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regular-article-logo Thursday, 13 June 2024

Speciality Restaurants focus on Oriental cuisine with expansion plan for Asia Kitchen

Simultaneously, the chain has decided to put brakes on expansion under a plethora of brands, which include Oh! Calcutta, Sigree Global Grill, Riyasat and Cafe Mezzuna.

Sambit Saha Calcutta Published 16.10.23, 10:46 AM
Representational image

Representational image File picture

After rustling up multiple formats in over three decades, India’s premier fine dining chain Speciality Restaurants is pivoting itself to Oriental cuisine with Asia Kitchen by Mainland China as the go-to brand in the foreseeable future.

Founder and chairman Anjan Chatterjee said he has learnt from the ‘‘mistakes’’ of the past and the focus would be ‘‘playing to the strength’’, which he described as the trust earned over the years in flagship brand Mainland China.

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Simultaneously, the chain has decided to put brakes on expansion under a plethora of brands, which include Oh! Calcutta, Sigree Global Grill, Riyasat and Cafe Mezzuna.

“After a long time, we have got a runway. It is the right runway for us. Now scalability will come from one brand which is Asia Kitchen by Mainland China,” Chatterjee, who is also the managing director, said.

He disclosed that the expansion of all other brands which include core brands Oh! Calcutta or Sigree Global Grill and power brands Riyasat and Cafe Mezzuna would be embargoed.

Chatterjee, who was in Calcutta to attend a CII event on the food processing industry, credited his son Avik who is a whole-time director on the board in charge of new formats and innovation, for the new direction.

“He wants to do it (Asia Kitchen) as the Wagamama of India,” Chatterjee said. The company is refocusing on Oriental cuisine, expanding a predominantly Chinese fare offered at Mainland China to add Japanese, Burmese and Indonesian cuisine to the menu to attract the palette of a younger crowd. Wagamama is a well-known Japanese chain in the UK.

Eastward Ho!

The company, which has 127 outlets in India and three abroad, as of March 31, 2023, plans to open four-five outlets of Asia Kitchen every year. It has budgeted Rs 30-40 crore annual capex, which includes refurbishing the new ones.

“We made mistakes by doing rapid expansion. No more of that. Slow and steady expansion — four/five stores every year. We will grow quietly and hopefully, we will have a model,” Chatterjee said. Speciality will not look at franchisee routes, even though 17 of the existing 71 restaurants are in this model.

The portfolio includes 16 cloud kitchens, serving the delivery demand, and 40 confectioneries (Sweet Bengal / Dariole). About 32 of the restaurants were under the Mainland China/Asia Kitchen banner as of March 31, 2023.

Moreover, it is going to add to its international network by opening a few Asia Kitchen outlets in West Asia (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman) and Saudi Arabia. Speciality also owns, through a JV, Chourangi— an Indian cuisine restaurant near Marble Arch in central London.

Speciality will dip into its reserve for the expansion as it recently raised Rs 127.3 crore through a preferential share issue.

Rapid growth eats into EBIDTA (earnings before interest, depreciation, interest, tax and amortisation), which the fine dining chain wants to avoid now.

While Asia Kitchen will lead, there may be a few more editions of Haka and Gong serving Oriental cuisines at different price points and formats.

After navigating the impact of the pandemic which hit eating out hard, Speciality has turned corners.

In 2022-23, total income went up 49.6 per cent to Rs 398.71 crore, profit after tax increased by 607 per cent to Rs 95.58 crore, led by growth in same-store sales of 46 per cent. The chain had closed down more than 20 outlets during the Covid period.

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