The Belgian Waffle Co. serves freshly baked eggless waffle-wiches, the perfect on-the-go snack at small kiosks in malls, cinemas and on high street locations
Who can resist the smell of freshly baked goodies? And could anything be better than being able to grab one to enjoy on the go?
The tantalising aroma of waffles served in the lanes of a foreign land enticed Shrey Aggarwal to bring this concept home.
Shrey, 27, says: “While in Manila, I encountered many quick-service waffle brands that operated everywhere, be it at a railway station or a high street location in a mall. Although I did not want one, their aroma and inviting branding made me go and get one. I wanted to recreate that concept in India.”
Shrey, who was then leading the business development and marketing team at a SAP partner in the Philippines, learnt the tricks of the trade from a waffle brand owner in Manila. His intention was clear: To replicate this model in India by catering to all age groups, including vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
His model was a line of on-the-go waffle sandwiches, which he went on to name “waffle-wiches”.
He and his wife, Alisha, 27, soon founded Mumbai-based Belgian Waffle Co. (BWC) in May 2015 with one kiosk at an INOX cinema. Today, the company has 25 outlets, including franchises, and plates up a wide variety of yummy waffles across Mumbai and Gujarat.
They have also started private catering for parties, and this part of the business is picking up.
Shrey feels that a quick service market is lacking in the Indian food and beverage space. This is even rarer if you consider quality and affordability, he says.
At BWC, the redefined waffle-eating experience is quick, mess-free and super convenient. One doesn't need a plate, knife or fork to enjoy the waffle-wiches. The fact that the serving format allows you to grab a freshly baked waffle on the go with a minimal wait time is a huge winner for this food startup.
Shrey believes that their light and delicious eggless batter sets them apart from others in the market.
“The batter was something that we took a long time to finalise. We went through multiple rounds of testing and a lot of R&D with industry professionals before we were able to perfect an eggless batter that did not compromise on taste or consistency,” he says.
The duo faced challenges in finding the right equipment, staffing and refining the operational process. Delivery continues to be a hurdle, which they are working to overcome.
“We are learning every day. This industry will always tend to have its share of challenges when it comes to maintaining the right service standards, quality, recruiting the right personnel, but so far we have managed to survive,” Shrey says.
BWC is run by 28 staff members spread across operations and accounting. The business model envisages two-fold revenue: one, through retailing products in company owned stores and catering; two, through partnership with franchisees.
The firm claims to have a current turnover of Rs 30 crore, and expects to add Rs 150 crore by next year.
“Revenue is still relatively nascent. But we are serving up to 1,800 waffles per day,” Shrey says.
The waffle prices range from Rs 80 to Rs 140, depending on the choice of fillings and batter.
Calling the franchise model scalable, Shrey believes BWC can take the reach of their waffle-wiches even further. The franchising model investment ranges from Rs 5 to Rs 10 lakh, depending on the format of the outlet location.
BWC is looking to expand into tier-2 cities, a lucrative market for the F&B industry. They have already taken steps in this direction by opening an outlet in Surat.
How does it feel to co-found a startup with your spouse?
Venturing into the business right after their wedding, the husband-wife duo feels they have had quite a ride with BWC. In fact, they even kept their honeymoon on hold until the business made some money and ended up travelling only after a year.
The two have segregated responsibilities and take their work seriously. Alisha handles the HR, business development, and marketing while Shrey takes care of operations and finance.
But working with one’s spouse comes with pros and cons.
Shrey explains, “You get to spend time together, bounce ideas off each other and create something meaningful as a team. However, you also end up always being switched on when it comes to work and not really being able to discuss or think about anything else.”
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Witnessing explosive growth, the cafes and restaurants market size is estimated at Rs 2,47,680 crore per annum. It is expected to grow at 11 per cent, touching a whopping Rs 4,08,040 crore by 2018.
According to a Grant Thornton and FICCI report, of these, the fast-food joints have the largest market share - close to 45 per cent – and are growing at 16.6 percent, year-on-year growth.
Waffles have become extremely popular these days. In Mumbai, several cafes like the Kala Ghoda Café, Chocolateria San Churro, Coffee by Di Bella and Salt Water Café are known for their mouth-watering waffles.
Much like The Belgian Waffle Co, there are several waffle-specific joints like Wafflicious, The Wafflist, The Waffle Truck, 9-Waffles, Wowffle World and several others.
But Shrey believes there is an open market for everyone. The key is to get your P’s right – that’s product, price and place – and ensure constant innovation along with consistency.
“If you get the recipe correct you can survive the competition. I think the quality of our product, uniqueness of the concept of a waffle-wich and the consistency with which we have operated definitely sets us apart. In addition, we also try to create a warm, inviting atmosphere that makes consumers stay connected to our brand and want to come back.”
Bring on the waffle-wiches, we say.