Amit Gandhi and Sawan Ravani swear by the simplicity of their concept. But in a market flooded with seasone foodpreneurs, is simple enough?
The heart of Pressman’s pitch is simple: they make fresh, tasty sandwiches. It’s definitely not the first business with this offer; fast food restaurants have been around for years. But by eliminating the fuss that usually surrounds such outlets, the brand has succeeded in making food their ultimate hero.
My friend Amit Gandhi, who is also the Co-founder of Pressman’s, and I have been foodies all our life and love to explore food wherever we are in the world. We usually prefer food concepts that are practical, accessible and honest in your face without any fuss or gimmick, which we believe are unfortunately rare to find in today’s times. There came a point when we said to ourselves that it will be best to plunge in and create our own concept that we truly believe in and have wished for years to experience. And that is when we started conceiving Pressman’s,” says Sawan Ravani.
In pursuit of perfection, Sawan and Amit spent two years transforming their hazy idea of a sandwich shop to an actual running business model. They then decided to launch their first outlet on International Sandwich Day, i.e. November 3, 2014. “In order to get every aspect of the concept from food quality to branding to service to overall look and feel, we had to not only conceive and develop every facet in detail but also keep revising the same over and over again until we were absolutely confident of it,” they quip.
These two years of going from idea to inception taught the entrepreneurial duo some hardened lessons. Like the fact that the F&B industry might look glamourous from the outside, but, it requires serious hard work and dedication. “One should venture into retail F&B not just because of passion but more importantly because of your ability to remain vigilant 24X7. The restaurant business is all about quality, and a disaster is waiting to happen at all times, the moment you take your eyes off the operations. Unlike fashion or footwear, where products are manufactured in factories and retailers simply have to promote them to customers, in F&B you cannot spare a breath until the product is prepared and consumed by the customer in full satisfaction,” shares Sawan.
He also mentions that to operate in this industry, self-sufficiency is key. And, Amit and Sawan have applied this principle in all aspects of their business – including funding. Amit adds: “The F&B industry demands lot of capital and patience. So when we decided to take a dip, we knew the prerequisites very well. And from a young age we have been taught that unless and until you put in your sweat, blood and own money you will never master your trade. So going by this principle, our concept is entirely self-funded from the inception stage till now, when we have three operational outlets.”
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Hungry for growth
With a strong foundation and initial success of Pressman’s first outlet, Amit and Sawan knew they’d mastered the recipe for success. They used the same formula and soon opened two more outlets in the past year. “Since we opened the first Pressman’s Sandwich House in JLT on November 3, 2014, we have seen tremendous growth in business despite rather subdued and challenging economic conditions in the region. Our year-on-year revenue has increased by more than 70 per cent with more than 85 per cent of repeat customers across all our outlets. Our loyal customer database currently stands at more than 14000 and employees’ strength is at 40 which include 15 delivery drivers as more than 60 per cent of our revenues come from delivery business,” remarks Sawan delightfully.
And, his pride is with reason. These are impressive numbers for a start-up that has been around for less than three years. But, he brushes this compliment aside and says: “Yes, the numbers are superb but the greatest business achievement to date for me is when people walk into Pressman’s for the first time; experience the food, service and ambience and wonder if Pressman’s is a brand from the USA or Europe? As Co-founders of this home-grown brand that is fully conceived and developed in Dubai, Amit and I feel immensely satisfied with what we have created. It definitely hasn’t been an easy journey.”
Amit and Sawan have been climbing up the entrepreneurial ladder rather quickly and have naturally stumbled a few times. Sawan opens up about the challenges: “The time it requires to get approvals for setting up of a branch or a company in any part of Dubai is much more than it used to be as a lot of new rules and regulations have been introduced. This has sometimes disturbed our anticipated timelines and hindered the initial advantage of the rent free period. For a retailer like us, loss of business even for a day is the most dreaded thing. Quality control is another major roadblock. Being a quick service restaurant concept, it is imperative for us to ensure consistent quality 365 days across all outlets – and that is the biggest challenge! But the fact that we realise the importance of quality control, and its pivotal role in the success of the brand, has made us more involved and committed to every process in the making of items on the menu. This to me is the biggest benefit of owning your own F&B brand – it doesn’t allow you to become complacent!”
Given the nature of the industry in which they operate, every day brings a new challenge. But Amit and Sawan know they can’t afford to get detracted. “The key is to stay involved and understand the process and compliance requirements first-hand. Only then you realise what needs to be followed up and how to do it correctly we can still ensure speedy and timely approvals. This knowledge and understanding of key requirements from the brand perspective has helped us not only be in absolute compliance with the regulations but also ensure our contractors and agencies complete the approvals and fit-out works of our outlets in time. Every growing enterprise will have problems and benefits. It all depends on the perception and attitude of the entrepreneur whether he can learn from these challenges and convert them into opportunities,”
The competition is heating up
There is no question that Dubai is one of the most competitive markets in the world when it comes to F&B especially in the casual/quick service restaurant segment. In a market flooded with F&B concepts, there are very few that are sustainable, scalable and true to their values.
Sawan quickly says: “Our motto is hot, fresh and quick and we mean it. Our sandwiches are always served hot and pressed, made from only fresh ingredients without adding any preservatives or artificial conditioners including baking our own signature breads in house and served quick. As a matter of fact Pressman’s is one of the top growing brands in Dubai on Zomato for online ordering and delivery. While most other restaurants have delivery time of 40 plus minutes we deliver our orders to customers’ door-step within 25 minutes. When people are usually tangled in their daily routine hassles and stress the last thing they expect is a complicated, sugar-coated and unreasonably expensive option to eat and this is where Pressman’s hits the nail. We have kept things pretty simple at Pressman’s; good food, good price and good service and this perhaps is our biggest advantage.”
A slice of success
Pressman’s has managed to create a stir in the food market in a very short time period. Have they attracted the attention of any prolific investors? “ Yes, recently we brought Neelesh Bhatnagar on board Pressman’s. More than being an investor, he is a personal friend I have known for years. After building a strong foundation for Pressman’s, our aim was to aggressively expand the brand within the region by opening our own outlets across the UAE for which we needed a partner who not only understands retail business but is equally passionate for Pressman’s as we are. Neelesh is just the right partner; his invaluable experience as the CEO of Emax and integral part of Landmark Group for more than 15 years adds to the pace and size of our success – not only in the region but potentially across the world.”
Building an appetite for technology
Sawan jumps in: “Technology has always been at the forefront of our operations in Pressman’s. Whether it is the use of ERP system for centrally managing purchases and preparation costs to sales and revenue in the outlets to complete integration of accounting or sourcing of high capacity industrialised grilling machines from US which not only grills the bread on both sides but heats the ingredients inside within no time thereby ensuring just the perfect quality product, we have always preferred to stick to the best technology on offer at all times. This in turn has helped us not only grow our business quicker but also ensure quality and efficiency across the board.” He adds that they are already in the process of getting their own customised customer loyalty, ordering and delivery tracking software which will be made available to their customers through the Pressman’s app and will help every loyal customer to connect with the brand like never before and thereby avail attractive loyalty benefits.
Amit and Sawan have their finger on the pulse of the market and there’s no one better placed to foresee major trends in the market. They predict that “2017 will be the year of consolidation. While most of the retail sector and in particular high-end retail is expected to continue to experience headwinds until the second half of this year at least, upcoming brands like Pressman’s that are scalable and affordable would still be able to expand its footprint across the region through a rational and calculative approach.” Pressman’s currently have three operational outlets one each in JLT, DIFC and SZR. Their expansion plan for 2017 is to open at least five more outlets and they are currently in advance talks for finalising three locations. “We intend to spread across all major emirates by end of 2018 and consolidate our position within UAE and thereafter explore possibilities of expanding further in GCC, Europe and Indian Subcontinent. While we are planning to expand at a fairly brisk pace within UAE, we do not wish to compromise the quality of our operations, food and service in anyway by spread too fast too far. However our long term mission is to touch 150 outlets of Pressman’s regionally and internationally through self-owned and franchised route over the next five years with the sole objective of serving the exact same quality of food and service across each one of them. As a matter of fact we have already started receiving a lot Franchise inquiries from various GCC markets but are holding on to this for the moment until we are absolutely prepared and confident to do so,” he concludes.