Speciality Restaurants to focus on oriental cuisine for expansion

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After dabbling with a variety of brands, Anjan Chatterjee-led Speciality Restaurants has focused on oriental cuisine and Asia Kitchen by Mainland China for its next stage of expansion.


Speciality’s flagship brand is Mainland China; core brands include Oh! Calcutta and Sigree, while power brands are Riyasat, Café Mezunna and Hoppipola, according to the company’s annual report for FY23.


But Chatterjee has identified the brand for the future, and that is Asia Kitchen by Mainland China. “After a long time, we’ve found the right runway. Now, scalability will come from one brand: Asia Kitchen by Mainland China,” he said.


No other brand receives this emphasis, he added. Chatterjee spoke on the margins of the CII Food Processing Conclave.


Asia Kitchen, with its pan-Asian offerings, is an extension of Mainland China. The brand has a presence in Dubai and plans to expand to Oman and Saudi Arabia.


The idea behind focusing on oriental cuisine is to attract the younger generation, who have developed a taste for Japanese (particularly sushi), Indonesian and Burmese (khowsuey) dishes.


“My son aims to make it the Wagamama of India,” said Chatterjee, who serves as chairman and managing director of Speciality Restaurants.


Wagamama is a well-known Japanese noodle chain in the UK.


Chatterjee’s son, Avik, a full-time director of Speciality, joined the board as executive director for innovation and new formats in February 2020. He led the launch of new brands such as Hoppipola, GONG and Episode One, as well as the rebranding of Mainland China and Asia Kitchen by Mainland China.


While Wagamama drew inspiration from Japanese ramen bars, Chatterjee’s oriental offerings will be glocal in nature.


The Covid-19 pandemic severely affected the entire hospitality sector. However, FY23 marked a turnaround with a 49.6 per cent increase in turnover to Rs 398.71 crore and a 607 per cent surge in profit after tax to Rs 95.58 crore on a standalone basis.


Focusing on Ebitda, Speciality is pausing its fast expansion. “When you expand, Ebitda gets affected,” Chatterjee noted, adding, “we’re not seeking that kind of growth right now.”


Chatterjee is planning a slow and steady expansion—around five to seven stores every year, including international ones. As of 31 March 2023, the total number of domestic restaurants or outlets was 127, while the international count was three. In London, the company launched its first restaurant, Chourangi, in the second half of FY22.


Chatterjee believes that the industry will consolidate and he is exploring acquisition opportunities with strong top lines or bottom lines.

During the pandemic, Speciality shut down many “fence-sitters”. But wherever it closed a Mainland China outlet, it opened a cloud kitchen. Cloud kitchens, which expanded quickly during the pandemic, will continue to grow.


SPECIALITY RESTAURANTS – AT A GLANCE




As of March 31, 2023:




Total number of national restaurants/outlets: 127




Includes restaurants: 71 (including 17 franchisees)




Cloud kitchens: 16




Confectionaries: 40

 


International: 3

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