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As the voice of the Indian restaurant industry, we represent 100000+ restaurants & an industry valued @ USD 4 billion. Whether a chain or independent restaurant, the NRAI is here to help every step of the way. Join us!

Interviews

Restaurant business is one of the most complex & difficult businesses to be in which the government needs to recognise: Rahul Leekha

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Coming from the consulting background, having serviced Indian & Multi National clients and Conglomerates across a range of sectors like Hospitality, F&B etc., he owns the Global Intellectual Property License for Australia’s fastest growing & most awarded coffee company, Coffee By Di Bella. With a good sense of what makes the organization tick, Rahul Leekha, Director, Coffee By Di Bella, shares his insights with NRAI.

What is the scope of coffee retailing / chain business in India?

Coffee retailing is a growing segment in India. It is close to Rs 450 cr at the moment and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 30 per cent. India is an emerging Cafe Nation with immense scope for coffee production and consumption.

Coffee today is the second most consumed drink in the world; second only to water. With the current escalating graph of coffee consumption in India, there is surely an opportunity for all.

How was your experience foraying Coffee by Di Bella in the Indian Market?

Coffee By Di Bella was founded in 2002 by Philip Di Bella with the mission to assist our customers to get a flavour- of “The Ultimate Coffee Experience”. Combined with our signature coffee blends and the ability to “inspire passion”, Di Bella is recognized as the fastest-growing & most awarded coffee company in Australia.

Today, Coffee By Di Bella has over 1500 retail & wholesale outlets globally (Australia, New Zealand, China & India), which serve more than 5 Million cups of coffee per week. We continue to develop the market both nationally and internationally working on all the elements to create “The Ultimate Coffee Experience”: the constant pursuit of premium quality beans, the development of rich full-flavoured blends, the use of the finest coffee machinery and the education of the coffee processes. We have managed to create a niche market for coffee lovers by serving 100% premium coffee. The Indian market has welcomed us whole heartedly and is good to see waiting at our stores here.

If you could please elucidate your expansion plans for the brand in India?

The journey so far has been fruitful with good returns & brand acceptance. India is an emerging Cafe Nation with immense scope for coffee consumption and production.

India has now become one of the fastest growing coffee markets in the world. It is making its presence in the world market in the coffee-retailing arena due to the growing youth population in India.

While the baby-boomers in India were mostly tea drinkers, today’s younger generation are following the trend of their western counterparts; sipping on cappuccinos.

We operate on a Company Owned Company Operated format & have 20 stores currently, we plan to launch 100 stores PAN-India within the next 3 years however as a brand we are not behind chasing number of stores but chase bottom line and operate all our stores within positive EBITA margins.

What is the signature offering that sets Coffee by Di Bella apart from others in this segment? What is your strategy to keep up with the competition?

We aim to gather customer loyalty and promote our business mainly through the unique selling propositions Coffee By Di Bella offers:

  1. Our signature coffee blends are sourced from world’s finest coffee growing regions to achieve a distinct taste profile for each blend  
  2. The Coffee By Di Bella store design gives a contemporary, modern & stylish look ensuring a luxurious and sensual experience.
  3. Our crockery has also been crafted to give a special and personal experience to each customer by having a unique cup for each drink.
  4. Our food is top quality with the best-sourced ingredients, we understand that food is no more just an ancillary product and hence put in a lot of efforts to serve the right offering.
  5. Product Innovation – We have a very strong product Innovation team & have had first movers advantage in introducing to India various “gone viral” products such as Waffles, Freak Shakes, Showcasing of the world’s most expensive coffee – Panama Geisha

Customers today are aspirational and want to experience premium brands more than previous generations. We are in the business of selling experience. We have observed that a customer will turn into a loyalist once he connects emotionally with a brand.

Recently you came up with Glitter Cappuccinos. What was it inspired from?

Who doesn’t like some sparkle in their lives. Our R&D team is always innovating and we came up with this unique concept & knew instantly that it would be a hit, we introduced 2 variants a Gold and a Diamond Cappuccino which got widespread media attention in India & Globally and got covered by Insider, The Sun, The Tribune, Mashable, Fox News, LA Times, LBB, Curry Tales, Mid-Day, NDTV, Unilad, NY Daily, Tastemade, The Today Show, AOL, Yahoo, Cosmopolitan.

What have been your major learnings as a restaurateur?

The restaurant business is a very passion driven business and has a very high mortality rate, only way to survive/flourish is to keep an eye on the bottom-line. We do not look to increase foot-falls as 80 % of our foot falls are repeat, we are always working hard to retain this foot fall & serving The Ultimate Coffee Experience.

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

I like to read & travel and of course try out different specialty coffees.

How have you been involved with NRAI? In your view, what more can be done through the association to strengthen the restaurant sector?

NRAI is the voice of the Restaurant Industry which is making us heard loud & clear and more importantly helping us clear the misconception that the restaurant business is easy with great margins, whereas it is one of the most complex & difficult businesses to be in which the government needs to recognise.

The Restaurant Sector in India is 1.6 times of the Railways & IT and 23 times of Bollywood; contributed 29,000 crore to the government exchequer just last fiscal; will be 2.3% of GDP by 2022; directly employees 6 million people & another 8 million indirectly.

Many industry stalwarts are now a part of NRAI and we need to work hand in hand to keep pushing the industry forward. I am grateful to be a part of the NRAI Managing Committee and I am 100% focused to work on the betterment of the Industry.

One tip you would like to offer to youngsters aspiring to enter the restaurant business?

We’ve been successful as we ensure one very important factor i.e. to be honest in the product we serve, a customer turns into a loyalist when time & again he is served a consistent product/service, and in fact what we show in our Advertising/Marketing campaigns is exactly what we serve in our stores.