CCD get some respite as bankruptcy proceedings stayed for now

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August 28, 2023

Viveat Susan Pinto, Financial Express

August 28, 2023

Coffee Day Global, which operates the Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) chain, has been given a temporary relief against bankruptcy proceedings initiated by lender IndusInd Bank last month. The Chennai bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLAT) last week halted admission of IndusInd Bank’s plea against Coffee Day Global, a subsidiary of the listed Coffee Day Enterprises (CDEL), by the NCLT Bengaluru, till September 20.

What this means for CCD is that it get some more time at a time when it has swung into the black after struggling for the last few years, since the tragic demise of its founder VG Siddhartha in 2019. Coffee Day Global posted a net profit of Rs 24.57 crore for the June quarter of 2023-24 (FY24) versus a net loss of Rs 11.73 crore reported in the same period last year.

Revenue from operations stood at Rs 223.20 crore in the quarter under review, a growth of nearly 18% versus the year-ago period, CDEL results for Coffee Day Global showed.

More importantly, CCD outlets are down to 467 in the June quarter of FY24 from a peak of 1,752 stores in FY19, indicating that the company is shutting down unprofitable operations as it looks to manage its debt and other expenses. Group debt is down to Rs 1,711 crore, according to its latest annual report for FY23, versus Rs 7,214 crore reported in FY19.

“While the coffee retail market in India is growing, in CCD‘s case the need to downsize has to do with internal issues. Sometimes a smaller footprint just helps to manage operations better especially when you are dealing with larger problems such as a debt overhang,” says Devangshu Dutta, chief executive officer of retail consultancy Third Eyesight.

CCD’s financial health is critical for CDEL, which derives close to 94% of its group turnover from the coffee retail business, according to its FY23 annual report. In FY22, the contribution of the coffee retail business to group turnover was 85%. Losses of Coffee Day Global in FY23 narrowed to Rs 69.62 crore from Rs 112.48 crore in FY22. In FY19, the company had a net profit of Rs 10 crore.

Apart from cafes, CCD also has kiosks and vending machines installed in corporate offices, institutions and business hubs. While the number of kiosks has fallen over the last few years and is at around 265 now from a peak of 537 in FY19, the number of vending machines have been growing after briefly slowing down over the last few years. From a peak of 58,697 crore in FY20, it is now at 50,870 in number, the company’s latest results show.

CCD is also expected to fight the insolvency proceedings against it aggressively, according to industry sources. IndusInd Bank has claimed that Coffee Day Global defaulted on a loan of Rs 94 crore, which occurred on February 28, 2020. The company has disputed this in court.

(Published in Financial Express)

Reliance to launch British sandwich outlet Pret A Manger in India

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June 30, 2022

Written By Aditya Kalra & Abhirup Roy

MUMBAI, June 30 (Reuters) – Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) said on Thursday it would open outlets of Pret A Manger in India under a franchise deal with the British sandwich and coffee chain, a first foray by the Indian firm in the country’s growing food and beverage industry.

Reliance Brands Ltd (RBL), a unit of the conglomerate that also runs India’s biggest retail chain, would start by opening branches of Pret, as the brand is known in Britain, in big Indian cities, both companies said.

RBL Chief Executive Darshan Mehta said in joint statement the partnership was “rooted in the strong growth potential” of the Pret brand, known for its organic coffee and upmarket sandwiches, and the Indian food and beverage industry.

The first outlet would open in Mumbai before March 2023 and India was expected to become one of Pret’s top three markets in three years, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Pret A Manger, whose name means “ready to eat” in French, first opened in London in 1986. It now has 550 outlets globally, including in the United States and several European states. It is owned by investment group JAB and founder Sinclair Beecham.

In India, the brand will compete with Starbucks (SBUX.O), which has a joint venture with India’s Tata, and Costa Coffee, which is owned by Coca-Cola (KO.N).

Mukesh Ambani, one India’s richest men, runs Reliance, which has more than 2,000 supermarkets and grocery stores in India. Reliance also has partnerships with luxury brands, such as Burberry and Jimmy Choo.

“Reliance wants to look at retail in all its shapes and forms. Over time, they’ve realised partnerships are the way for business formats that may be difficult or slower to crack,” said Devangshu Dutta, head of retail consultancy firm Third Eyesight.

Source: reuters

Café Coffee Day – steaming or sputtering?

Devangshu Dutta

April 24, 2016

(Published in the Financial Express, 10 May 2016)

In about 20 years, Café Coffee Day (CCD) has grown from one ‘cyber café’ in Bengaluru to the leading chain of cafés in the country by far.

In its early years, it was a conservative, almost sleepy, business. The launch of Barista in the late 1990s and its rapid growth was the wake-up call for CCD — and wake up it did!

CCD then expanded aggressively. It focussed on the young and more affluent customers. Affordability was a keystone in its strategy and it largely remains the most competitively priced among the national chains.

Its outlets ranged widely in size — and while this caused inconsistency in the brand’s image — it left competitors far behind in terms of market coverage. However, the market hasn’t stayed the same over the years and CCD now has tough competition.

CCD competes today with not only domestic cafés such as Barista or imports such as Costa and Starbucks, but also quick-service restaurants (QSRs) such as McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. In the last couple of years, in large cities, even the positioning of being a ‘hang-out place’ is threatened by a competitor as unlikely as the alcoholic beverage-focussed chain Beer Café.

CCD is certainly way ahead of other cafés in outlet numbers and visibility in over 200 cities. It has an advantage over QSRs with the focus on beverage and meetings, rather than meals. Food in CCD is mostly pre-prepared rather than in-store (unlike McD’s and Dunkin’) resulting in lower capex and training costs, as well as greater control since it’s not depending on store staff to prepare everything. However, rapid expansion stretches product and service delivery and high attrition of front-end staff is a major operational stress point. Upmarket initiatives Lounge and Square, which could improve its average billing, are still a small part of its business.

Delivery (begun in December 2015) and app-orders seem logical to capture busy consumers, and to sweat the assets invested in outlets. However, for now, I’m questioning the incremental value both for the consumer and the company’s ROI once all costs (including management time and effort) are accounted for. The delivery partner is another variable (and risk) in the customer’s experience of the brand. Increasing the density through kiosks and improving the quality of beverage dispensed could possibly do more for the brand across the board.

The biggest advantage for CCD is that India is a nascent market for cafés. The café culture has not even scratched the surface in the smaller markets and in travel-related locations. The challenge for CCD is to act as an aggressive leader in newer locations, while becoming more sophisticated in its positioning in large cities. It certainly needs to allocate capex on both fronts but larger cities need more frequent refreshment of the menu and retraining of staff.

An anonymous Turkish poet wrote: “Not the coffee, nor the coffeehouse is the longing of the soul. A friend is what the soul longs for, coffee is just the excuse.” There are still many millions of friends in India for whom the coffee-house remains unexplored territory, whom CCD could bring together.

Smelling the Coffee

Devangshu Dutta

March 30, 2010

Last week, Starbucks unveiled its strategy for profitable global growth, having taken approximately US$ 600 million out of costs in since January 2008.

About 3 years ago in a leaked memo, chairman Howard Schultz had raised concern about how, in the race to scale and to become consistent, Starbucks was losing sight of all critical things that had made it successful in the first place. (“The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience – Soul Searching by Howard Schultz“).

In January 2008, Schultz took on an active role as CEO in a bid to stem the rot (“Leadership Change at Starbucks – The Barista Returns“).

These two years have been eventful. Shortly after Schultz stepped in, Starbucks announced that it would close 600 under-performing stores in the US. That was well before the “financial tsunami”. In 2009, another 200 in the US and 100 globally were identified for closure, and the company also scaled back on its 2009 expansion plan for 200 new stores.

At its shareholders’ meeting last week, Starbucks presented a more confident face, and outlined a return to growth with plans to expand its presence and “accelerate profitable growth in both the U.S. retail business and in key international markets”. (This profitable growth mantra was also recited in last year’s shareholder meeting.)

However, while the business is looking better, it is far from fixed.

The environment is different. Globally, consumer wallets are leaner, competitors are meaner, and Starbucks may yet need to shrink further; the fat ain’t all in the latte.

Yet, there must be much good in the business if, for all its faults, it still gets imitated around the world.

According to Starbucks, it currently has less than 4 percent of the U.S. coffee market with its 6,800 own and 4,400 licensed stores, and less than 1 percent of the global coffee market even with 2,000+ company stores and 3,500 licensed stores. The company sees that as enough headroom to grow.

Schultz has promised to put the tough lessons learned in the last two years to good use. The company currently has approximately 200 fewer stores than it did at the beginning of 2009 even after new store openings during the year. (To put the current number of 16,700+ stores in perspective, the company had a total of “only” 2,600 stores in Q1-2000.)

But there’s something to think about. If the entrepreneur needs to step back in to fix things gone horribly corporate (bland) and wrong, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that there’s a logical limit to the size and scaling-up capability of personalized experience businesses.

Or, as a friend says, scale can be a logical outcome of excellence but excellence is never the logical outcome of scale.

It remains to be seen whether this round of growth will come from the company’s natural strengths or whether Starbucks will return to growth-by-steroids as Schultz eases on the controls.

Wi-Fi in Coffee Shops – win-win or win-lose?

Devangshu Dutta

August 9, 2009

At the end of 2006, in an article about market segmentation, I’d proposed a customer segment called “Cafe Workers” who look at coffee-shops as inexpensive real-estate to work out of.  These include professionals, start-up entrepreneurs, small businesspeople and travellers into a city. (Click here to open the PDF file of the article “Slicing the Market“.)

But now, amidst the recession, apparently it is one positioning that some coffee shops don’t want to buy into. The Wall Street Journal reports that there is a backlash from many coffee shops towards customers who enjoy the use of free wi-fi and spend hours occupying tables that should be turning over more. (No More Perks: Coffee Shops Pull the Plug on Laptop Users). Many of the comments on the article are sympathetic towards the cafe owners, calling such customers “moochers”.

While the dismay of cafe owners over customers who abuse the facilities is understandable, could they be doing themselves harm by actively discouraging laptop use? Wi-fi is just one of the sticky aspects of a ‘hanging-around’ culture that the cafes have encouraged in the first place as part of their business model.

By and large, wi-fi enabled cafes around the world are more expensive than the ones which are not. Wi-fi goes along with the more premium positioning, and they should be able to balance the space premium lost on long-term wi-fi users with the grab-and-go customers who are paying higher prices without using the facilities.

That said, in specific cafes or at specific times of day or days of the week when there is a bottleneck, they should be able to limit the length of the IP-lease.

All it takes is a bit of thought and a tiny application of technology, not total disruption of the business model.