September 8, 2021 7:30:14 pm
Across the globe, a cafe was considered an easygoing place where people could work, drink, party and relax, but in India, it was just a place for coffee, recalls restaurateur Vikrant Batra of the time he opened the first outlet of Cafe Delhi Heights at Gurgaon’s Cross Point Mall in 2011. Ten years later, it has grown from one cafe to 25, making its presence felt in Tier II cities as well. Its founder, Batra talks about the evolution of cafe culture in Delhi, their future plans and how they survived the lockdowns over the last 18 months:
What was the concept in your mind when you launched Cafe Delhi Heights?
Coming from a family with a catering and banqueting background, I grew up amid food and also spent a lot of time around it. From my international travels and love for food, I realised there was a vacuum of cafes in Delhi — as a place where people of all generations could sit together comfortably as they unwind, chill and enjoy a meal of their liking. With our first outlet at Gurgaon’s Cross Point Mall, the journey of an all-day neighbourhood cafe began.
How has the evolution been. Have there been any learnings?
We have been fortunate that our patrons have accepted our ideology towards our brand completely — which is good food at right pricing with right cafe vibes. Also, we have kept the same menu for all locations.
How did CDH pitch itself at a time when cafe culture was identified with Barista and CCD?
We tried to make it ‘your everyday happy place’ — bringing in casual dining culture and introducing the casual attitude of ‘Hi’ as greetings instead of the more formal ‘Good afternoons’. As for food, we have pitched Cafe Delhi Heights as a place that offers food for each palate and each generation.
How far has the brand come now? And how does the future look like?
We started with the smallest team of 24 people with a single outlet at Gurgaon’s Cross Point Mall. Today, we have 25 outlets, around 1,000 team members and a lot of plans. We are already present in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Chandigarh, Pune and Mumbai, and opening soon in Jalandhar, Lucknow and more. Besides expanding to Tier II cities, we are launching new concepts at Ambience Mall Gurgaon and Cyber Park Gurgaon.
Has the pandemic changed anything? How did you deal with lockdowns and closures?
Last year was very challenging. From packed venues to locked venues, we have seen it all. To keep the team united in such a tough time was very challenging. We started contactless transactions, which utilises technology and app-based solutions for ordering and payment. We also began deliveries from several outlets to start some business and help our staff recover.