Kolkata-based food chain eyes NE expansion

Chai Break plans Shillong foray by year-end

GUWAHATI: After carving a niche as a casual dining café chain and giving established coffee chains in eastern India a run for their money, Kolkata-based Chai Break is eyeing a strong presence in smaller cities and towns of the Northeast.

The tea cum hookah bar chain had in May made its debut in the region with a 3000 sq ft outlet here and now is poised for a Shillong foray later this year.

“We launched our first outlet at Kolkata in 2011. Since then, we have expanded in the not just Bengal but in Odisha as well. As of today, we have 18 outlets. Now, we are looking to target smaller cities in eastern India, particularly Northeast. We are poised to open an outlet in Shillong within the next four months and are presently scouting for a good location there,” Anirudh Poddar, co-founder of Chai Break, told The Shillong Times here on Saturday.

Chai Break is eyeing about 24 outlets in eastern India and an estimated turnover of Rs 30crore by March 2019, with four more in Assam (including one at Guwahati airport, one each in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh) and one each in Shillong and Gangtok.

The new outlets will be a mix of the franchisee model where the outlets may be company-owned, franchisee operated or even franchisee invested and operated.

“The concept, synonymous with taking a break for tea, was to come out with a tea brand that competed with the coffee chains as Kolkata did not have branded outlets offering tea. But since only tea would not be financially viable, we introduced food as well,” Poddar said.

“Currently, the plan is to explore smaller cities where people have spending power but do not have good food chains to go to. We are targeting the youth primarily but have an extensive Italian and Continental catering all age groups. Besides, we wanted to make sure that we could be different by serving good food with a wide range of teas. Now, we are planning to incorporate local cuisines as well,” Poddar said.

However, Chai Break does not have plans to foray into the metros (other than Kolkata) now, because the competition as of now for a relatively new brand would be very high there. “But we are looking at venturing into smaller cities of the south after east,” he said.

Currently Chai Break has around 30 variety of liquor teas. “Our USP is to serve good Italian cuisine (pizzas and pastas) with tea, served hot or cold,” he said.

The food chain’s expansion plan comes at the back of receiving the first round of funding from Mumbai-based angel investors, Venture Catalysts about three months back.

“We started with our own funds (Rs 15lakh) in 2010 on a trial basis and have been profitable from day one. Last fiscal, we posted an Rs 18crore turnover. Now, this venture funding will help us expand aggressively in eastern India to start with. We invest anything between Rs 60lakh to 70lakh in an outlet,” Poddar said.

The food chain also added music to the Guwahati outlet from Saturday with the launch of Remix Nights. “Every Saturday evening, there will be DJs performing while a band will perform on Wednesdays,” he said.

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