-Ayshwaria Lakshmi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The ThickShake Factory, India’s first premium thick shake brand, was established in 2013. It became one of the most promising and growing beverage brands. The ThickShake Factory created a space for itself in the niche area of QSR (Quick service restaurant) space with a centralized manufacturing supply, allowing seamless delivery of quality products.
After being in the offline business, the brand is now focusing on cloud kitchens called TTSF Cloud One. It is a delivery-only restaurant that has no physical space for dine-in services. It relies entirely on orders placed through online food aggregators or an online ordering-enabled website or mobile app. Under TTSF Cloud One, it has successfully launched two brands, Prowl Foods and WOWFFLES. Prowl Food’s is into healthy food eating habits with Tiger Shroff as the brand ambassador for the same and WOWFFLES- into artisanal dessert space.
In conversation with Ashwin Mocherla and Yeshwanth Nag Mocherla, Co-founder of The Thickshake Factory and TTSF Cloud One, we learn about the pandemic trends, Thickshakes strategies, and expansion plans.
The pandemic has caused various issues to the hospitality sector, such as Manpower, Financial constraints. What are the challenges you had and how are you working on these challenges?
Ashwin Mocherla: When the Pandemic first started, the major challenge was that F&B was not recognized as an essential service & either were the Online Aggregators like Swiggy & Zomato could operate. These resulted further into other major difficulties like the staff wanting to move to their native places and getting stuck, movement of personnel, steady supply chain, rental overheads & salaries to the employees. We were fortunate to have an amazing team who stepped up voluntarily to offer pay cuts, sacrificed a lot on their personal front to ensure the Company could survive the Pandemic. We had a similar experience with some landlords for rental waivers & Vendors being ‘OK’ with delayed payments yet had pressure to deal with, as not everyone could offer the same generosity. Fortunately, we could pull through the worst stages of the pandemic to now, where we could even operate our outlets via Online Aggregators during the 2nd wave. With the Nation fighting the Pandemic, we are positive that we will soon return to normalcy as we see a surge in orders, both walk-in & online after the Unlock has happened across some cities.
How do you make the products affordable?
Ashwin Mocherla: We manufacture the Ice Creams that go into making our delicious thick shakes. Because of the large economies of scale, we can work good prices with our vendors and supply the Raw Materials to our outlets at a reduced cost while maintaining the Quality at the highest Standard with our State of Art Ice Cream Plant in Hyderabad.
We have a manufacturing plant in Hyderabad and 80 percent of the raw material we use is produced in our factory. 20 percent is outsourced, and our teams are continuously working and negotiating with the vendors on the prices as we want to provide the best quality of end products at an affordable range to all our customers.
How do you differentiate your products from your rivals?
Ashwin Mocherla: Our Products are usually created with Ice Cream being blended with other ingredients to create amazing thick shakes. Because of our proprietary custom recipes, it is quite difficult for local players to compete with our quality & product offering. The Thickshake Factory has always been a pioneer in bringing out exciting products of the highest quality. While, many upcoming local brands usually end replicating or offering very similar products as ours.
At The Thickshake Factory, we have always handpicked our flavours after a thorough analysis of all our crowd-favourite products and ensuring there is something delightful for everyone’s palate. We also actively improve our Menu mix by associating with other top players in the Market to launch exciting flavours. We have tied up with Nestle to launch Kit Kat ThickShake, Parle to launch Milano ThickShake, Redbull to launch Infusion Slushes & Mocktails.
What is your current market region and what trend prevailing in your focused market region?
Ashwin Mocherla: The Thickshake Factory has a powerful presence in states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and the UT of Pondicherry. With the lockdown restrictions being lifted and with the vaccination drive being ramped up, we observe a surge in the Retail industry where people want to re-experience what they have missed during the last 1.5 years including eating out, hanging out with friends & conducting work meetings at public eateries. We also await to serve the best thick shakes to our customers.
Because of the behavioural change caused by the deep discounting of online aggregators, the trend prevailing currently is discounting. There is also a need of the hour to launch more affordable products.
What are the purchase trends you notice among your customers in terms of product purchases? What were the major efforts you put to attract customers?
Ashwin Mocherla: We have seen customers ordering their favourite classic shakes & also trying our new offerings. There was an increase in customers ordering via online aggregators but with lockdown restrictions coming down, we see a surge in walk-in customers as well. The Thickshake Factory has been a brick & mortar QSR chain which employed social media marketing, ATL(Above The Line), BTL(Below The Line) & digital marketing strategies to connect with our Audience. We also do a lot of In-App Marketing on Online Aggregator platforms to connect better with our consumers to make the sale.
We also have a strong loyalty program incentivising our customers to walk into our stores and enjoy their thick shakes. During the lockdown, we launched our e-commerce portal – order.thethickshakefactory.com to make the experience of the customer’s hassle-free and more convenient.
How well is your supply chain and logistics placed? What challenges did the pandemic cause you?
Ashwin Mocherla: The Thickshake Factory has a cold chain logistics model and we have a dedicated team for the overall supply chain and logistics management and ensure that there is no delay in providing the products to all the stores.
Since we base the factory out of Hyderabad, we had issues with transportation to distant locations because of issues on the ground and the restrictions that were imposed on travel from one state to another, indeed even one district to another’s. Now things are much better allowing smooth operations in major cities.
Why did you venture into Cloud Kitchen? what is your strategy for the brand- getting into Cloud kitchen space and planning to dominate the market in the coming years?
Yeshwanth Nag Mocherla: We always wanted to scale our Brand across the country & even globally. With a lot of constraints like high rentals, salaries for skilled staff to provide a better customer experience at the stores, it was difficult to scale exponentially.
With the concept of Cloud Kitchen, it is easier for us to have a better footprint with limited resources. We can spend the saved overheads on advertising & marketing & on bettering the product quality.
How has your business been in comparison to the pre-pandemic?
Ashwin Mocherla: Our products had consistent demand throughout the year with a spike in the sales during the summer months of March, April, May & June, and during the holiday months like December. Unfortunately, because of the lockdown restrictions, we could not fully service summer in both 2020 and 2021. Although Covid-19 is not being transmitted because of Food & Beverages, a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Pandemic resulted in a lot of rumours to stay away from Ice/cold products because people believed it may cause a cold and can reduce their immunity during these perilous times. But what we lost during these non-operational months, we are making up for it because of the consumer’s love to eat, drink & shop and relive the old ways of normalcy.
What are your expansion plans and how are you planning to succeed in this pandemic?
Yeshwanth Nag Mocherla: We will look to expand our horizons & presence across the digital food commerce ecosystem in the coming months leveraging our own & partnering with various Third-Party Food Ordering & Delivery Platforms, beyond Swiggy & Zomato along with opening/reopening new stores with a reliable pace.
With a plan to develop, curate & scale multiple brands across Omni channels, the company, TTSF Cloud One is aiming to operate multiple Cloud Kitchens by 2022. By the end of 2021, the company aims to be in the major metros i.e. Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi.