On entering the compact 250-sq. ft. restaurant, located at the Galleria mall in Powai, I see Kingshuk Ray and Jamshir Wadia—co founders of Morselo—waiting for me. We sit at one of the two milky-white tables, each occupying half of the restaurant. Kingshuk then speaks of revolutionising the way India and the rest of the world look at Indian food. But how?
“While our country is filled with Indian restaurants, there is not an equivalent of a KFC, McDonald’s or Domino’s from India that serves Indian food the way they serve their food: easy to hold and consume. At the end of your meal you usually get your hands messy. And Morselo plans to solve this issue. We aim to be the next McDonald’s or Taco Bell from India that represents the richness of Indian cuisine worldwide,” explains Kingshuk.
Morselo serves Indian dishes stuffed in Naan bread, making it easy for customers to hold and consume them. It strives to provide the essence of Indian food while adapting to the hustle and bustle of the urban life. “We wanted to create something that people could have even in their cars,” marks Kingshuk. Not only that, but there is also a range of food items that Morselo serves including an item called the ‘NRI garlic bread’.
But this is where it gets interesting.
While the idea of serving food may be unique, what exactly will it take for Morselo to live up to its ambition: To be the next McDonald’s or Taco Bell of Indian food?
The Big Indian did an extensive research to understand what is required from a startup like Morselo to become a successful food brand that reaches out to millions of people.
Here are some key factors.
1. Ensuring standardisation across its outlets
“If there’s one thing that differentiates a normal shop or restaurant from a major food brand, it would be consistency in taste and smell of the food throughout its outlets,” says Anil Amesur, owner of Pancho’s.
There are a few reasons to support this. First, when there is consistency in terms of food, customers clearly know what to expect. This, in turn, builds trust in the minds of its customers. So when the time comes to choose which restaurant they would dine in, they would choose that particular food outlet over other restaurants even if the other restaurants may provide an interesting array of cuisines.
This is because of the fear of the unknown and the trust towards that outlet which has been built over time and consistency.
So, how does a restaurant bring standardisation to its outlets?
Pre-cooking: Most of the food is pre-cooked at centralised kitchens before they are delivered to their respective outlets. After which, the food is heated or fried once again in the restaurants before being served to the customers. This ensures minimal deviation with respect to taste and aesthetics.
‘The daily meal’ has explained this process comprehensively. It says—
“At fast food chains like Applebee’s, most of the food is mass-produced and frozen, then shipped to the restaurants and stored in walk-in freezers. The food is reheated instead of cooked from scratch; recipes are developed by corporate chefs, right down to the amount of salt used, and any variation can be disastrous.”
In this video below, we can see how Domino’s standardizes their process for making pizzas at scale.
Morselo, on the other hand, takes great pride in the fact that their food is cooked fresh. In fact, it even goes to the extent of saying that its kitchen is devoid of a refrigerator. While this is good for its only outlet in Powai, this could be detrimental to instil standardisation into its products across future outlets.
So does this mean, in order to become a successful food enterprise, you need to sell stale food?
This is why our second factor is equally important as it solves this dilemma. And that is ‘Product-mix’
2. A sustainable product mix
A product mix, in this context, can be understood as a combination of different food ingredients that form the dish.
“On one hand there are food items that have to be made fresh and on the other hand, there are some food items that can be stored without losing out on freshness. For example, Chinese food has to be made fresh. You cannot store it in the refrigerator and retain its taste. But, if you store ‘Pav Bhaji’ in the freezer for several hours and reheat it, you cannot find any recognisable difference. Similarly, tandoori items cannot be stored,” explains Anil.
Before Morselo decides to go ahead with standardising its meals across outlets, it has to ensure that its product-mix can sustain the freshness and taste even after being refrigerated for several hours.
3. Process-driven instead of people-driven
To have Chef Himanil Khosla, who has worked with the ‘Oberoi hotels’ as executive chef for 11 years, on the team can be a tremendous asset for Morselo. But for it to become a major food brand, it has to work towards developing a process-driven culture instead of a people-driven culture.
After clearly understanding the way major fast-food chains ensure standardisation, we learn that there is no particular person who is indispensable to ensure the food is cooked properly. Instead, they have a pre-determined process that governs the cooking. “It is the people who have to fit in the process and not the process that fits according to the people,” marks Anil.
4. The Indian Palette
What Morselo considers to be its main USP is that it “goes to the source from where each dish has come from”. And thus it claims that it cooks the dishes the way they are supposed to be cooked.
Which means that most of its items in the menu, like the classic butter chicken, are created using authentic flavours from the place it was invented. In this case, it is from the Moti Mahal.
But after speaking to Saloni Kukreja, a food blogger who runs ‘Food of Mumbai’—a food blog that has garnered 155,000 followers on its Instagram page— we learn, “The reason why burgers and pizzas work in India, is because people do not know how a burger or pizza should taste. So people have it the way it is given to them. But when it comes to Indian food, people get nit-picky. They already have a particular palette for some variations of food. For example, some people prefer the original Moti Mahal butter chicken and some people belonging to a different geography prefer butter chicken from a place say, Zaffran, which is completely different”.
Anil gives us further insight into this aspect. “While Ammi’s biryani is hugely successful in the south, it could not see success in Mumbai even after a huge investment of 60 cr. I feel this is because the people of Mumbai have a different taste preference when compared to that of the people in the South,” explains Anil.
This poses a big challenge for Morselo to overcome. It has to understand this fact and may even have to alter its food ingredients for different geographies to suit the palette of the people residing there.
5. Nailing the Market
Morselo would find it hard to be a brand if the masses do not associate an idea with the company. Just like how Domino’s came up with the “30 minutes guaranteed delivery or free” and the “various creative, artsy fry-centric posts, as well as user-generated images” posted by McDonald’s on its Instagram page, Morselo, too has to come up with an idea that makes people remember it.
If not that, Morselo should at least grow its visibility by hosting different events or shows that highlight the essence and values of the company. Sponsoring different events, too, is another marketing technique that is frequently used.
Morselo also needs to bring visibility in the digital space. Having various food bloggers to write about the restaurant, creating promotional videos, receiving social media mentions are a few ways it could use to enhance its image digitally.
Morselo has currently received a rating of 4.1 out of five on Zomato with 206 reviews. It has also gathered a 4.9 out of five on its official Facebook page.
Being founded in 2015, Morselo is still at a nascent stage. It would be too early to predict if it would actually turn out to be the next McDonald’s of Indian food or end up being a startup that dissolves in a couple of years. However, in order to walk the talk, it does need to keep in mind the aforementioned factors without which its ambition might just end up being a dream.
We now leave it up to you, our readers, to decide if Morselo will be able to live up to its ambition or not.
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