Mumbai's The Serial Griller: Owner Anant shares brand story, market insights & why he loves Zomato

Mumbai's The Serial Griller: Owner Anant shares brand story, market insights & why he loves Zomato

"Good food starts with good ingredients."

Mumbai's The Serial Griller, born out of a passion for food, started its journey in 2016 with a simple mission to serve wholesome, gourmet burgers that stood apart from the crowd. Founded by a true Andheri West native, Anant Chowdhary, the brand's inception was marked by a desire to bring quality burgers to the neighbourhood.

With a focus on top-notch ingredients and innovative recipes, Anant has shared his insights about The Serial Griller's expansion plans, the brand's growth, and much more, in a recent interview with us.

"...maintaining consistency is the key for any business that is scaling."

Q. How did you come up with the concept of Gourmet Burgers? What inspired you to start the Serial Griller?

A. Anant shares, "Back in the days, I used to have my jolly good marketing job. I was working at Grazing Goat Pictures as a marketing professional, and somewhere down the road, I was a foodie, and I always wanted to eat good food. Unfortunately, because of the situation in the house, I was never able to afford eating out more often, which led to my passion for cooking."

He adds, "If I have to give you a little brief, somewhere in 2015, I saw this concept of cloud kitchens where people were taking a back end kitchen and they were delivering food. So I threw this idea to my friend, we had to create a whole business plan. However, at that point in time, there was an option too that I found out, which was Tiny Owl. What they did was they used to onboard brands or a home chef. So what I realised is If I want to actually test my food out, I should sign up with Tiny Owl. To my luck, it was a big hit and Tiny Owl actually decided to start purchasing my burgers from me."

He mentions, "Unfortunately, Tiny Owl also didn't start because at the end of 2015, when my onboarding was actually happening, Tiny Owl decided to shut down. Then yeah, back to square one, 2016, around April, I decided that I want to start this. So what I decided is I set up a few recipes, I called in my friend, I made them try food. They liked food, whatever I made, and this is how a six, simple six-burger menu is what we started with. My initial investment was just ₹5000. I purchased one fryer because I couldn't fry the french fries in my gas. So yeah, that's how we started The Serial Griller on the 4th of June 2016."

Q. What factors did you consider when choosing the brand's locations?

A. Anant tells, "The location of the brand was more of convenience because like I said, I started from my house. So my biggest base was always Andheri. I am an Andheri boy. I have been born and raised in Andheri. So, they say you have to pluck the closest fruit. And that's what I did for me. That's how I started Andheri, right. I started from my house and I knew that my friends and family were going to support me. So, that's how Andheri happened. For my second location which was Bandra, when we opened a cloud kitchen, that was somewhere more of a decision that we took because we wanted to be in a slightly upmarket area. I'm not saying that Andheri is not upmarket, but then compared to the spending power and the real estate market, how prices fluctuate, Bandra is expected to be a higher spending market. So that's how Bandra happened.

Everything is your playground, right? You just need to be in every area in Bombay. I mean, the only thing you could, if you want to consider is that don't open outlets too close to each other because you're then eventually going to eat up your own business.

Q. How would you differentiate user preferences in Bandra and Andheri?

A. "See," says Anant, "I think there is no straight answer to this. I think let's divide this answer into two categories. One is in terms of frequency of orders and one is in terms of your average order value. A person sitting in Andheri wants food that is more budgeted. At the same time, they will order from you twice a week also. But a person sitting in Bandra will not be so influenced by an offer or a discount." He also states, "But having said that, they will still not order from you twice every week. So these two things are the biggest differences what I feel between Bandra and Andheri and it's completely opposite."

Q. Any cultural differences between Bandra and Andheri?

A. I don't think I've seen any cultural differences to be honest, because we, again, the product we're selling, so we don't sell pork products primarily because a lot of our customers are Muslims and they are, you know, basically more sensitive towards, you know, cross-contamination and mixing of utensils and all. So other than that, I think we serve chicken and buffalo and that has towards cross-contamination and mixing of utensils and all. So other than that, I think we serve chicken and buffalo and that has been easily accepted in both the markets, Andheri and Bandra for that matter.

Q. So many people in Bandra area are health conscious. So how does a burger brand work out in such a market?

A. "People think that burgers or rather say gourmet burgers are not healthy. If people are actually into bulking and gaining, they eat our burgers, as our focus is on the meat itself. We believe that the whole idea of starting a gourmet burger brand came from the West. And when we talk about West, it's not just about having a bread and a fried patty but it was always about having a good bread. They usually make burgers from brioche buns which also is an egg bun. So it's good, it has a good amount of protein in it." Anant adds, "We don't use preservatives. We use actual chicken when we say a chicken burger. We use actual buffalo when we make a buff burger. So the quality that we are giving you is as good as wholesome food. People who understand that, they end up ordering a lot. In fact, when we started in Khar, we used to get this order for keto burger every second day, I'm assuming it was Aamir Khan's order."

Q. Have you noticed any distinct preferences or trends between your Khar and Andheri outlets?

A. "So in terms of food preferences, I'd say there is no drastic difference to be honest. If you talk about Andheri, yes, definitely people will not eat too much red meat compared to people in Bandra because I think in a place like Bandra, people have travelled a bit more" says Anant.

He adds, "I remember vaguely actually, when I had started my business in Bandra, there was a very harsh review that I got from a customer. He wrote a very nasty review saying these guys don't know how to make burgers at all. So I made a call to him to understand, so he told me, why are you putting all this masala in your burger? I said, we have been operating in Andheri since two years now and the product has worked.He said, bro, this is Bandra, not Andheri. I was like, oh my God, whatever I got myself into. And then after few years, we introduced this international range of burgers where, for a certain set of customers who don't want the masala, they just want beef and the salt and pepper on it. So it's to cater to that kind of customer. So we have everything."

Q. How do you see The Serial Griller evolving?

A. Anant claims, "The scene has evolved tremendously. I mean, if you've seen the trajectory, the fact that the number of burger brands that have opened in the recent past itself is the answer for this question. In fact, on New Year's, burger was the most ordered item on Zomato in terms of number of orders, not in terms of SKUs. So yeah, I think people in Bombay have evolved a lot."

Adding on he states, "However, you know when when a customer talks about a gourmet burger, they understand that this is not a frozen product. This is not something that has preservatives. And it doesn't have additives. It's not like you're eating soya and instead of chicken. When we say we make a chicken burger, we give you a chicken burger. So yeah, the market has evolved tremendously."

Q. The target audience?

A. Anant shares, "I think for burgers, the primary age group that we see are people from college. Our restaurant is usually filled with people from college. So if I take the age group, we can talk about 18 to 30. A few people who understand or who like the burgers generally would be in the range of 30 to 40, but primarily it's under 30. So 18 to 30 is the Gen Z, as they say, is our target audience."

Q. How do you maintain consistency across all your outlets?

A.  So maintaining consistency is the key for any business that is scaling. So in my initial days, I used to prepare the food myself on a daily basis. So what we've done now is we have a centralised kitchen. Again, that centralised kitchen is controlled by me. I have people who help me out over there. So what we've done is we basically trained and passed on our recipes to the people who are making it. And what we do is we centralised all our patties and our sauces from our central kitchen to all our outlets. And in that way, it's much easier or we reduce the margin of error that could happen at an outlet level.

Q. Where do you source your ingredients for the perfect burger, and what sets them apart?

A. Anand emphasises, "Good food starts with good ingredients. Whether we have, like I told you my favourite, the truffle beef burger, we use only the top quality truffle oil that's available in the market. He tells, "We have stringent quality checks, everything has to be under our SOPs. When we receive red meat, the red meat has to be of a certain colour, certain quality. When we receive vegetables, we pick up A grade vegetables. We do not pick up the B and C grade vegetables, even our onions, we will pay probably 20, 30 rupees extra on the kg. We only source good ingredients. So yeah, this is what has helped us actually maintain our quality till date."

Q. Considering all of the 'The Serial Griller' outlets, who would win online orders versus walk-ins?

A. "Hands down, online orders" says Anant. "I think in today's market, burger has become a product of convenience. I mean, think of yourself, Monday to Friday, morning till evening, you're sitting in an office. What do you do? You're not going to be carrying your tiffin every day you might want to binge, you might want to indulge, what kind of food you'll order? You will not order butter chicken with naan or roti in your office and eat. That's the food that you will probably eat at a restaurant. You might order a pizza, you might order a sandwich, you might order a burger. And that's one of the reasons why burger is a very delivery-friendly product."

Having said that, Anant personally feels, "If a consumer asks me, whether they should order the burger at home or eat it at an outlet? I would say 120% that please come and eat it at the outlet because the product that we sell tastes amazing when you eat it fresh. If you eat it delivered to your office or your home, we try our level best to, you know, give top-notch packaging, our boxes, our foil, give the food hot to you. But a delivered burger, a soggy bun, that has absorbed all the sauces and all, will not taste the same."

Q. Swiggy or Zomato?

A. "Zomato, any day." Anant adds, " Zomato has been pivotal for my business, you know, to be very honest. When I started my business in 2016, I was selling offline only in the evenings. And then I went to a friend of mine, who runs a very legendary restaurant in Andheri West 'Pishu's', he got me onboarded. And Zomato was the first company that actually took me on board. And in September, Zomato business started, and the entire business changed. And that's primarily the reason why I decided that, now is the time I want to take this full time. Because there was a tremendous potential. Our sales bumped up 5x once we started with Zomato. So I think if I had the confidence to start something, it was not just my product, but it was also the platform that Zomato had provided us."

Q. Top three things that set your burgers apart from others in the market?

A. Anant explains "I think what sets our brand apart is that every brand that has come into the market today has come after us, right? So, I think we have been testing the waters, setting the market and we have been pioneers for seven years, as we started in 2016. So, everything that everybody talks today about burgers has in some way or the other been inspired by us. So, you know, if you ask me to be specific and tell you three things, again, I will never be able to actually narrow it down. Because we serve everything, everything that you can possibly imagine that is being sold in the market today has already been done by us."

Q. What would you recommend from the menu?

A. Anant smiles, "I think asking for my recommendation is like asking a father who's your favorite child, to be very honest. But okay, if I have to start with vegetarian first, I think I love the Classic Veg Burger. It's a very hearty potato and mixed vegetable patty with some garlic sauce, a nice spicy mayo, some vegetables. That's something you can eat every evening. If I have to get in the non-veg burgers, then my personal favourite is the Truffle Beef, which is just a salt and pepper patty, a buffalo patty, nice fresh patty. We don't even freeze it. So it's freshly ground straight to the griller and we lather it with just truffle mayo and some cheese. So these are two of my best picks."

Q. Are there any plans for future expansions?

A. Anant shares, "We have expanded actually through the franchising route. We opened up a franchise in Chembur. We are opening up a franchise in Andheri East that's under fit out." He adds, " A burger is a very scalable product. It's much easy to follow a hub and spoke model where we have food going in from our central kitchen to our different outlets. So definitely expansion is on the cards. But because we've always been a bootstrap company, we've not taken funds from outside as expansion comes at a price. And we don't have that kind of funding, which is primarily the reason why we have chosen to expand via the franchisee route. We do get a lot of franchise inquiries from people who have money and they want to invest."

Winning customers' hearts since 2016!

Since its establishment in 2016, The Serial Griller has been winning the hearts of customers, starting from its roots in Andheri. Anant underscores the brand's unwavering dedication to excellence, meticulously sourcing premium ingredients to create gourmet burgers celebrated for their taste and nutritional value. Recognising the evolving preferences in Mumbai's burger landscape, The Serial Griller remains committed to offering fresh, preservative-free options. Looking ahead, Anant is determined to continue delighting customers with quality fare, staying true to the brand's ethos.

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