As one of the most recognisable brands in the world, Burger King is a company that needs little introduction. Every day, more than 11mn customers sink their teeth into the burger chain’s menu and now, thanks to its ambitious expansion plan, the company is expanding its reach in India.
Embarking on a mission to become the nation’s leading fast food restaurant, Burger King India has strived to optimise its supply chain, drive innovation, and uphold its core values of taste, quality and affordability.
The Florida-based burger chain has made a splash in over 100 countries across the globe. However, this isn’t a matter of taking the brand’s American success and duplicating it abroad, explains Chief Marketing Officer Kapil Grover. Rather, the company’s entire strategy, brand, and menu have had to be tailored to fit the unique tastes of the Indian market.
A unique market
“Quick service restaurants (QSR’s) operate differently in the western world than they do in India,” explains Grover. “In the western world, QSR’s are focused more on the idea of convenience and so a large number of the consumptions happens via drive-thrus but in India, it's more about the experience and the aspirational qualities of the brand.
“Our overall vision is to be the leading QSR in the country, and we want to achieve that by offering the best-tasting burgers, made with highest quality ingredients, offered at the most affordable prices,” he adds.
It is an upward trajectory that tells the story of Burger King India. The fast-food giant launched its first restaurant in November 2014 and, since then, it has carefully handpicked more and more metropolitan locations.
“The response to our first 10 locations was fantastic. Our menu was well received, our experience was seen to be amazing, and that gave us the confidence to scale up. Now we are perhaps one of the fastest growing companies to launch 100 stores in the Indian QSR market,” notes Grover.
Optimistic about the company’s growth, Sandeep Dey, Chief Supply Chain Officer at Burger King India, says that the brand’s franchise growth has offered more opportunities than challenges.
“Our overall business philosophy has always been to grow deeper rather than grow wider; to strengthen our existing markets rather than entering new cities,” explains Dey. “That philosophy is actually helping us to leverage the supply chain cost and make it much more efficient.
“When we open a new store in a new city, the initial distribution cost is slightly higher, because we are not utilising the full potential of the warehouses and delivery trucks, for example,” Dey says.
“However, when we open five or six stores in that region, the overall distribution cost will go down significantly and the stores will start becoming much more profitable. Therefore, scalability is driving profitability and vice versa.”
Transforming the menu
Making a mark in the Indian market was no easy feat; it involved adapting the Burger King brand, and specifically its menu, for an Indian market. Locally designed and blind tasted by local customers, Burger King India developed around 18 unique burgers for the Indian market that cannot be purchased anywhere else in the world.
“India is a very different market compared to anywhere else in the world in terms of the country’s taste palate and unique vegetarian preference. Over 50% of the population here is vegetarian, so we couldn’t take the international menu and apply it here. It had to be completely redesigned.
“Then we had to adapt our supply chain to be able to manage that level of complexity, because although it offers unparalleled variety to the consumer, it also has to offer consistency in taste and quality.”
Menu innovation has been integral to Burger King India’s success. Grover says that this is largely due to the brand’s vendors and processes such as the supplier-led innovation programme (SLIP), whereby vendors are given the opportunity to innovate new menu options.
“Our vendor partners really demonstrate a huge amount of agility, flexibility, and high speed to market when launching new products,” observes Dey. “The kind of collaborative effort they have demonstrated has been phenomenal. They have an equal conviction to the Burger King brand as our team and I think that’s so important.”
Quality, taste and value are the fundamentals at Burger King India and balancing these conflicting priorities is perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing the company today.
By optimising the company’s distribution cost and leveraging shared services and infrastructure, Dey and his team are driving down transportation costs. Combined with the company’s relevant brand and flexibility in its supply chain, this has proven to be a recipe for success.
“Our supply chain has played a tremendous role in helping set up Burger King as a brand in the Indian market,” asserts Dey. “To be able to find high-quality vendors who can deliver consistent quality at competitive costs has been challenging and a lot of effort has gone into the supply chain to ensure we can deliver our complex menu, but I think that has been the real trick which has helped us succeed in this market. We have developed a strong back end that can support our diverse, complex menu and which can fulfil our consumers’ needs.”
Although they boast an intricate supply chain, Burger King India operates with an extremely lean team. By outsourcing everyday non-value-adding work to specialised logistic companies, Dey and his team focus on what matters - meaningful, value-adding, strategic work that truly makes a difference to both customers and employees alike.
“Fundamentally, our organisation is based on three key pillars - hard work, hunger, and humility,” says Grover. “When we're hiring talent, we hire those who actually believe in those core values. We provide them with enormous opportunities to demonstrate this in their day-to-day work life. They are culturally aligned, they're getting tremendous job satisfaction because they could see the value they’re bringing to the table and making a meaningful contribution to the organisation’s growth.”
As the brand has penetrated the Indian market, Burger King India has seen success after success - however, the burger chain isn’t complacent about the work that lies ahead. Working alongside its vendors, Burger King India has created a meticulous plan to invest in R&D, system processes, and people capability; to create capacity ahead of time through new and improved technologies and to retain cost leadership. In doing so, it hopes to cement its position as the nation’s top fast-food chain.
“This category has huge potential, and we have just scraped the surface” observes Grover. “Lifestyles in India are evolving rapidly, especially in metropolitan cities. Income levels are growing, Millennials and Gen-Z consumers are driving consumption and are much more open to Western experiences. There is a lot of opportunity to drive penetration, a lot of opportunity to drive frequency with our consumer cohort, and that's why we are extremely bullish about the future.”