Interview with Karan Makan: Co-Founder at Fraterniti Foods (Parent Company of Zoca Cafe)

Karan Makan
Karan Makan (R) & Rohit Tandon (L)

An exclusive interview with Karan Makan, Co-Founder at Fraterniti Foods (Parent Company of Zoca Cafe)

The men behind the massive empire of Fraterniti Foods are Rohit Tandon and Karan Makan.Karan Makan is an investment consultant & an Entrepreneur enthusiast and business partner of Rohit Tandon.
Rohit finds his foundation values and beliefs from his middle-class Delhi-based upbringing.

His vision was to create aesthetically pleasing places that immediately work on the guests’ mood while serving mouth-watering food. Rohit’s vision was to bring hospitality to the doorsteps of average Indians who otherwise would not go to these beautiful-looking places because of the price tag attached to them.

He did his studies in Hospitality and Management from IHM Lucknow, which laid the foundation for the entrepreneurial dream in him. However, he started his journey by working with some of the best names in the hospitality industry like ITC, Taj Group, and Marriott

Having worked in India, he wanted to spread his wings and decided to move to Europe. There, he was part of the senior management team and led hotel business for well-known brands like Marriott. This global exposure gave him many new perspectives about running hotel and hospitality ventures, and it also gave him an idea about scaling, whether it’s a large location or a small one.

Working in England gave shape to his vision of how to add a warm and welcoming environment – the interiors – which is soothing to the eyes and how it can impact the mood of the guests who visit. It can immediately lift a sad soul. He knew he had cracked it.

After returning to India, he started giving shape to his dream of “Bringing hospitality to the doorsteps of average Indians which can immediately uplift them”. He knew that besides the food, the interiors had to create magic for those average Indians who would love to get the feel of a 5-star hotel but don’t have to pay for one. He started with a hotel consulting and institutional catering firm in 2008.

Rohit knew from early on that the average Indian has an entrepreneurial DNA built into them, but they do not have the courage, skills, and knowledge that are needed to start a successful business. He wanted average Indians from Tier 2 cities of India to own a restaurant.

That’s where Rohit got into creating multiple brands based on cuisine and started franchising those brands. Rohit was clear that he was selling not only the food but also how the physical restaurant looked like.

That concept caught on like fire across India. Fraterniti Group has created multiple brands under its umbrella, including Zoca Cafe, YoLo, Blink, Barbeque Arena, China Box, and many more. Each brand has its own unique menu and feel of the interiors. The creative fusion of Food and Interiors is Rohit’s and Fraterniti group’s secret sauce.

“We can’t wait to see the “Make in India” project reach foreign lands”

Can you tell us about the inspiration and vision behind starting ZOCA Cafe? What motivated you to enter the cafe industry and create this brand?

Karan Makan: I had the privilege of working in the start up system and learning about the complexities of the business and work on a brick and mortar concept to get an insight of challenges that various types of businesses may have with multiple people, clients and their needs.After working on the cloud kitchen concept, we were able to predict the demand for a high-quality cafe setup with a cost-effective product mix, a pleasant dine-in experience, and eye-catching interiors.

This served as our inspiration, and our team used it to develop premium brand extensions like Zoca Diner & Zoca Courtyard that combine the greatest features of both worlds.

ZOCA Cafe has been rapidly expanding. What do you believe are the key factors that have contributed to its growth and success in the competitive cafe market?

Karan Makan: In order to improve, we constantly monitor consumer needs, market trends, and guest experience dynamics. I fully believe that in order to accomplish this, we must keep ourselves informed and adhere to our procedures, which benefit the company as a whole.

This has been made possible because of the hard work of our team at both the corporate and retail levels, who have helped us establish our brand in the marketplace and expand our outlets across the nation. 

How would you describe the unique selling points or aspects that differentiate ZOCA Cafe from other cafe chains in the market?

Karan Makan: Without a doubt, our persistent dedication to providing each visitor who enters our doors with an excellent experience is what truly distinguishes ZOCA Cafe in the cafe business. We adopt a dynamic strategy to adjust our menus and setups to suit the unique geographic areas of our outlets, in contrast to other cafe chains that may take a one-size-fits-all approach.

This ensures that we can provide our consumers with the greatest experience possible regardless of where they are.Our product selection only strengthens our distinction.

We take pleasure in providing cutting-edge foods & beverage experience that we stress upon and ensure to build upon the good work that has helped us add more outlets to our fleet with our multiple brand extensions, ensuring that the interest of franchisee and brand  is taken care of in order to grow in popularity and profitability. 

These unique and delicious appetites cater to individuals wanting a contemporary and exhilarating culinary experience in addition to satisfying conventional appetites.ZOCA Cafe’s distinctive selling qualities are our dedication to individualised service, our ability to take into account regional tastes, and our creative menu options that blend the best aspects of tradition with a modern touch. This is what truly sets us apart from other cafe chains in the market.

Can you share some of the challenges you’ve faced in scaling up the franchise and how you’ve overcome them?

Karan Makan: Every business faces unique difficulties, and ours is no exception. Everything was a learning experience for us as we had to set up our processes and systems with a small team at first. We took on these challenges head-on to learn about the various ergonomic aspects of the overall F&B offerings as well as construction, kitchen planning, conceptualizations, and interiors, which are handled by our in-house teams.

This has helped us get control of the situation and a-  thorough grasp of the job, which has helped us inspire faith in our investors and enabled us to grow with the franchise with a greater aim to open 500 outlets across India.

We have been able to use it as a stepping stone by piggybacking on our expediences and entering into manufacturing multiple items like kitchen equipments, television, Air conditioning, Merchandise and a lot more that we are planning to get into a retail line to add another tangent to our business.

What strategies have you implemented to maintain the quality and consistency of your products and services as the cafe chain grows?

Karan Makan: Working with the processes, whether for back-end work or operations, is something that my partner Rohit Tandon and I have always emphasised. We have been able to supply products and services with consistency owing to our corporate team’s strict training programmes. With every step ahead, we hope to improve and evolve as people.

ZOCA Cafe seems to have a strong online and social media presence. How do you leverage digital marketing and technology to connect with your customers and promote the brand?

Karan Makan: Me and my Partner Mr Rohit Tandon take key interest in conceptualisations, process refinement and product development.

Our well seasoned marketing team helps us push the productions both at a Brand and Franchise level in which we have helped us grow business for our partners and the brand on whole.

The cafe industry is known for its ever-changing consumer preferences. How do you stay ahead of trends and adapt to meet customer demands?

Karan Makan: By thoroughly comprehending target market, clientele, and market trends, work towards the same objectives. It is essential to comprehend the needs and requirements of the consumer. We place a lot of emphasis on ongoing learning and development because failing to learn results in falling behind. So, we try to get better every day.

Franchise management can be a complex task. What criteria do you consider when selecting franchisees, and how do you support them in maintaining the brand’s standards?

Karan Makan: We have a set of procedures that the franchisee must adhere to, and we also provide training sessions for them to help them comprehend business concepts and the FOFO franchise model. We continuously help them with back-end operations, culinary, marketing, and advice as needed.We conduct routine audits and operational checks to ensure that the brand’s standards and procedures are adhered without interference.

Likewise, we believe that by empowering our partners and investors, they will be better able to comprehend the company’s development and participate in the brand’s overall success.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the food and beverage industry, particularly in the cafe sector?

Karan Makan: I would counsel perseverance and passion.Customer service and staff training should be given top priority since happy, well-trained employees may significantly impact customer satisfaction. Make sure your staff delivers excellent service and is familiar with the menu.

Technology should be embraced, adjustments should be made, and innovation should follow the needs of the market.

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