From a Casual Trip to Rs.110 Crore Profit: Bert's Burrito Boom in India
With humble beginnings and just $15,000, Bert Mueller, an American entrepreneur, turned his dream into a booming business in India, now called California Burrito, generating Rs.110+ crore annually.
In 2010, when Bert Mueller visited India for the first time, he probably didn't foresee that this vibrant nation would be his home and business ground for the next decade. Today, he's at the helm of California Burrito, a thriving quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain with over 50 locations, generating a remarkable ₹110+ crore annually.
From Inception to Expansion
Starting with a pooled investment of $15,000 each, Bert, alongside his U.S. partners Dharam Khalsa and Gaelan Draper, launched their brand. An additional $250,000 was secured from personal connections, and they chronicled their startup adventure on a Tumblr blog. While Gurugram was their initial target, the team opted for Bengaluru, lured by its affordable property prices. Their strategically chosen debut spot, facing Goldman Sachs, impressively saw 150 transactions hourly in its opening months without heavy marketing.
In the early days, Bert personally ensured ingredient quality and cost. He'd drive around in a Maruti Omni, collecting fresh produce from local markets. This hands-on approach became one of the pillars of the brand's robust economic model.
While the dine-in segment flourished, the brand also ventured into catering for companies like Zynga. The growth trajectory spiked after a significant $750,000 investment in 2013, led by entrepreneur Adhvith Dhuddu.
Adapting to Challenges
Yet, it wasn't all smooth sailing. Gaelan Draper departed in 2014, followed by Dharam Khalsa in 2020, leaving Bert as the lone captain. And while 2020 started promisingly, the pandemic hit hard. The brand saw its monthly revenues plunge from ₹4 crore to ₹25 lakh. Not one to be deterred, Bert quickly secured additional funds, amplifying the marketing efforts.
By October 2021, they revamped their strategy, focusing on delivery efficiency and product innovation, including the introduction of zesty tacos and fresh ingredients like Mexican tomatillos and hass avocados.
A Bright Future
The QSR chain's recent expansion to Chennai in May 2023 underlines its consistent growth. As the brand now graces cities like Bengaluru, NCR, Hyderabad, and Chennai, Bert's cultural integration, demonstrated by his Tamil proficiency, adds a heartwarming touch.
With eyes set on 100 outlets by March 2025, Bert Mueller's California Burrito journey offers a masterclass in entrepreneurship, resilience, and adaptability.