Mr. Faisal Zahir Managing Director Interview by M Tauhidul Islam Apu – Editor The Pages.

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The Pages: Can you give a short History about Crêpe-au-Lait? How did Crêpe-au-Lait start its journey in Bangladesh?

Faisal Zahir: Crêpe-au-Lait opened its door to public on 14th September 2012 at a time where there were only a handful number of cafés in Dhaka. Crêpe-au-Lait is a French café located in North Gulshan behind the American Club in Road 68. The café is located in a calm & quiet secluded neighborhood – away from the noisy, crowded and bustling Dhaka city. Crêpe-au-Lait happens to be the first and only creperie in Bangladesh with 20+ different kind of crepes. We have 10 different savory crepes and 10 different sweet crepes. Our price ranges from BDT250 to BDT750.

The Pages: Please tell us about yourself? How did you start your journey as a professional?

Faisal Zahir: I studied business finance and economics from University of Massachusetts, Boston graduating in the year 2005 and returning back to Bangladesh in the same year to join family business as well as explore new avenues for diversification. My core family business “Polycon Limited” is manufacturing and moulding plastic containers for most toiletry companies namely GSK, Unilever, Kohinoor, Reckitt Benckiser, Marico etc. Crêpe-au-Lait is my first & only footprint in the food & beverage industry so far.

  1. The Pages:  Tell us about current restaurant   market of Bangladesh.

Faisal Zahir: I have seen many cafés and restaurants mushrooming in Gulshan, Banani, Dhanmondi and Uttara in the last 3 years. People like to try new places. As such café and restaurant business are experiencing tough competition. Many cafés and restaurants have also shut down during the same time due to fierce competition everywhere as well as political turmoil during 2013 and 2015. Alhamdulillah Crêpe-au-Lait is still in business for keeping overheads low and retaining old employees. As such we have maintained the quality of our food as good as it used to be when we started. Even during our bad times we never compromised on our quality. We believe in good quality and good customer service. We have not experimented too much with our target audience. As such our café is extremely family & kids friendly.

  1. The Pages:  Crêpe-au-Lait    is   leading restaurant   in Bangladesh    Tell us about the quality of Service.

Faisal Zahir: The tagline of Crêpe-au-Lait is “Eat, Drink, Mingle, and Repeat”. In order to live up to our tagline we need to ensure certain standards in quality and customer service. Crêpe-au-Lait is neither a fine dining nor a small café lounge. We are in between. It is not a fast-food chain like KFC or McDonalds. At Crêpe-au-Lait we cook fresh food ordered from the menu. We have an open concept kitchen where customers see how their food is cooked. As such we take pride in cooking and serving healthy and quality food every time we serve. Our friendly staff ensures repeat order and makes our customers feel at home.

  1. The Pages: How would you assess Bangladesh as a potential   zone for Restaurant service industries?

Faisal Zahir: I have travelled in many different parts of world namely USA, Canada, UK, Middle-East and South East Asia where I noticed Bangladeshi people working for top companies in food & beverage industry. I suppose training the workforce is the most important key for assuring quality service in this sector. In Bangladesh there is an abundance of workforce that can be quickly trained for good quality services. In Bangladesh labor is also very cheap hence overhead remains pretty low. The country also has a large middle-income group with sufficient discretionary income which gets spent on food and beverage sector being the only form of entertainment for the people. The sector also provides one of the highest Return on Investment (ROI) and quick payback. As such I strongly believe Bangladesh is a great destination for food and beverage investment.

  1. The Pages: What is plan for   Restaurant development in Bangladesh?

Faisal Zahir: I think restaurant business will keep developing further in Bangladesh since the best indicator will be some large conglomerates of the country investing on a trial basis in the food and beverage industry. For example, Bengal group has invested in hotel management and restaurants. Likewise Partex Group (Partex Cafe), Bay Developments (Bistro E), Orion Group (Fish & Co), Fortuna Group (FFC), Transcom (KFC, Pizza Hut), Rangs (Izumi, Artisan Bakery), MGH (Nandos, Barista Coffee), Navana (Gloria Jeans Coffee) and many other have allocated some investment into this booming industry. I believe the quality of food and service in Bangladesh will keep developing as more and more large corporations of Bangladesh shows interest in this industry. As such consumers shall benefit not only from variety but due to competition services will keep improving and prices will remain affordable. Crêpe-au-Lait management is interested in working with potential franchisee within Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. Anyone interested may drop a line at: crepe@springine.com

  1. The Pages: What is your opinion about the current Restaurant market development in Bangladesh?

Faisal Zahir: Much of our population is not exposed to different cuisines around the world. Bangladesh has a large middle-income population that has a high discretionary income that can be spent on food and beverage industry. Over the last 4 years between 2012 and 2015, Dhaka city has seen more than 500 restaurants and cafes opening up. There has been a good competition going around in this sector. I would say the 5 star hotels and Parjatan has created a very good population that are available to work in this industry. In my opinion the restaurant market has developed a lot in a short time giving lots of options for consumers. Looking at the trend I believe the Restaurant business in Bangladesh will keep on developing much more. We need help from the Government in terms of Rent control, infrastructure around the country and the highways so that investors can spread their wings and easily manage their expansion.

  1. The Pages: Do you think the Restaurant industry is booming?

Faisal Zahir: The restaurant industry in Bangladesh is definitely booming as you can see 100s of restaurants opening up every quarter. I jumped into the restaurant business in 2012 without prior knowledge in the food and beverage sector. However the main intention was to improve the quality of food & services while offering people one more option when they choose to hangout with their friends and family.

  1. The Pages: What’s the secret behind the success of your organization?

Faisal Zahir: Crêpe-au-Lait is the only creperie in Bangladesh. If you want to have crepes you must visit us until there is a new creperie in town. Or you may try making crepes at home using some of our recipes found online. We have been in successful operation in the last 3 years thanks to our staff for ensuring good quality of service with reasonable and affordable price. Our location in North Gulshan is also a great place away from the bustling city. Even during hartals or political unrest our cafe location has always remained safe.

  1. The Pages: What are its strengths or Capacity?

Faisal Zahir: As mentioned earlier we are the only creperie in Bangladesh, Our location and space is excellent for birthday parties and small re-unions. We also provide catering services for small or large events such as holud, mehendi, baby shower etc. Once again our strength lies within our employees who has devoted much of their time and effort in building the brand and continuing to work with us throughout the journey.

  1. The Pages: Would you like to tell the reader to your upcoming Service?

Faisal Zahir: We will introduce Waffles and Pancakes at our outlet from September 2015. Please follow our Facebook page for updates on new food menu and current promotional offer. Right now we have a “50% offer” for loyal customers. If you spend minimum BDT2000 in the last 10 days of any month, you can get 50% off your next bill in the following month.

  1. The Pages: Where do you see the future of the Bangladeshi Restaurant industry in Global Market?

Faisal Zahir: Traditional Food and local brands such as Hajir Biriyani, Alauddin Sweets, and Fakhruddin Biriyani have set-up shops in Singapore, USA, UK, and Middle-East. The primary reason for setting up in such places is for catering to the Bangladeshi expats living in those countries. There is a huge demand for such chains when people living abroad are home-sick.

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