“Our prospective customers are definitely Indians who wants to try new cuisines, experiences,”

Short Description
In an exclusive interview to Restaurant India, Devesh Srivastava, CEO, Coco ICHIBANYA talks about the idea of introducing Japanese curry chain to India.
  • Nusra Deputy Features Editor
Devesh Coco Ichibanya

Japanese curry chain Coco ICHIBANYA marked its entry into the Indian market in 2020 by opening first outlet in Gurgaon. “We launched our first outlet in Cyber Hub when COVID-19 was at its peak. With this launch, our initial idea was to see customer responses towards Japanese cuisine, especially towards our authentic Japanese curries. However, due to the pandemic, many customers and potential consumers chose not to dine out, making it slightly more challenging for us to ascertain how they would react to our offerings,” shared Devesh Srivastava, CEO who found that there are already a number of CoCo ICHIBANYA fans, namely Japanese expatriates and some local customers, who had been eagerly awaiting to get their fix of CoCo ICHIBANYA’s famous curry. “Most diners enjoyed exploring the contrast between the flavour of the Japanese sauce and the familiar Indian varieties laden with onion, tomatoes, and local spices. This is what drove us to open our second outlet, albeit two years later than planned as we wanted to wait for a favourable time after the COVID-19 peak in India,” he added. Excerpts from the interview:

What was the idea behind the launch of the brand into the Indian market?

Our India launch has always been a part of our expansion plan, especially considering that fact that curries originated in India. In addition, we have seen a rapid increase demand for Asian cuisine in the country and due to our globally recognised taste of curries, we believe that CoCo ICHIBANYA can offer more comfort food experiences to Indian customers who enjoy Japanese food.           With a population of over 1.3 billion, a rapidly growing middle-income class and one of the world’s largest F&B markets, we believe that India is the right market to launch the CoCoICHI brand and concept. Moreover, Japanese curries are easy to eat, and the flavour profile suits the Indian palate.

Who do you see as the prospect customer- is it the ever evolving Indians or the expat crowds?

Our prospective customers are definitely Indian customers who are eager to try new cuisines and are open to new experiences.

How is the response of the first outlet? What is the average order you get?

The response has surely been picking up as more and more Indian customers have started to appreciate the distinctive flavour profiles and the "comfort" factor that our food offers. The average order value per person is approximately Rs. 750.  

We also see that theirs is a sudden rise of Japanese restaurant brands in India. Why so?

As Indians, our palates are accustomed to complex dishes with rich and punchy flavours and spices. Japanese cuisine also delivers heaps of flavours in a simplistic style. One can find similarities between the two whether it is the ingredients or cooking style. In fact, Japanese curries are similar in taste to Indian curries as they use spices like Shichimi (red chilli powder) which appeal to the Indian palate. We can also attribute this rise in popularity of Japanese brands in India to the rise of the globalised Indian. Earlier, when Indians tried international cuisines, they sought food that had some affinity with Indian food. Simply put, they preferred Indianized cuisines, be it Chinese or Mexican. Over time, the Indian consumer has become more adventurous and curious about new cuisines and wishes to experience authentic cuisines.

I would say we face healthy competition from all the major CDR brands, particularly those that serve Asian cuisines.

How have you designed the menu?

The CoCo ICHIBANYA menu in India is almost the same as our international menu and The CoCo ICHIBANYA menu in India is largely identical to our international menu and offers a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian alternatives while maintaining the highest level of quality in accordance with international standards. In order to localise our menu, we have incorporated dishes like our version of Chicken Keema Curry and Paratha Curry Set, among other dishes. It’s about as accurate a rendition as anything at CoCo ICHIBANYA, where appropriation and reinvention get a Japanese spin. Moreover, keeping religious sentiments in mind, we have included more chicken, seafood and vegetarian options.

 

What’s the top selling item on the menu?

The top selling items on our menu are the Chicken Cutlet (Katsu) Curry, Premium Veg Curry,

 Omelette Curries and Curry Udons.

From where do you source the ingredients?

Most of our ingredients are sourced locally but the original curry comes from Japan to maintain the same global quality.          

During the launch it was shared that Ichibanya aims to open 30 restaurants in 10 years. When can we see those number being achieved?

Yes, these were, in fact, pre-COVID numbers. The exact number of outlets we intend to open in the foreseeable future cannot be disclosed at this time. Having said that, we are on track to achieve the targets we set for ourselves in terms of the numbers. We are now focusing on Delhi NCR, but we will soon move on to other Tier 1 cities.

Also, how do you select location as we see the 2 outlets are present in malls?

The very essence of CoCo ICHIBANYA is comfort food, and where better to offer it than at a mall that attracts both families and millennials. Our target audience includes anyone and everyone who is open to trying new cuisines and experiences.

Any plan opening a high street location?

Yes, we are open to the idea if we get good options in the near future.

What’s your expansion plan?

We would not be able to disclose the exact number of outlets we plan to open nationwide at this point, but we are focusing on Delhi NCR at present and are looking to expand to other tier 1 cities with a franchise model very soon.

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