International burger players jostling in Indian market
International burger players jostling in Indian market

India is now experiencing a renaissance of sorts in exposure of new and global cuisines coming on its way where burger has become ‘Almighty Burger’. At the same time, Indian menus are being reinvented as fusion cuisines like Gujrati Mexican or Punjabi Italian to appeal to different palates.

The Burger War

Widely known as the most beloved food of Americans, burger now tops the preference chart among Indian youth, when they are eating out or feasting with friends and families. According to a recent research by Foodpanda, an online delivery and food ordering portal, Indian cities like Delhi, Pune and Mumbai have topped in burger consumption with 31 per cent, 30 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

Witnessing a greater opportunity in the segment, major western brands like Johnny Rockets, FatBurger, Burger King, Wendy’s and Carl’s Jr are entering Indian market with a bang by localising their product to suit Indian palate.

Jhonny Rockets, which has already opened its two outlets in India, is looking to expand across the country within next two years. In an interaction with Restaurant India earlier, Duane Messerschmidt, Director-International Sales, Johnny Rockets, said, “India continues to emerge as a consumer-driven economy. It also represents the largest under-35 age demographic in the world and has a growing upper-middle class population. All three of these conditions are particularly attractive to retailers. Rural population moving into cities and newly established towns is also an advantage, which has created more concentrated economic development throughout the country. For restaurants, this means that more people with more disposable income are dining out much more often than before.”

Other brands like Burger King, Carl’s Jr, etc are set to open their outlets in future feel that the growing middle class and travelling Indians have given a way to the foreign cuisines into India.

Choosing the Franchisee Route

Expanding the brand in other geographical areas seem difficult to the western brands and hence, they feel that expanding via franchise is the best model to place their brand in other countries.

Jhonny Rockets, which entered India in February 2014, has chosen Prime Gourmet Private Limited as its franchisee partner in the country. On the other hand, Burger King is entering the country by opening its outlet in Mumbai and Delhi-NCR though a partnering with Everstone Capital. Carl’s Jr, which is set to open its outlet in January 2015, has signed a master franchisee deal with Sam Chopra led CybizCorp based on its tremendous success in franchise channel.

“CKE has prioritised India research and menu development through identification of specific franchise partners. Once completed, CKE has engaged several franchise candidates with business acumen, infrastructure and real estate network that could effectively develop an identified territory within India. CKE selected CybizCorp based on its tremendous success operating and franchising in the real property sector as well as its food & beverage consulting practice and its existing infrastructure of business professionals,” says, Michael Woida, Senior Vice President-International, CKE Restaurants.

Going ‘Desi’ is the Mantra

The brands are going desi with their offerings in Indian market. They are focusing more on localisation of their products by removing pork and beef burgers from their menu and including veg and paneer burgers at the same time.

“Though FATBURGER is famous for its freshly made burgers. We have so much to offer to our global fans in terms of variety and flexibility in our vegetarian and non-vegetarian flavour options,” says, Andy Wiederhorn, CEO, FATBURGER.

At the same time, Tanmay Kumar, CFO, Burger King, believes that going desi in India is the only solution to place your brand in the country. However, Burger King will be serving its authentic plus Indianised burgers in the country.

Target Customers

The burger chains are positioning their products targeting the young Indian crowds who are more open to try new foods and are regular visitors to QSR giants. However, brands like Johnny Rocket are open for all food lovers who enjoy eating American Burgers.

“Our primary target demographic will be the consumers in the age bracket of 18-34, that visit QSR venues on a regular basis and are looking for a premium lunch or dinner experience. Pricing will be within the reach of consumers that frequently visit existing QSR and casual dining venues,” elaborates Michael.

With such a wide swath of consumers in play, it’s strongly recommended that brands which haven’t already tested their concept or explored India’s potential should abandon their lingering reservations and start thinking big.

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