We got the chance to interview a deliciously promising food start-up – The Tea Toast Co., from Belgaum, Karnataka. It was not only inspiring but also quite refreshing to know about their distinctive approach towards combining cuisines and customer satisfaction with a personal love for a beverage that is at the heart of an entire nation – tea! So, grab yourself a cup of your favorite beverage, and let’s begin.
Tell us about yourself and the team of The Tea Toast Co.
The Tea Toast Co. is a Food Start-up headquartered at Belgaum. It was formed by three passionate young lads with their mind in engineering, heart in food, an eye for detail, and a discerning taste!
The X-Factor is the Pure Veg fusion menu combining global cuisine with an Indian flavor to savor your taste buds freshly sourced from the lush green farms straight to your plate. As the world is moving towards Vegetarianism, TTTC offers the best quality food & beverage that are loaded with health benefits. Spoilt for choices the menu is designed in a way to let anyone, be it a student or a working professional, experience Food Euphoria!
Tell us a little about your background – your education and what you did before The Tea Toast Co.?
The founders bring with them a stronghold on technical, marketing, and business development processes.
Rahul Kednurkar is an award-winning business leader, entrepreneur, and engineer. He has made a career out of making the impossible, possible. Conferred with many prestigious awards from the Ministry and Govt. of India, Rahul has led multi-million-dollar engineering and IoT projects in the past. He brings in vast experience spanning 11+ years in various profiles from diverse industries and a strong social consciousness. Rahul’s strengths have helped the company streamline its operations part of the business to a large extent.
Akshay Kathariya is an entrepreneur and engineer with over 11 years of experience in various fields including automobile/aerospace production, wholesale/retail trading, commercial interiors, and the construction and food and beverage industry. He is creative, energetic, has a sharp sense of tapping business opportunities, and can conceptualize innovative ideas into creating scalable business models. He currently manages Operations and Finance across all stores of The Tea Toast Co. Akshay shares a keen sense of attention to detail and a strong business acumen that is an asset for the company’s growth.
Akshay Kulkarni is an entrepreneur by vocation and Explorer at heart, with over 10 years of experience in the field of designing and commissioning Medium to Large Industrial, Institutional, and Hospitality projects, adept at handling sales, strong grasp over consumer insights, and experience in Project Assessment and Technological Leadership. Akshay brings in a youth-centric and informed perspective to the food business. His passion for travel and food has taken him across the world picking up the best on offer.
What inspired the idea of The Tea Toast Co.? How did it start?
The founders Rahul Kednurkar, Akshay Kathariya & Akshay Kulkarni; college buddies, established entrepreneurs, and die-hard foodies were ideating on their next project together while returning from a friends bachelors party in Goa; and knew instantly that it had to be related to food, and what better than India’s favorite combination Tea & Toast!
Brainstorming sessions turned into intense & targeted discussions; nights were spent on research & days went in collaborating with various well-wishers and stakeholders. In no time, the company was registered and TTTC started a business. TTTC opened its door to the customers from their flagship outlet at the Belgaum Airport on 15th August 2019. A day special to all Indians and TTTC. It has now grown to 4 outlets; one each in an educational institution, high street, airport, and one in the form of the food truck.
What is your business model?
The company generates its major revenues from direct sales. Customer service and satisfaction are the left, right, and center of all operations.
“Our expansion planning includes boosting sales figures through franchise – both FOCO & FOFO. We have partnered with online food aggregators like Swiggy and Zomato to support online deliveries. We also have our own delivery mechanism in place, and we do undertake catering services and hosting parties/events in order to increase footfall and boost sales.”
What were the obstacles/challenges you faced?
It would be untrue if we said that the sailing was smooth. We had our share of difficulties and pitfalls. Being first-timers in F&B Industry, the founders were posed with many challenges; be it menu setting, location strategy, streamlining business processes, recruitment, employee retention, hygiene, and hospitality etiquettes.
The founders being entrepreneurs was no stranger to challenges; the manner in which the challenges were to be handled was slightly different as compared to their past obstacles. The team learned quickly that finding a workaround and operating like a well-oiled machine was the answer to most of the problems.
What were the challenges you encountered during the time of COVID-19?
COVID-19 brought with it problems that were never heard of. Our 2nd outlet had just turned 1 month old when the pandemic hit the world. We had just started to strengthen our customer base when suddenly we had to now think of staying afloat. We weren’t ready to lose our valuable staff and hence decided to take care of them until we found a solution. This put quite a load on our balance sheets. Critical challenges were paying salaries, rent, etc when there was no steady income, employee retention, taking care of employee’s health and welfare, customer retention after unlock, also completely reframing our strategy post covid.
We onboarded our outlets onto online ordering platforms and also started our own food delivery mechanism. The sales picked up after a few weeks and we could finally find our footing. Now after a year and a half of pandemic, we can say that quick thinking and determination to stay afloat helped us throughout this difficult time.
What sets The Tea Toast Co. apart?
Bringing the world-class food experience to Tier 2 cities at affordable prices has been the USP of TTTC. Our food & beverage menu is a beautiful marriage of global cuisine with an Indian touch.
Did you always have an interest in entrepreneurship?
Yes, challenges excited us, and what better than entrepreneurship to follow one’s passion and make a difference to the nation’s building. Through our venture; along with bringing the food experience to smaller cities, we also wanted to provide employment opportunities to locals. The founders, being foodies themselves stepping into the F&B industry became a natural choice.
Where do you see The Tea Toast Co. in 5 years from now? What are your goals, future plans for The Tea Toast Co.?
We aim to open 100 stores in the next 5 years – a combination of company-owned company-operated (COCO), franchise-owned company-operated (FOCO) & Franchise-owned franchise-operated (FOFO). The goal is to make our presence globally and build a global brand that enhances human bonding by bringing them together over a cup of happiness. We have plans of expanding in Tier 2 and 3 cities and create brand awareness. This financial year, we are planning to open 5 company-owned outlets in cities like Hubli, Goa, Pune, Kolhapur, Sangli.
What would you tell younger and new entrepreneurs looking forward to forming their own start-up?
India is a country of myriad opportunities and the future of our country looks bright with the younger generations inclined towards entrepreneurship. The answer to your challenges is everywhere around you; just keep an open heart and look at things from all perspectives. Some people like challenges; it excites and motivates them. I would advise them to consider the burning issues at the moment and solve them. That way a task is accomplished and a sense of achievement is gained; which in turn pushes them to do more.
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