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After completing his hotel management degree, Anjan Chatterjee joined the Taj Group as a management trainee in Mumbai. But, 18 months later he moved to advertising and earned many accolades in the field.
A true food aficionado, he could not stay away from F&B business for much long. In 1991, Chatterjee, along with his wife Suchhanda started Only Fish, a 40x40 sqft restaurant, in Mumbai, which was later named as Oh! Calcutta. Hailing from a family of gastronomes, he still believes that his mother cooked the best mutton curry.
Making of The Professional
A hands-on approach to work and a great love for his job marks Chatterjee’s career, be it in advertising or in the restaurant business. With excellent marketing and advertising skills, his passion for food led to the creation of a company called Speciality Restaurants. “I got my first exposure in the F&B industry during my first job with the Taj Group of Hotels. A stint with a reputed publication house (Anand Bazar Patrika) armed me with marketing skills. I have also worked closely with M.P Ramachandran (Jyothy Laboratories Ltd.),Sanjeev Shah (Everest Masala), R.S. Agarwal and Mohan Goenka (Emami). And all these experiences proved beneficial throughout my entrepreneurial career,” Chatterjee proudly said.
In a span of over two decades, it’s now the largest chain of fun and fine dining restaurants in India with over 123 restaurants across 22 cities across the globe. Brands like Mainland China, Oh! Calcutta, Café Mezzuna, Sigree Global Grill, Hoppipola, and Sweet Bengal are a rage among foodies today.
Speciality Restaurants entered the Indian capital markets in May 2012, being the only restaurant chain in India to achieve that. Chatterjee, who swears by Bengali cuisine, loves to cook different dishes himself, retorted, “I believe in getting inspiration from various cuisines, but giving up authenticity at the cost of tasty food is not what I prefer. I am okay with experiments, as long as fusion does not lead to confusion,” quipped the entrepreneur.
The Brand Story
The journey has not always been smooth for this entrepreneur but he had never known to give up. “To be able to convince the bankers that restaurant is a potential industry was a major hurdle. Getting skilled man power was the next big block,” he said.
However, roadblocks were crossed eventually and Chatterjee reached one milestone after another. “Only Fish becoming a hit with food lovers is what I still consider as my biggest high. This was followed by the first Mainland China in Mumbai, private equity and eventually going for an IPO,” recollected Chatterjee fondly.
Providing authentic, relevant and consistent food and service is what makes Chatterjee’s brand an internationally recognized one. Today, Speciality Restaurants has 24 franchises for brands, including Mainland China, Sigree, Sigree Global Grill, Machaan and Zoodles. The franchise model is also well planned and robust.
“Our franchisees are able to understand the restaurant business as a long-term return business and have passion for food and feeding people,” stated Chatterjee.
To set up a unit outside one’s own territory, it is essential to have a corporate structure in place. The prerequisite for this is to have a dedicated and passionate team and effective control systems and practices.
“The other important thing in our kind of business is setting up centralised and local (primarily for consumable) supply chain logistics. This requires local ground support for statutory, legal and administrative purposes. It is like setting up a hub-and-spoke model of operation,” he said. Chatterjee took the licensing route for expansion. He has his leasehold properties and operates the restaurants on the company-ownedand-company-operated (COCO) model.
It was at a much later stage that Chatterjee opted for limited franchise option. And, each of the 24 stores follows the franchisee-owned-companyoperated model. “The nature of our business demands a franchising model. In our pursuit of maintaining the quality of food and service, we have decided to handle them ourselves and maintain the same standards and experience across all our outlets. The franchise model was for speedy expansions, mainly in the smaller cities and to connect the gap in the capital required to set up new outlets,” he explained.
While looking for franchisees to partner, Chatterjee said all of them should have an entrepreneurial background. He should spend time on marketing and promotion of the place, should have some knowledge about food and ingredients and should not have a short term vision, but a long term and sustained one,” he added.
The Road Ahead
Chatterjee is presently focusing on upcoming brands serving Chinese and Pan Asian Cuisines. He, along with his son, Avik Chatterjee, who had joined the company in 2015 as the head of the innovations, is also incubating new concepts in casual dining. Besides, with more and more players coming into in the casual all-day dining space, the father and son duo is all set to focus in this segment.
The huge operations at Speciality Restaurants have a structured quality control system where every city has trained and experienced chef and service managers who are directed and controlled by quality control directors.
The ability to set strict brand standards and stick to SOPs and institutionalizing the ability to vaccinate the core value system into each individual even to the lowest rung and drive SOPs are what helped him build the brand it is today, feels the renowned restaurateur. Providing authentic, relevant and consistent service is what makes the brand an internationally recognized one. “Even with immense talent, you need to work harder with direction and well thought of plans,” he concludes with his success mantra