We Can Create Larger Portfolio With Brands That Go Well With Coffee: Vinay Bhopatkar, CEO, Café Coffee Day

In an interview with BW Businessworld, Vinay Bhopatkar CEO, Café Coffee Day, talks about new partnership with Wow! Momo, new initiatives and the implications of the COVID-19 situation – now and in the future.


In June, Cafe Coffee Day got into a strategic partnership with Wow! Momo. Please share details about the deal. 
CCD’s business model has always hinged around “a great cup of coffee” and “a cool hangout space”. We are hence predominantly a dine-in centric brand and in current circumstances, one of the largest questions in front of us was to how do we create compelling reasons for our customers to walk back into our cafes (besides assurance on safety and hygiene which is given). And that is how the idea on collaborations emerged. If we were to forge partnerships with Brands which have non overlapping products with CCD and yet go well with Coffee, we can create a much larger portfolio for our customers and give them more reasons to visit CCD. At a Business level, it translates into additional revenue through newer walk-ins and greater customer repeats and at the same time, helps us sweat our existing assets more productively.

In our latest partnership with Wow! Momo, they will serve their products in select CCD outlets across the country. This is a pilot project that we will be running in 30+ outlets across three major Indian cities of Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Mumbai each. The aim of this partnership is to provide a holistic experience to our customers to pair their favourite coffee with exciting food and snacks under one roof, and in a trusted, safe and hygienic environment. This is particularly relevant in the current scenario when footfalls across formats are low, and customers are hesitant to go to multiple places for their favourite  F&B experiences.

Are you looking for more such partnerships in the coming years? 
These partnerships are a well thought through and a strategic move by Cafe Coffee Day. CCD has a wide network of loyal customers that we have earned over the years by serving the best coffee, food and dessert.  We have mapped a few best of the brands in their segment who could gain from CCD’s wide network to expand their reach. Reciprocally, it widens the ambit of CCD customer base by giving consumers more reasons and occasions to visit CCD. And for the consumer, it’s all their favorite brands in complementing categories under one roof. Through these partnerships, we are creating a fresh set of offerings for our customers and helping them with more options to satisfy their taste buds. Going by our brand tagline, ‘A lot can happen over coffee,’ we are looking forward to more of such associations that will set a new benchmark in the business ecosystem.

As of now we have Wow Momos, Mad Over Donuts, Chef Bakers, Baskin Robbins, Indo Nissin and many such brands which have entered an understanding with us. We will also have our group company – ESSENTIALS (a neighborhood convenience store format) who will partner with us to offer a range of packaged snacks / ready to eat options to customers.

These collaborations are not merely to increase food options at CCD but a deeper strategy to make CCD as a complete one-stop destination for anything under the F&B category – whether it is for Take Away or Home Delivery or Dine-in.

As the government has given a thumbs up for food delivery, how are you managing it? What new initiatives have taken to fulfil the gap? 
We started our operations last month and since then, we have put in place a series of stringent hygiene processes to ensure the safety of our customers and our employees.  To ensure food safety, all our employees wash their hands every 30 minutes and are fully gloved while on duty. We check temperatures of all employees every day and send our employees on leave in case they have any symptoms of being unwell. We have also provided sanitizers at every cafe and every delivery partner has been asked to sanitize every time they enter the café. Further, we are sanitize all the exposed surface in our seating area, kitchen and washrooms every hour.
Moreover, we believe the future is in optimizing the use of technology to make the customer experience safe, simple and seamless. With this as the lodestar, we are encouraging people to opt for ‘Contactless orders and payments’ at the café through a newly launched portal - is an online ordering platform that uses data intelligence to cater to the specific preferences of the customers and streamline the ordering process. Special offers have also been included on the platform for customers where they can scan a QR code or enter a unique table code to access CCD’s menu and place their orders sitting at the table itself. There are also plans to integrate a home delivery option and customer loyalty solution through this platform itself that we expect to announce shortly.

In line with the current customer preferences where Home Delivery and Take Away is becoming larger and pivotal, we have taken a series of initiatives on the product range as well. We have introduced a wide range of Beverages in Take Away flasks to ensure that customer can enjoy their favorite Beverages at the right temperature even if they order through Home Delivery. We have launched a new range of Immunity Boosting Drinks and introduced an exciting array of Take Away Meal options in Bangalore. We also launched our merchandise products like Cakes / Coffee Powders etc. on the online platforms to let consumers enjoy / celebrate their favorite moments in the confines of their homes.

What are the implications of the COVID-19 situation – now and in the future – for food and restaurant chains? 
While the pandemic initially posed a challenge, we are now fully functional within the boundaries of what is allowed by statutory authorities. This is largely because of our early adoption of digital technology to build an intelligent platform. We have fast forwarded a few decisions to stay ahead and relevant, including tweaking our menu to include immunity boosting beverages and other health products.
Apart from technology, we also believe that social distancing will be the way of life for some time to come. We believe that safety and hygiene will play an important role across businesses and will form a basis for customers' decisions. Food deliveries have picked up and we expect that in-house dining will also see increase in footfalls as customers’ trust in our processes increases.  Restaurants have started reorganizing their dining spaces to ensure that it is safe for customers to visit. Collectively, the sector is trying to imbibe the best hygiene protocols so that customers are confident to step out and dine out.

Another important fall out of this crisis is the sensitivity towards spending – driven by uncertainty in the economy, the job market and the lack of clarity about medium term future. At CCD we have always believed in strengthening accessibility and affordability for our customers. In line with this thought, we have also sharpened our price value equations by repricing some of our products to spur consumption and spread a cheer in our customers.

Have you noticed any change in the behaviour of the customer while ordering online? 

To state the obvious to begin with, the biggest change has been in the contribution of takeaway and home delivery in our sales mix. We have quickly pivoted therefore to offer a much wider range of products that we can deliver from our cafés including products like meal bowls, health products and desserts. The focus is on giving customers a wider choice. We have also observed that customers are now looking for a healthier option. From food to drinks, they want something that is quick and good in taste with healthy ingredients.. In line with this we are offering immunity boosting beverages with turmeric and ginger and also health smoothies.

 What kind of response are you getting for CCD's new launches? 
To keep the excitement going for the brand, we have recently launched a range of new products from new jar desserts to cakes, meal bowls to a range of new cold coffees and immunity boosting drinks.

So far we have been getting a decent response for these. Our turmeric based drinks have been receiving quite a warm welcome by our customers given the current situation. This month we also introduced four novel & tempting coffee based beverages - Ultimate Cheesecake Frappe, Tangerine White Chocolate Iced Coffee, Tangerine White Chocolate Frappe and Signature Cold Coffee. We have created buzz for this in the digital media and are seeing a positive off take of these beverages. Our meal bowls also too have been well-received. We are confident that as more and more restrictions are relaxed, and consumer confidence increases, we will only see an improvement in overall business.

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