.
TCR already has cafes in Australia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Riyadh & London. Considering their price range and menu selection, it’s universal, and We haven’t met a person on this earth who hates chocolates. Let’s know further from the Managing Director of The Chocolate Room – Mr.Vikas Panjabi
CONSIDERING THE DEPTH OF YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE F&B INDUSTRY TILL NOW, WE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY. WHAT WERE YOUR KEY LEARNINGS, CHALLENGES, AND MAJOR LESSONS?
When we started, it was all about just desserts and beverages. But soon, we realized the Indian taste palette doesn’t like too many sweets and that we also need to serve savoury dishes. We got a few menu consultants on board, experimented with our menu, and slowly and steadily engineered the menu. Once we had our operations in place, we started focusing on growth. By 2008, we figured out franchising was the way to scale The Chocolate Room brand. Since franchising, we now have more than 395 stores across the country. And this number is steadily growing.
THE CHOCOLATE ROOM HAS BEEN EXPANDING QUITE RAPIDLY. WE ARE INTERESTED IN KNOWING MORE ABOUT YOUR EXPANSION STRATEGY. AND WHAT ARE THE KEY FACTORS THAT THE TCR HAS BEEN THE MOST SUSTAINABLE CAFE BUSINESS?
Our brand value is significant, It’s one of the rare café chain in India which has been able to flourish so well within such short span of time. What makes us sustainable is that we’ve different business models, Be it a kiosk at Airports, Malls or commercial complexes or be it a full-fledged Diner. We’ve a detailed business plan starting from Rs.15 lacs to 50 Lacs+, You can open your café from 100 sq.ft area to 800 sq.ft & above.
As we’ve extended verticals based on the space so every inch on the floor can be utilized and the franchise partner can earn better returns on his investment. We’ve also been successfully running our cafes in bigger corporate houses on lease model. Our Handholding support is also an important factor so that any person who isn’t from the food & service industry can also start his own café without any anxiety.
The Chocolate Room is unlike other cafes, Its All for Chocolates and Chocolate for All. People discuss their start-up ideas at TCR, and even couples propose to each other with hot chocolate. It is a place where all the age groups, from the age of 8 to 60 years, everyone goes to enjoy chocolate.
Besides, The Chocolate Room has always been a live kitchen experience, unlike other cafes that serve frozen products. All the desserts and savoury dishes are made live in front of the customers, giving a unique experience and fresh taste of food. It helped us stand out from the rest of the cafes that would serve frozen food products. Our perishable inventory is almost changed daily. This factor has put us in a different league.
We also have a referral program that gives complimentary vouchers and loyalty points to references and regular customers. Most of our franchise owners have at least 4 to 5 stores nationwide. We have also succeeded in developing a solid master franchise network in India. We have seen this model doing great in the United States and Australia.
HOW DO YOU FEEL THE CAFÉ CULTURE HAS PICKED UP RECENTLY IN INDIA?
Yes, it has geared up like never before. Consumers don’t get that fresh aroma of coffee at home. They seek quality time and a fine-dine culture. We’ve seen a miraculous shift from local tea/coffee hang-outs to premium cafes; the aspiration of India is towards a developed country. So it’s more towards the lifestyle than just an edible spot. If a cafe can give consistent taste and a good experience, it gets added to the customers’ favourite list. Moreover, post-covid, where remote work has shot up, has helped us for more repeated consumers.
TCR HAS THREE VERTICALS (CAFE, BAKERY AND GIFT HAMPERS), AND HOW DOES IT BLEND WITH THE DELIVERABLES AND THE BRAND POSITIONING FOR YOU?
We’ve always been a customer & franchisee-centric brand, providing three verticals in the single franchise fees. The more verticals, the more the revenue source for our franchise partners. Also, 70-80% of our repeat customers prefer to take away bakery products, cakes and chocolates for their household or gift their friends, family members, colleagues and relatives. It blends perfectly with our cafe and in-shop bakery and gift hampers so that it becomes their one-stop for outings & shopping.
TELL US MORE ABOUT TCR’S CHOCOLATE GIFT HAMPERS.
Oh! It’s going to be crazy this season, and we’ve already started getting orders from major corporates for gifting their employees and clients. Our Gift Hampers are composed of Dry Fruit Chocolates, Chocolate Cosmetics, Cookies, Belgium Chocolates, Dry Bar Cakes, MultiFlavour Brownies, and much more. Our hampers start from Rs.299 onwards and go upto Rs.15000. So the consumer can customize their hampers based on their employee categories.
Many of our gift hampers have beautiful and elegant multi-level trays that can later be used on their dining table, drawing room, or office tables. So it looks very graceful while you gift the chocolate hampers to someone, and because of its post-utility, the receiver can keep and use it instead of throwing it out. We have unique Diwali edition gift hampers for our clients, and you can check them out at any nearby TCR Cafe. Thank you, Mr. Vikas, for sharing interesting and delectable insights! We wish you all the best for your coming tenure.
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