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A food fiesta in malls

By Gargi Gupta in New Delhi
January 10, 2007 02:57 IST
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There's something about shopping at malls that is hunger inducing. Little wonder all malls have food counters and they do the briskest business.

It's this insight into consumer behaviour that is driving organised retail majors like Shopper's Stop and Pantaloon Retail (PRIL) into the food-and-beverage segment.

The former has Cafe Brio (11 across India) and Desi Cafe (at HyperCity in Mumbai), but it is the latter that is aggressively pursuing its food and beverage business. As it did with its retail formats, Pantaloon has been trying out multiple formats across categories and price-points over the last year-and-a-half, perfecting them before rolling them out across the country.

There's Chamosa, the snack-counter for tea, samosas and sandwiches. Initiated a year-and-a-half ago, there are 20 of these across the country today. Twelve of these are in Kolkata alone, where the company recently won a Metro Railways tender to set up food kiosks at various stations.

The company is looking at similar high-footfall sites like railway stations, airports, store-in-stores or within malls to set up around 100 Chamosas in the next two years.

These kiosks — as small as 30 to 80 square feet — require little initial investment (between Rs 1.5-7 lakh, depending upon rentals in the area), but have a good turnover — the best does business of Rs 2-2.5 lakh a month while the worst brings in Rs 25,000.

Pan India Food Solutions Pvt Ltd, the company which oversees Chamosa, is a joint venture between Pantaloon Retail and Blue Foods. PRIL will be spearheading Pantaloon Retail's food-court and speciality-restaurants business. Foremost among these is Spoon, the food court.

Launched in October, there will be 15-20 Spoons all over the country by the end of this year, offering a range of 22 different cuisines, says Dina Mukherjee, marketing head, Pan India Food Solutions. At a minimum average investment of about Rs 3,500 per sq ft, the company will be putting in close to Rs 200 crore for the food-court business alone.

Pan India's other major brand is Yatra, a chain of regional thali restaurants — to quote Mukherjee, 'catering to the middle and upper segments but with a price point that's lower segment'.

For as little as Rs 99, Yatra will offer a choice of eight vegetarian cuisines — Gujarati, Rajasthani, south Indian, Italian, and so on — and unlimited helpings at that. Only beverages and dessert will cost extra. It's being currently test-marketed at the Orchid City Centre in Mumbai before it is ready to be replicated elsewhere. The company has already signed up seven to eight properties in other cities, informs Mukherkee.

Pan India has other formats too — Cream Centre, Bombay Blues, Noodle Bar — but it is Gellato Italiano, a chain of gelato kiosks, for which it has the most aggressive expansion plans: 100 in the next year thanks to its high returns, Rs 80,000-1 lakh daily. At Rs 25 lakh for one of these 700-1,000 sq ft kiosks that is another Rs 25 crore of investment.

That's not all. Pantaloon Retail has another JV with Ridge Foods, called Rain Fruits & More, under which it is expanding the chain of juice bars, Tropical Smoothies (50 and counting), and Dessert Cafe specialising in fresh pastries, mousse and cakes.

Yet another format, hot-dog carts, will be unveiled in Mumbai in about a week's time, says Nivesh Khandelwal, chief executive officer, Rain Fruits & More.

So, whether you eat while you shop or shop while you eat...it's all the same at Pantaloons Retail.

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Gargi Gupta in New Delhi
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