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Rentals as an issue is the bane of the entire industry: Sanjay Coutinho

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Leading the world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops’ franchise in India, Sanjay Coutinho, a passionate foodie and a successful restaurateur  shares his thoughts on the F&B scenario in India.

How has your journey been over the years into restaurant business?

Baskin Robbins has been in India for over 20 years. We have always been in the QSR format delighting consumers with our delicious treats consisting of ice creams, shakes, sundaes and celebratory range of ice cream cakes. In the last one year we have ventured into the Impulse category and launched sticks, cones and sundaes in the retail market.

During this period we have focused on product innovation (flavours, formats and allied innovation) to give consumers an international experience. Today we are in 161 towns with 648 parlors and over 5000 touch points delivering consistent product experience to over 2 million consumers monthly.

Mr - Sanjay Coutinho

Sanjay Coutinho, CEO, Baskin Robbins, South Asia

How do you plan to expand your brand in the coming years?

Over the next 3 years we will double the number of parlors and increase our touchpoints to over 15000. We have been expanding aggressively in food services and HORECA to cater to high end consumers. Exports to neighboring countries as well as offering the Impulse category to Baskin Robbins globally are focus areas.

There is renewed urgency to develop newer categories within our product portfolio to give consumers many more occasions to come to Baskin Robbins more frequently. Many such newer product formats are under stages of development/consumer trials.

What’s Baskin Robbins’ signature offering which sets it apart from others? What’s the current market share of Baskin Robbins in the Ice cream specialty stores category in India?

Baskin Robbins is an idea born 70 years ago by two brothers-in-law who shared a dream to create an innovative ice cream store that would be a neighborhood gathering place for families. Burton “Burt” Baskin and Irvine “Irv” Robbins had a mutual love of old-fashioned ice cream and the desire to provide customers a variety of flavors made with ingredients of the highest quality in a fun, inviting atmosphere.

“Not everyone likes all our flavors, but each flavor is someone’s favorite.”   — Irv Robbins

Since 1945, we’ve introduced more than 1,200 unique, fun and delicious ice cream flavors. Our original top-selling flavors like Mint Chocolate Chip and Pralines ‘n Cream continue to delight millions worldwide as do newer flavours like Mississippi Mud, Honey Nut Crunch, Gold Medal Ribbon and Baseball Nut. Still, we continue to consistently introduce new, exciting flavor combinations, a unique flavor ribbon technique, use of traditional dessert ingredients and the introduction of mousse-textured ice creams. From our introduction of signature ice cream cakes and the growing line of beverages, our commitment to creating new and exciting products is unsurpassed in the industry. It’s all part of our mission to make the Baskin Robbins neighborhood a tasty, fun place for our customers.

Baskin Robbins commands a 44% market share in the premium Ice Cream specialty stores category in India.

Which format you think will flourish in 2016? What are the upcoming trends in the year 2016?

I think specialty concepts will flourish in the coming years especially those that are differentiated – Molecular gastronomy, Sous Vide, Live kitchen etc.

How has your journey been with NRAI?

Graviss Foods and its parent co Graviss Holdings have been significant players in the F&B industry for over 60 years. Over the past year that we have been members of NRAI we have had a fruitful association. I have been associated with NRAI in my personal capacity for many years including tenure in the board/advisory committee.

How do you keep a balance between your personal and professional life? What do you do to unwind yourself?

I have been in this field for over 2 decades. Over the years I have learnt to strike a balance between the office and home. This now comes naturally.

A very supporting spouse who takes care of the home and children enables me to focus on professional matters during the week. At office, an extremely professional, talented and committed team takes the stress off my shoulders in running Baskin Robbins seamlessly.

To unwind over the weekends, I play cricket and football regularly. I am also a visiting faculty at various management institutes and enjoy spending time with the Millennial. They are extremely sharp and challenge our mindsets.

Can you share some of your major learning as a restaurateur?

In the QSR segment, focus has to be on standardization of products and processes. Time is of essence and table turnarounds determine profitability.

Consumers expect consistency of food and experience on every visit.

One tip/advice you would like to offer to young entrepreneurs aspiring to enter in restaurant business?

A very exciting industry where innovation and pace of innovation is in your hands. Great challenges with “limited” downside. Need patience, detailing and passion.

What is one industry issue that has been bothering you as a restaurateur for long? What are your suggestions to cope up with it?

I think rentals as an issue is the bane of the entire industry. This has gone beyond economic sense and needs to be addressed. All stake holders need to come together and speak with malls and other commercial property holders to find a viable solution to having a healthy tenant mix.

The other issue is manpower attrition. We will need to look at ways and means of engaging them emotionally in the business.

Source: NRAI Office

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