Zorawar, son of celebrity chef Jiggs Kalra, to float food chain Masala Library, Made in Punjab & Luxury Mithai
The 35-year-old business management graduate from Boston and budding restaurateur, however, doesn't seem to fuss too much about what's on the table even as he talks about the food business.
NEW DELHI: "I'll have my salad the same way I did last time," Zorawar Kalra, son of celebrity food writer and chef Jiggs Kalra, tells the head chef at 361 as he settles down for a chat with ET in the spanking Oberoi Hotel in Gurgaon.
"I don't understand why people are always trying to re-invent the wheel in the restaurant business. People don't come to a restaurant to see its exotic marble on the wall...they come for the food," he says. "As long as you are serving great food in a good ambience at good prices, consumers will keep coming."
The older of Jiggs Kalra's two sons will kick off operations of Massive Restaurants, a majority-held JV with Mirah group, in February. Starting with initial investments of 25 crore across three high-margin Indian cuisine chains, Kalra targets to turn Massive Restaurants into a 350-400 crore listed firm in five years.
Kalra junior's key advantage, of course, is the support of his father whom he considers "a great chef but not a great businessman".
While his father will guide him on food, Kalra junior will focus on the nuts and bolts of the business, which he believes will give him an edge. "Having a famous father is an advantage but you also have to deal with the pressure-you have to work hard forever to ensure quality standards are maintained," Kalra says.
Kalra says he is also working on high-margin ready-to-eat packaged foods for exports to grocery retailers in the UK. But that project will kick off only next year.
Kalra returned to India in '04 and, kicked off his maiden business venture, ZK Restaurant Concepts, two years later. In '07, he tied up with the Amit Burman, co-owner and promoter of Lite Bite Foods, to set up Punjab Grill and Street Foods of India.
Burman, who worked closely with Kalra for five years, says, "Zorawar knows his food well and is hard working."
Starting next month, Lite Bite Foods will no longer be able to use the Jiggs Kalra name for its Punjab Grill restaurant chain, which the Kalras have bought back.
But industry experts say success in the restaurant business comes with huge challenges and means competing with players with deep pockets and experience.
"The restaurant business is tough and requires lot of management bandwidth," Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner (retail and consumer products) at consulting firm Ernst & Young, says. "Scaling up such businesses needs consistent management expertise of which food is only one component." Kalra, however, is confident. His kitchen will have labs and he hopes to achieve synergies of cost. These will include a lean business model with less number of employees, forging long-term contracts with vendors and suppliers and leveraging the 800-crore Mirah group's expertise for back-end and real estate deals.
"We can't control rentals and food costs, but there are other fixed costs which can be optimised," he says.
While the fine dining format gives close to 35-40% margins, the Kalras are banking on volumes to turn in profits for casual brand.
Majority of the initial investment of 25 crore will go into Masala Library, which will focus on metros and will have three outlets operating by 2013-14. The chain could opt for funding after a couple of years. The blueprint is to open five Made in Punjab restaurants in two years.
The 800-crore Mirah group has interests in real estate development, hospitality, travel and textiles.