In an exclusive interview with The Mystery Rooms, Sapna Bhutani, Co Founder Mystery Rooms, spoke about Masquerade restaurants by Mystery Rooms, opportunities in Tier II and III cities and the expansion plans.
What are Mystery Rooms?
So, mystery is a real life escape experience where you are locked inside a mysterious place along with your team and friends for an hour and within that hour you have to plan your escape. There are different themes for various branches. Mystery Rooms now has twenty one branches pan India.
Masquerade is an extension of mystery rooms because wherever the entertainment is, food of course goes along. And we do a lot of birthday parties and corporate events there. We started Mystery Rooms in 2014 and one or two birthday parties happen every day.
So, whenever any get together happens, people need food. So what we were doing earlier was outsourcing the food but the requirement was always there. So this project was always in our mind. With Masquerade we didn't just want to provide a place where people could come and eat after Mystery Rooms but also indulge in more activities. We have books and games there, where people can sit spend their time. The purpose was to keep everybody engaged. Right now it's only there in Hyderabad and now we are coming up with the branches in Jaipur and Lucknow. Both of them is coming with cafe.
How about the menu?
The menu is multi-cuisine. It’s Indian, Mexican, Chinese, and Continental, perfectly curated for all age groups. We also host a lot of gigs there. For example, recently we hosted this comedy gig with Jeeveshu Ahluwalia. We keep on hosting such events to attract the crowd and when we do gigs like this, we also provide liquor on daily license basis. The menu is for everybody. Plus we have tried to you know give a lot of emphasis on presentation because we believe people eat first from their eyes. The platters have been carefully selected. Mystery Melon is one of the best seller we have.
How have been the footfalls for masquerade restaurant in Hyderabad?
It's going good because Hyderabad as a city for Mystery Rooms is among the top performing centers that we already have and there is a good crowd base that we have already developed for Mystery Rooms. So which is also helping masquerade and plus Masquerade has its own charm which is also attracting a lot of customers we have a good rating on Zomato.
A lot of concepts similar to yours have come across in the country. How do you differentiate yourself from them?
It’s the experience that we give is different. That's what makes us stand out. So we have been trying to look into each and every aspect of the experience, not just the game but when the customer enters and how they are comfortable with our staff. We focus on the entire experience. Once the customer walks in till the time they are walking out.
What are the themes?
There are different themes in Mystery Rooms for example, Hurt Locker, which is also a movie. In this you are lock inside a room and there is a bomb that is ticking inside. So, within an hour you have to either diffuse the bomb or witness the blast.
So we have all worked on themes, which audiences can easily relate to. We are coming with a new theme in CP, which is conjuring and it is based on conjuring movie. It's going to be super scary. So these are the types of themes we are constantly working on.
So, there will be also a restaurant with it?
This is coming in our existing premises of CP. We are working on two formats now. First one is the masquerade restaurants at our existing mystery rooms outlets and the second one is like small kiosk kind of format. So, it's going to be a mini version of Masquerade restaurant.
Are you planning to get into franchising?
Yes. The upcoming stores of Mystery rooms in Jaipur and Lucknow with Masquerade restaurants are from franchising only. We are working mostly on FOFO, franchise owned franchise operated model. We have two branches in Kolkata which is owned by the same person and that they are according to FOFO model.
What are the expansion plans?
Top performing cities of Mystery Rooms are Chennai, Hyderabad Pune, Bangalore and Mumbai. So now we're working on second centers in these cities and of course because there is a requirement. So, we are in the process of procuring the properties that are already in these cities and are top performers. And I think the first that is going to come after Lucknow and Jaipur is going to be Gurugram and south Delhi. Plus the work is process in Chennai and simultaneously in Pune also.
So, it would be in a standardized form whenever you open masquerade across India?
Yes, depending upon how much space we get because we have two floors in Hyderabad outlet. If we are able to get that much of space then of course it will be in a similar format but if not then it's going to be smaller version of masquerade.
And what marketing strategies you incorporate?
Social Media is the best. Next is word of mouth marketing. We believe whatever customers we are getting should be satisfied and happy and they then definitely spread that word. Of course social media cannot be ignored these days specially Instagram.
Has the restaurant in Hyderabad achieved breakeven yet?
It's just three months now. So I think that's too soon for it. So, it's too soon but then we are doing well. We're happy with what business we are getting and we know that this model is being replicated and that is why we are very much confident about that and t we are already multiplying it. So we see a lot of scope in this industry. Moving forward the next we are doing is, as we don't have alcohol here (Hyderabad), so at the upcoming cafes in Gurugram and South Delhi, we are going to have pubs there.
Do you think tier II and III cities are developing more? What opportunities you see there?
Definitely they are developing. The recent sign up we did is in Vijayawada, which is developing very fast and has a lot of scope. We are doing well in cities like Ludhiana and we are already in the process of putting the second branch there.