The art & science of food business

Rupkatha Bhowmick

“Eating out is an integral part of the regional culture. Historically, shopping malls have been leasing around 18-20% of space for F&B; some have even gone up to 30-35%. But this is not necessarily driven by excess demand and under-supply. Demand has – in fact – been soft, and population growth is slightly stagnant,” observed Sajan Alex, vice president of Abu Dhabi-based Tablez Food Company.

During a conversation with RetailME, Alex highlighted the crucial importance of F&B in enlivening retail spaces. Tablez Food Company operates F&B concepts ranging from home-grown Bloomsbury’s Café and Peppermill to franchised brands including Galito’s, Famous Dave’s, Pancake House, Sugar Factory and more.

There are multiple levels of value enhancement before the food arrives at the table. From sourcing, preparing to cook, final finishing and serving, design and fitouts to training the people – there are several components for a food business to be successful.

“There was a time when we didn’t have to ‘slice, dice and analyse’ each value channel. But now we have to analyse each channel carefully. Historically, not many operators looked at the inventory turnover ratio. We were working on a 10-day inventory holding in the business. At any given point in time, any of our restaurants would have inventory to run for ten days. In the last 18 months, we have brought this down to five days, thereby freeing up working capital and keeping more cash in the business,” Alex revealed.

He also highlighted the importance of investing in the right people within the food business. “The restaurant or F&B business will always be there. Dining out is a lifestyle and bonding space. People are always looking out for the next new thing. One of the things that every food business must heavily invest in is creative capability. Chefs are, after all, engineers who are irreplaceable. We have ensured that our people, chefs, are cared for appropriately. From getting inspired by visiting new places to creating new menu they have the autonomy to think out-of-the-box and innovate within the framework of the business. Today we have been able to create remarkable experiences to remain in the consumer’s mind. That’s where we are putting in a lot of effort.”

Read the full article in the November edition of RetailME