From Rs 3 Cr to clocking Rs 16.5 Cr turnover in 4 years: the story of Chandigarh-based QSR brand Uncle Jack's
Punjabi households are known for brewing interesting recipes. Ankush Arora, who developed an interest in food and the art of serving it, belongs to one such household.
While pursuing his engineering from the Chitkara Institute of Engineering and Technology, Punjab, he decided he would eventually enter the food business.
“There was once a party at my house when I was living in New York in 2012. I was thinking of innovative ways to serve french fries to the guests. That’s when I found some beakers, and I put the french fries in them and served them to the guests. This became quite a hit, and people even took pictures,” Ankush shares.
This provided him with the much-needed impetus to explore more and dive into food entrepreneurship. In February 2016, Ankush put up a food stall at an exhibition in Chandigarh, wherein he introduced all his experiments in fast food, including the french fries in the beaker. The stall was sold out in the first hour, Ankush claims.
Following this small feat, in June 2016, Ankush opened a quick-service restaurant (QSR), Uncle Jack’s, in Sector 8, Chandigarh. The brand was bootstrapped with Rs 60,000 amassed from personal savings. Later, he borrowed over Rs 2 lakh from his friends to help with the operations.
The exhibition helped Ankush as people started coming in from day one to his outlet. In the first year of operations, Uncle Jack’s clocked Rs 3 crore in annual revenue.
The QSR chain model
According to a report by Research and Markets, the Indian QSR sector is projected to grow at a CAGR of 18 percent between 2021 and 2025, owing to increasing urbanisation, rapid expansion in food delivery services, expanding young and working population, growing number of dual-income families, and rising disposable income in the country.
India houses numerous homegrown and international QSR brands, including KFC, McDonald’s, Cafe Coffee Day, Mad Over Donuts, Barista, Starbucks, Dominos, Pizza Hut, and more.
Amidst this competition, Ankush says he is trying to carve a niche for itself in the QSR market and wants the brand to become a household name.
He attributes a few factors to the made in India brand’s steady growth. The company caters to the masses by providing good services, priced moderately.
Ankush says, the company uses fresh ingredients for all its preparations. “One habit that I picked up from my mother is to always try to pick fresh ingredients. All the vegetables are sourced from the local market, and we operate from the base kitchen in Chandigarh,” he adds.
Uncle Jack’s serves food in 15 categories, including burgers, sandwiches, and, beverages, among others. Its burgers are priced between Rs 100-Rs 200, and the average ticket size is between Rs 350-Rs 375.
Since 2016, Uncle Jack’s finances have grown steadily, with the company clocking Rs 9 crore turnover in FY19 and Rs 16.5 crore in FY20. It is projecting to reach Rs 18 crore in FY21.
At present, Uncle Jack’s has eight outlets in Chandigarh, Panchkula, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, and other places around Punjab. In fact, last year, it opened a new outlet in the South Delhi market. He plans to launch two more outlets in Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh and Connaught Place this year.
By 2022, Ankush is planning to build an outlet in Gujarat’s Silvassa region, which will have a base kitchen for outlets in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and a few parts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Commenting on his expansion strategy, Ankush says, “The strategy is to explore other regions only when you are ready or prepared for it.”
He adds that he has been extremely cautious about retaining control over the brand’s quality and ownership. He doesn’t believe in giving out franchisees. “We may get an investor on board but will never explore the franchisee side of the business,” he says.
Challenges and the story ahead
Like every other restaurant business, Uncle Jack’s also felt the tremors of the coronavirus pandemic. The business was shut down during the lockdown, but as the economy started opening, the company’s financials started recovering too.
In December 2020, things started looking up for the company and Uncle Jack’s was able to recover its losses.
Moving forward, Ankush wants to try to understand the market better.
Commenting upon his observations, he says, “Unlike Chandigarh, Delhi is not a morning market. We open our outlets at 9 am in Chandigarh, but in Delhi, people move out only after 11 am or noon.”
The company is also planning to expand to other verticals. It is planning to set up a separate QSR vertical for serving street food.
Ankush also plans to set up separate verticals for fine dining and other cuisines like pan-Asia and eastern Punjabi cuisine.