2020 Was A Learning Opportunity for Companies Like us: Srinivasa Raja, MD A2B Restaurants

Birender Singh

Birender Singh

Adyar Ananda Bhavan (A2B)  brand has become one of the leading restaurant chains in India, synonymous with delicious South Indian vegetarian cuisine. A2B is also widely known for creating unique recipes, including singles dosa, a wide range of chaats, sweets, savouries, and North Indian foods. It is not only an appetizing destination for the urban middle class but satiates thousands of myriad travellers across highways as well.

The humble beginnings of the family that owns this chain of restaurants have become an inspirational tale for most entrepreneurs venturing into the F&B industry. For what started as a small sweet stall near Madurai in 1960 transformed into an Rs 800-crore business over the following six decades is no mean achievement. A2B now employs over 8,000 employees, with 140 outlets in India and franchises in Australia, Kenya, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States.

Restaurant Chain: Striking a Balance

When this reporter visited and spent half-a-day at the headquarters of A2B, it was enthralling to witness the entire teamwork like well-oiled machinery to ensure seamless delivery to their outlets in India as well as abroad. We could see every supervisor busy conducting reviews with their employees, enquiring about each branch’s business and so on.

“It would be quite easy if all our outlets are only in Chennai. But managing a chain of restaurants across wide geography like India brings along its own set of challenges. It begins with providing tasty and high-quality food across all the outlets, notwithstanding the geographical limitations,” says A2B’s Managing Director, K.T. Srinivasa Raja, as he put aside some time for an exclusive interview. “After our considerable R&D efforts, we strive to provide the best foods at affordable rates across our outlets.”

While running a restaurant chain, one has to bear in mind the fixed costs of the outlets, along with variables including procurement, packaging, hygiene, and monitoring employees. This is an enormous challenge, but Mr Raja maintains that they are able to control costs because of their 45 years of experience. A2B invests in its research centres, employee training and management building, which might be one of the reasons that ultimately helps running the franchisees efficiently.

“Our biggest motivation is we want to create more jobs. As we train our workforce and provide them with a supportive environment, we are blessed with dedicated employees,” remarks Mr Raja, adding, “Every passing year, we learn new ways to upgrade ourselves. For instance, 2020 taught us to do business with fewer sales. Although it was tough, we managed it because of our team.”

Blending Taste with High Standards

“Our father educated us to make sure that we satisfy every single customer of ours. This valuable lesson is deeply ingrained in our minds. As we have our next-generation family members taking over the business, we impart the same ethos in them,” reveals Mr Raja. A2B trains its employees in using its unique recipe system divided into five parts, with various checkpoints. It also stresses the importance of proper hygiene and works conditions for its workers. The restaurant chain gives its new chefs intense training under its old chefs, which helps in maintaining consistency across its outlets.

It has also meticulously implemented several sourcing protocols and checklists for product procurement. “Our raw materials should meet our quality standards and hygiene grades. As we have decades of experience, we know which products would match our needs,” asserts Mr Raja. He adds that technology has made it simpler for them since certain raw materials are season-oriented. “We have efficient teams for each and every task, right from product procurement, location surveys, and product research to employee management to enable A2B scale greater heights,” he says.

The ‘A, B, C’ of A2B

With outlets scattered across different localities, one has to be mindful of the area in order to decide the format. For example, a fine diner is a good bet in a mixed commercial location, whereas a store is ideal for residential spaces. In the case of railways and public places, the takeaway joint is preferred. Mr Raja explains, “We have split these zones into A, B, C. We focus on the B stores, as it is our best format, while the other two formats do well but with little margins.” Probably why A2B has been successful even in its highway outlets, with their own disadvantages and advantages.

Success Mantra

Ask Mr Raja’s success mantra, and he is quick with his reply, “Involve yourself in whatever you take up, be focused, dedicated and love the work you do. Naturally, you would succeed.” Besides that, the top three things to run a successful venture are to build an efficient team, provide adequate support, and constantly follow up. “One must treat his team members as a family. You should provide them with a conducive environment they can grow in and be supported. Continuous follow-up and audits of each outlet and the team is also a crucial aspect to ensure success,” signs off Mr Raja.