Franchise Life : Lisa and Tom Noak have been business partners for almost as long as the 37 years they’ve been married.
After spending more than 20 years as owners of a six-unit convenience-store chain, the Noaks went into retirement for a decade. But a chance encounter with a Ben’s Soft Pretzels location led to a talk with the franchisor and, eventually, a business plan to open five Ben’s stores.
Tom Noak shares the advice he’s learned throughout his career with his wife, including selecting the right partner and making a shift to the franchise model.
1. Minimize your risk
During retirement, we were ready to jump back into something. We didn’t really have a good idea what we wanted to do, but we didn’t want to get back into the convenience-store business, so that left other avenues open. We never thought about the pretzel business, and certainly hadn’t had a Ben’s pretzel before. It surpassed our expectations and experiences—that was the first thing to make us curious.
We were looking for something that had a framework or design we could follow. We knew that, of the businesses that were not set up as franchises, a lot would fail. Knowing what Ben’s corporate stores had done, and how they were going about it, helped us formulate whether it was worth us going into.
The whole idea of owning a business set us up for being more prepared in what to expect at Ben’s. There are a lot of people who have no idea what they’re getting into when they get into an ownership situation. In the end, if you look at a franchise business versus the number of people who start a business and fail, I think you’re a lot better off sticking with a franchise that has a proven system and a proven record. What it’s really come down to is: What is your tolerance for risk? No matter what you do, if you’re going to be in business for yourself, the buck stops with you, and there’s no backboard. There’s nobody back there who’s going to stop you from falling, so you need to make the best decision. Part of that is looking at the system and seeing if that’s something that you can benefit from.
We have been owners ever since we were in our 20s, and the only thing that I ever wanted to do was be self-employed. All those years of experience handling all the things you have to handle in the convenience store business coincided with our current work. We are selling a different product, but everything else is basically the same.
2. Pick the right partner
Lisa and I have a system. We got in our first business a year after we were married, and it made us so much stronger. It’s so much easier to have somebody who is on the same plane as you, who is working toward the same goal, who has the same interests in mind, and who has a different set of tools than what you have. That’s the reason that Lisa and I fit so well together and spend so much time together. She has the ability to be more into the details and the paperwork, and I’m more of a management person who goes with the big picture, the handling of employees and attorneys, and all that business stuff.
When I talk to other people about us probably spending 20 hours a day together for the last 37 years, many don’t understand that. They say, “Oh, we would’ve killed each other by then.” But for us, it works out well because of the different talents that she has and the different talents that I have. And I always tell the young men I know that it’s a lot easier to marry somebody smarter than you.
3. Create an environment for success
I’m very anal when it comes to order and things being in their right place and things being clean. At Ben’s, I looked at the operation and did not see the two things that made me never want to own a food business: a grill and a fryer. I had previous experience with this because we had roasted chicken in our convenience stores, and that was just a nasty thing to have; it created so many different kinds of problems. It’s the grease; it’s the continual cleaning; it’s what you do when you throw out the grease; and it’s the smell. I decided that I didn’t want any of that at all. When I looked at Ben’s, I saw the simplicity of running the business and producing the product. We basically have a mixer and an oven, and you have the equipment to serve that product. As far as the rules that we have to adhere to, we have such a simple process; we’re basically serving bread.
With employees, it’s a two-way street. There’s an element of trust involved. You have to trust people to put out a product that is going to be a great experience every time the customer comes in. You also have to make sure that they understand that the customer is the person who is paying the bill, and without them, we don’t exist. From that standpoint, I want to try to instill the idea in them that we have their back. There are things that come up that maybe they might need a helping hand in. For instance, we had an employee who needed a car, and one of these dealerships was going to charge a 27 percent interest rate, so she’d be paying $300 forever. I was able to talk with one of the people I know in the car business. He ended up finding a car that was significantly less, and I was able to buy it, and the employee paid me $100 a month for a year, and then she had a really nice car.
There are times when we can jump in and we can do things for people and help them out—even above what they’re doing in the store.
Franchising : They’re the largest living generation in the U.S.
They spend more money in restaurants per capita than any previous generation, according to Restaurant Marketing Labs.
They’ve been credited with changing the restaurant landscape forever by seeking out brands that offer customized food choices, quality ingredients, freshness, authenticity, transparency, and environmental and social responsibility.
They grew up on more trendy fast-casual brands like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, and the dozens of fast casual 2.0 chains that came after them.
And they’re about to own a franchise near you.
Millennials—those born roughly between 1980 and 2000 and comprising the biggest American generation, according to Pew Research Center—are coming of age as entrepreneurs and business owners. Maligned by some, millennials have been called apathetic, lazy, and narcissistic. But as the generation ages and matures, some of its members are transitioning from their roles as demanding teen customers and misunderstood entry-level employees to innovative managers and business owners.
And franchisors should be ready to capitalize on their potential.
What sets millennials apart
Chicago area native Sal Rehman is a millennial who grew up working in his family’s diner. He graduated from DePaul University in 2010 with a degree in human resources and worked for several years as a recruiter for corporate technology firms. Eventually, he felt the pull of the family business and decided franchising was the best route to operating his own restaurant. He opened his first Wing Zone in suburban Glendale Heights, Illinois, in 2015 at age 27. Two more Chicago-area locations quickly followed, and a fourth is in the works.
Rehman says he took his time and looked at many different franchising opportunities, but Wing Zone attracted him because he liked its business model as a fast-casual restaurant with delivery and a broad menu made up of more than wings.
“The look and feel was right,” he says. “Some franchises are not flexible, but with Wing Zone, it’s more of a partnership. If franchisees have something we think we can improve on, they take that into consideration.”
The prudent approach Rehman took to finding the right franchise opportunity is typical of the millennial generation, says Dan Rowe, founder and CEO of the franchise development company Fransmart. They want to work for the best of the best and will do their research to find authentic brands that fit their lifestyles.
In fact, Rowe says, franchisors don’t always need to recruit millennial franchisees.
“Millennials find you,” he says. “Just authentically do a great job, run a company that other people authentically talk about that wins awards and accolades, and they will come to you. Millennials are looking for brands that are already functioning at a high level.” He adds that, very often, millennials find franchise opportunities the same way they find everything else: through social media.
Paul Tran is senior director of development at Fransmart, and COO of Halal or Nothing, the Southern California franchisee of The Halal Guys, a fast-casual Middle Eastern concept. The 34-year-old says millennial franchisees like him view social media as “second real estate.”
“You need to have actual real estate that’s accessible and convenient,” Tran says. “But sometimes, with social media, people don’t even care where you are. If you pop up on their phone, you’ll be top of mind and they’ll find you wherever you are.” He adds that millennials are always on their phones, which helps as a franchisee because “you might as well be where the customers are.”
Because millennial franchisees are savvy about technology and social media, Rowe says, they are able to generate their own buzz without paying to advertise. In addition, social media can build a sense of community among a brand’s millennial franchisees.
“Franchisees communicate with each other, sharing best practices,” Rowe says. “They are also very savvy about press and public relations, and they’ll get on each other about social media scores. They’ll get alerts on their phones and send them around to other franchisees faster than corporate can. They are driven by things like Yelp ratings, and that matters because that’s what their customers are looking at, too. They are able to generate all their own buzz.”
The new franchise landscape
Technology has also created new ways for millennials to afford the dream of owning a franchise.
Companies like ApplePie Capital, an online lender solely dedicated to the franchise industry, have made it easier for potential franchisees to borrow money for startup costs.
“The target audience of these types of sites is millennials,” Rowe says. “We didn’t have that 10 or 20 years ago. Today, there are endless amounts of money available online, but you have to be tech-savvy and social media–savvy to get it. I’ve heard stories of people with no money at all who raised enough to open three restaurants.”
Still, as with other generations, millennials don’t want to have to do everything themselves. That’s partly why franchising is attractive to them, experts say; millennials are in tune with what they are good at—and what they aren’t.
“Personally, I’m not a chef,” Rehman says. “I have a passion for business and the food industry, not for cooking. I told my family if I open a franchise, there’s branding, funding, and background behind me. I like the model where I don’t have to do back-end work figuring out suppliers and logistics; that is already provided.”
Tran says he believes millennials have a lot of energy and a strong work ethic, two skills necessary in a franchise environment.
“We’re also willing to take advice from mentors and business people who have come before us,” he says. “We don’t know it all; we’re very moldable and adaptable to change. We’re also aware we can’t do it ourselves. We can’t do it without a good, strong team.”
Tran says members of his generation dine out more than any previous generation because they are starved for time. Because they eat out so frequently—and because higher-quality limited-service options have been available to them since they were young—they’ve become foodies who pay close attention to the quality of their meals. That ability to be discerning about the food they eat, he says, has led to being discerning when selecting a brand to franchise.
“[Millennial franchisees] are doing this because we’re fanatical about a brand, not just to get a paycheck,” Tran says. “We want to do something meaningful and share it.”
Why millennials choose franchising
Sharing is something millennials do a lot of, usually through social media. Andrew Gruel, chef and founder of the rapidly growing seafood fast casual Slapfish, acknowledges that he’s sometimes frustrated by millennials who care more about how his food will look on Instagram than how it tastes. But he appreciates the usefulness of social media for attracting franchisees to his brand.
“We get so many more leads off Instagram and Facebook than traditional lead generation,” he says.
The 36-year-old Gruel says another reason some of his peers, especially in tech-dominated California, are interested in becoming franchisees is that they made money at a young age in startups and are looking for new ways to invest their money.
“Restaurants are traditionally viewed as risky, but not to them,” he says. “They’ve gone through risky with tech. They see franchise agreements as a built-in insurance policy. They’ve got proven data, unit economics, operations manuals, legal protections … and that’s built-in safety.”
Gruel says there are some negatives when it comes to millennial franchisees.
“The human variable is not a widget or a digit,” he says. “If someone is coming from the tech space, technology is binary and there’s not as much of a human element. In a restaurant, if three people who were scheduled to work call in sick and you can’t find fill-ins, your service goes down the drain and you might get a bad Yelp review and it’s a slippery slope. A lot of millennials don’t understand and appreciate that human aspect.”
While some millennials are interested in franchising because they made money in the last decade or so and need a relatively safe place to invest it, others are interested because they lived through the Great Recession between 2007 and 2009 and are looking for opportunity.
This especially applies to fast-casual franchises, Gruel says. He points out that many millennials came of age during the recession, a time when fast casuals started to take off as casual-dining customers traded down. Private equity investments in fast casuals started to explode, he says, and many concepts started to go viral through Instagram and Facebook.
Tran says the recession set three things into motion. First, it taught millennials that nothing is guaranteed and the best way to control one’s destiny is to be your own boss. Second, he says, the recession “ruined” real estate markets, which made it more affordable for young franchisees to open restaurants.
Finally, Tran says, many people were laid off, giving them the push they needed to start a business. “The recession helped fuel franchise growth with new brands, and less expensive brands, and more unique brands,” he says.
Another characteristic attributed to the millennials is that they are the boomerang generation, moving back home with their parents, at least for a while, after college graduation. A 2016 study from Fidelity Investments found that 21 percent of millennials were living with their parents, up from 14 percent in 2014, and two-thirds of the survey respondents said it’s acceptable for children to live with their parents.
This shows that millennials likely have a tighter bond with their parents as adults than previous generations did, something that has led to more franchising partnerships between parents and children.
The lifestyle factor
While attention has shifted in recent years to fast-casual brands that have pledged not to franchise—thereby creating the impression franchising is more a thing of the past—it seems owning a franchise is just as attractive to millennials as it was to past generations.
“Being your own boss has great appeal,” Rehman says. “Being able to grow a business from the bottom and make it prosper takes a lot of work, and it’s exciting when you have it all set up and don’t have to be there 100 hours a week anymore.”
Tran says millennials are concerned about their quality of life, and franchising gives them the flexibility to either stop at one or two units or grow to 50 or more.
“It’s a personal decision; it’s a lifestyle choice,” he says. “We want to have quality of life. Some millennials want to work aggressively and have massive growth. There’s a prevailing philosophy that you work hard now so you can focus on family and have quality of life later. Personally, I think you have to have quality of life now or you’ll never slow down.”
Gallup reported in August 2016 that 21 percent of millennial workers changed jobs within the preceding year, and six in 10 were open to different job opportunities. Meanwhile, only half of millennials planned to be with their company a year in the future.
This propensity toward job-hopping is sometimes viewed as a desire in millennials to get rich quick. But it could also be a sign that many millennials are just looking for a perfect fit—a fit that franchising might be able to provide.
“Franchising is not a way to get rich quick, but it is a way to be your own boss quickly,” Gruel says. “At the end of the day, potential franchisees have to ask themselves if that is satisfying enough to endure the long hours and hard work of the restaurant industry.”
Toonz Retail looks to double its store count to 200 by 2020 and achieve a turnover of Rs 100 crore by 2018-19 financial year.
“Given our aggressive growth plan, we are looking at opening 100 stores in the next 3 years. We want to be a one stop solution for a child’s needs … We are targeting Rs 100 crore turnover by fiscal 2018-19,” Managing Director and CEO, Toonz Retail, Sharad Venkta told PTI.
According to a PTI report: At present, Toonz Retail has over 100 outlets. The company opened 20 stores last year and is looking to open 24 outlets this year.
Venkta said the company is also diversifying its product portfolio with its two in-house brands.
“In our apparel sub-brand Superyoung, we will expand our product reach through various other channels apart from our own stores, while in Wow Mom we are looking at introducing whole range of baby care range and then create an independent strategy for these brands,” he was quoted by PTI as saying.
Elaborating on expansion, Venkta was further quoted by PTI as saying: “We are seeing good numbers from smaller towns along with encouraging year-on-year growth. Smaller towns have lower cost of operations also, thus we are targeting expansion in such towns which are high on potential and aspirations. From mix point of view 70 per cent stores will be in non-metros and balance 30 per cent in metros.”
When asked if the company is looking at raising funds to support expansion plans, he told PTI: “We are shaping our business well for profitability and sustainability. We are creating a model which gives sustained growth and optimises the funds, we shall look out for an opportunity to partner with a VC (venture capitalist) which brings in funds and adds value to our entire ecosystem”.
Currently, Toonz Retail is backed by Crystal group.
Toonz Retail operates stores in Delhi-NCR, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Arunachal Pradesh.
Leading software-based education and training player Aptech today made a foray into the preschool education sector through a strategic alliance with the city-based Montana International Preschool.
Aptech, through the alliance, intends to extend its offering to 1,000 preschools over the next two years and has set a target of clocking ₹25 crore this academic year and over ₹ 60 crore in the second year, Aptech executive director Anuj Kacker told PTI.
Asked about the investment, he said 80 per cent of the cost will be borne by the franchise schools and the rest will be by Aptech but in effect it will be an asset light model for the company, while Montana will not incur any cost, except developing the curriculum and the content as well monitoring the schools in the alliance.
He said Aptech will share a portion of its revenue with Montana, which is a new player in the preschool sector having entered only in 2013 and currently running 10 preschools in the mega-polis.
When asked why a national player like Aptech tied with a little-known entity, Kacker said its their entrepreneurial spirit and the the quality of education that they offer.
Accordingly, the alliance, called Montana International preschool powered by Aptech (MIPA), will not be looking at roping in existing schools but very new ones or get entrepreneurs to start such schools. The alliance will also help them get bank loans, Kacker said.
While the new facility will be available immediately at the 10 Montana schools, the alliance plans to have 50 schools under the banner over the next two months. The second phase will see them entering the tier 1, 2 & 3 towns in the North, West and the South, Kacker said.
The alliance seeks to offer first-of-its-kind app enabling child safety monitoring, live view of child’s activity in class, on-demand child video conferencing, along with host of other features, Kacker said.
The curriculum has been developed by a team of experts from Aptech and Montana, based on the Multiple Intelligence Theory, Reggio Emilia Approach, the Montessori and Play way.
Kacker said preschool market is about ₹16,000 crore clipping at 23 per cent, making it the fastest growing segment in the education landscape. But almost two-thirds of the market is unorganised with no standardisation and very little emphasis on physical and cognitive development of the child.
Aptech, set up in 1986, runs over 1300 centres across 40 countries and has since trained over 6.8 million students in individual training and enterprise business.
Fashion jewellery brand Voylla has entered the franchise business after opening 100 company-owned stores in December 2016. The company’s debut franchise store has opened in Ludhiana.
Voylla’s franchises will spread across the country in the coming financial year.
Vishwas Shringi, CEO, Voylla said, “The main aim of entering the franchise business is to expand our operations and business all over the country. These franchise stores will be self-sustained and will also provide good returns on investment to the franchise owners. We plan to open a hundred more franchise outlets in next five years.
Voylla retails its collections online through Voylla.com and on marketplaces like Flipkart, Amazon and Myntra.
The startup opened its first store in Delhi in December 2015. In October 2015, Voylla raised $15 million from the private equity firm Peepul capital. It raised two rounds of funds in 2012 and 2013 by Snow Leopard Technology Ventures.
After striking a different note for its ethnic drinks under the Paper Boat brand, Hector Beverages is now gearing up to scale up its presence in the dairy-based beverages segment, with thandai and spiced buttermilk.
The company had test-piloted thandai last year in Delhi-NCR. Thandai, a beverage closely associated with the festival of Holi in North India, is yet another attempt by the company to launch seasonal drinks to tap into “appointment drinking” consumption. In the past, it has launched sharbat during Ramzan and panakam during Ram Navami in the South.
“We saw very good response for thandai last year. So this year, we have significantly scaled it up. It will be available in modern trade outlets and other key retail outlets in Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh for the Holi season (March),” said Parvesh Debuka, Marketing Head, Hector Beverages. To cater to consumers beyond North India, it has also exclusively tied up with Amazon to sell thandai, especially in multi-pack formats.
“We aim to make thandai our top-selling beverage in February and March. We are trying to create a new category of “ready-to-drink thandai,” Debuka said.
The drink is being made at the company’s Mysuru plant, where the firm has developed capabilities to make dairy-based beverages. Hector Beverages’ attempts to grow its portfolio by adding dairy-based beverages are not just limited to thandai. It has been trying its hand with spiced buttermilk, neer more, in Tamil Nadu.
Debuka said the company will now look to expand the distribution of its spiced buttermilk offering in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh this summer.
On the company’s foray into ethnic snacks last month, he said: “We have been pleasantly surprised with the consumer response to our ethnic snacks offering — chikki. We are selling chikki in select markets, such as Delhi-NCR, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. We are now looking at how we can scale this up.”
The company is likely to expand its ethnic snacks segment, too, with products such as aam papad.
Meanwhile, this summer, the company will launch one-litre packs of its beverages such as aam ras and aam panna. Paper Boat has largely been selling its drinks in single-serve 200 ml packs, and launched 500 ml packs late last year.
“Multi-serve packs will help us strengthen presence in modern trade stores and the e-commerce channel,” Debuka added.
The move will help Pepperfry increase its visibility as well as beat a slowdown in online sales, says co-founder and CEO Ambarish Murty
Pepperfry’s stores essentially serve as experience centres where prospective buyers can touch and feel a part of the assortment on Pepperfry as well as get home design consultation for free. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Bengaluru:Online furniture store Pepperfry is gearing up to expand its offline presence by launching a number of brick-and-mortar outlets over the next 12 months, following a similar push by rival Urban Ladder, which plans to launch its own experience centres and is on course to widen its offline distribution channels.
The move will help Pepperfry increase its visibility as well as beat a slowdown in online sales, said co-founder and CEO Ambarish Murty.
Online retailers witnessed moderate growth last year as they brought down discounts and marketing spends, somewhat constrained by a slowdown in funding as well as some government directives that barred them from influencing prices of products or focusing on a handful of sellers for a majority of sales.
According to a January study by RedSeer Management Consulting Pvt. Ltd, online retailers clocked about $58 billion in gross sales last year as against about $51 billion a year earlier, an increase of 13.7%.
Moreover, sales fell from $14 billion in the March quarter to about $13 billion each in the June and September quarters, before swelling to about $18 billion in the December quarter. This is in sharp contrast to 2015, when sales grew 17-27% every quarter.
“We realized last year that the rate of growth for online customers was stagnating. A lot of that was driven by fundamental macroeconomic shifts, driven by an orientation that the companies had to improve their financial architecture. Hence, spends on top line were lower last year. At that time, it was our duty as a business to create multiple other interfaces to connect with the business,” said Murty.
Pepperfry, owned by Trendsutra Platform Services Pvt. Ltd, will invest about $6 million this year to increase its store count from 14 currently in Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru and Pune to about 50 by December in several new cities including Ahmedabad, Kochi, Chandigarh and Lucknow, he said.
To be sure, Pepperfry, which opened its first offline store in Mumbai in 2014, does not sell directly from these stores. They essentially serve as experience centres where prospective buyers can touch and feel a part of the assortment on Pepperfry as well as get home design consultation for free.
“About 17% of the customers who have bought on Pepperfry in the last one month would have gone to a Pepperfry studio in the 60-day period prior to the purchase,” said Murty.
According to industry experts, adopting an omni-channel strategy—where businesses have both offline and online presence—is immensely important, especially for a category like furniture which is not standardized and has high average order value. Besides, in the Indian market, where online sales is still evolving, an offline presence is part of the brand-building exercise.
“Omni-channel is the way forward. Whatever apprehension was there with large furniture, which are high value, will go away with offline stores. Once consumers touch and feel and see, they get a certain level of comfort with the brand. Secondly, an offline presence will reinforce a company’s brand value. Otherwise, they will be viewed as a start-up. In India, everything with an online presence is being viewed as a start-up. Offline presence demystifies this start-up stamp on a company,” said Sreedhar Prasad, partner, e-commerce and start-ups at KPMG India.
Pepperfry’s nearest competitor, Urban Ladder, has launched a new brand identity and is on course to widen offline distribution channels beyond company-owned centres. It plans to launch at least three experience centres in Bengaluru, and is exploring partnerships with large format retail stores.
Urban Ladder also has its eye on local furniture stores, where it might take the assisted commerce route through kiosks displaying the Urban Ladder catalogue. It will also explore partnerships with paints and white goods appliances brands among others, which may involve cross-selling, Mint reported on 26 October.
To be sure, the likes of lingerie start-up Zivame, eyewear e-tailer Lenskart and babycare store Firstcry have already set up a large number of brick-and-mortar stores, while online fashion store Myntra is on course to open one in Bengaluru.
PC maker HP is planning to expand its reach in the country, as the company is planning to add 250 outlets this year.
The Omen series will available starting 15 March and it will include 5 notebooks and 1 desktop model
“Right now we have 450 stores in the country and we are going to add 250 more stores this year,” Ketan Patel, Senior Director, Personal Systems Business, HP Inc told Gizbot.
The company has also announced its foray into gaming section in India with the launch of OMEN series of products. It had earlier been launched in parts of the US and China among other places.
Regarding its competition with the existing players in the segment, he said, “This product is for gaming community and HP never had in this segments so the people had choices of other brand now we coming in this segment and the kind of engineering, reliability, performance, after sales services, the kind of retail network in India and the great legacy which customers are looking at and the entire range is very unique that we are giving to everykind of gamer.”
“We are open to launch more product and configrations but as of now only this product and it also depends on the feedback we will get,” he replied when asked about launching more products.
The Omen series will available starting 15 March and it will include 5 notebooks and 1 desktop model. The prices of the cheapest model stands as Rs.79, 990, while the top-end model will sell at Rs. 1,39,990.
According to Gartner, the overall, HP’s market share stood at 20.4 per cent in 3Q 2016 with th projects from the government, banking and the manufacturing sector.
Pizza Hut currently have 360 restaurants across 100 cities.
Restaurants-owned pizza chain runs a franchise model in the country, where investments come from franchise partners.
Mumbai: Pizza Hut considers India to be one of its most important markets and plans to double its store count to over 700 in the next five years, riding the wave of growing popularity of western fast-food in the country, a senior company executive said.
“In the long-term, India is one of our most important markets. In the medium term, we plan to double the number of outlets. We currently have 360 restaurants across 100 cities. We will double that to over 700 in the next five years,” Unnat Varma, Managing Director, Pizza Hut (India Subcontinent), Yum! Restaurants told PTI here.
The Yum! Restaurants-owned pizza chain runs a franchise model in the country, where investments come from franchise partners, Varma added.
“In 2014, we had ramped up aggressively and opened over 80 restaurants. Now, we are in a consolidation phase for our business. Once you had this kind of growth, you need to stabilise the business. Let’s not grow ahead of the curve,” he added.
Varma said the economy is also looking to turn around and consumer sentiment is picking up, giving confidence to the firm to gradually ramp its presence in the country. He said that a recent study undertaken by the company showed that pizza had become the biggest food category in the country, giving impetus to the company’s growth.
“Five to six years ago, the western food format stood third in preferences after Indian and Chinese, and within that pizza was the highest. Recent studies show pizza is the biggest category, and has become the most accepted food across all consumer categories,” he said.
Speaking about a spurt in quick service restaurants in the country, he explained that pizza was a difficult category to enter as entry barriers are high and scaling up would be difficult.
“While there are several new food brands that are also doing well, not all can sustain for 10-20 years. The more players the better for the category,” he said. Pizza Hut is also focussed on growing its online sales, which has seen a rise since demonetisation in November.
“More than 35 per cent of sales comes through home delivery and has grown in the last few years. “Two years back, we started online ordering through the website and app. Now, over 60 per cent of home deliveries happen through online as compared to call-centres earlier,” he added.
Actor Suriya, who awaits the release of Tamil actioner SI3, considers the Singam franchise a big milestone in his nearly two-decade long career.
“When I look back at my career, the Singam franchise as a brand stands out. It has been a milestone, because it helped me reach the masses. Naturally, I’m very excited about the third part,” said Suriya.
SI3, which is gearing up for release on February 9, is the third part in the franchise.
All the three parts have been directed by Hari. Reminiscing his journey with the filmmaker, Suriya said: “It has been a memorable one. There’s never been a bitter moment in our relationship. As director and actor, we understand and complement each other very well.”
He clarified that the third part has not been made to cash in on the success of the first two ones.
“Hari and I had originally planned to work on another script. However, fans requested we collaborate for the third part of Singam, and we obliged. Luckily, Hari had another script ready and we were good to go right away.”
Talking about the experience of working with Hari, he said: “I’m still in awe of the pace at which he works. You feel like you’re always on the toes on his set. Usually, you shoot three or four shots in a day when you’re working with any director. With Hari, we could shoot 90 shots in a single day and without compromising on the output.”
Going by the film’s promos, SI3 promises a lot of action. Suriya said he loved shooting for action sequences in the film.
“Thanks to the excitement of stunt master Kanal Kannan, shooting action scenes was so much fun,” he said.
The film also stars Shruti Haasan and Anushka Shetty in supporting roles.