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Coffee conversations with the CEO of Barista – Puneet Gulati

Who doesn’t love waking up to a steaming cup of joe? Or just unwinding with friends while coffee and conversations flow! A brand synonymous with this hot brew is Barista. Today we have its CEO, Puneet Gulati who gives us the scoop about the changes in the coffee industry, trends, best brews and more!  An acclaimed expert in retail marketing management as well as flagship roles with over two decades, he brings in great insights to the table.

You are an industry veteran with a rich and distinguished experience of more than two decades in retail marketing management. What are the three key things you have learnt from your vast experience?

According to me, the three key things are-

  1. Location – For a retail chain to thrive, location plays a key role. A place with good footfall along with the right target segment enhances the brand equity and creates the desired reach.
  2. Standardisation of experience – For a brand to actually succeed, it needs to have a standard experience across all the outlets. For F & B chains, the food has to be impeccably perfect with the same taste and serving.
  3. Innovation – This is a key ingredient for any brand in the F&B space, it needs to keep on innovating the menu so that the customer can experience something new on their visits. This keeps the curiosity levels high with the customers.

“Cold Brew is topping the chart these days as a new rage. Here, coffee beans are brewed in cold water, tastes far less bitter and can be served hot or cold- chilled with ice too.”

How do you feel the coffee and food and beverage industry has changed over the years?

The changes are quite evident. There is an evolution in infrastructure and enhancement of the palate of a consumer. Coffee consumption has picked up over the years but still lags behind the global standard by a very huge margin. In India per capita consumption is 85-110 gm as opposed to European or US market which is around 8 kgs.

Coffee is a versatile drink and can be consumed every season with lots of options. At Barista, we keep on innovating so that a customer can experience something new every time he/she visits the outlet. The customer taste buds have evolved over a period of time, it has almost reached a level where eating/ drinking out has changed from a monthly to weekly affair.

Do the customers have a certain preference when it comes to the coffee as well as food and beverage experience?

Vanilla Latte

In my observation, there are several segments of customer profiling which have been divided into the following buckets-

  • Coffee lovers- Those who enjoy having their cappuccino with any kind of complementing product like a muffin or croissant.
  • Connoisseur- Who love having espresso- single shot / double shots.
  • Experimental kinds- Who love experimenting with different coffees (like Affogato, Conpanna) and foods like Seekh Kebab- a combination of kebab and croissant, Seekh Roll, Achari Paneer and Chicken Roll, Paneer Tikka Lasagne. These are a few of the numerous food fusions we have introduced in our cafes.
  • Conscientious Customers- Who are conscious about the intake of calories and its effect. They typically like having Cold Brew Coffee which is less acidic and helps in improving cholesterol.

The preference of the customers also changes as per the part of the day and season. For example, morning goers are heavy on strong hot beverages like Espresso, Cappuccino, and Americano. Similarly, if we talk about the summer season then after shopping under scorching sun Quenchers becomes the go-to menu for patrons. But during winters or rainy season, the preference shifts more towards hot beverages.

To make coffee more interesting, you can experiment. Enjoy Cappuccino with flavours like Hazelnut, Irish Cream, Caramel, etc

How does Barista strive to match up to that experience?

Caramel Cappuccino

Innovation is the cornerstone at Barista, inventing new drinks and food items according to the customer’s choice has allowed us to experiment in many ways. Thus, the clientele is always going to be served with a new menu every season. For example, in the summer of 2019, we experimented with Rose Gulkand which in our research stood out as healthy, earthy yet living up to quenching the thirst.

What are the latest trends in the coffee industry?

Some of the trends are:

  • Newer avatars of coffee like Vanilla Latte and Caramel Cappuccino (inspired by cappuccino and hot beverage).
  • International coffee variants like Macchiato, also known as Piccolo Latte which is a shot of espresso topped with foamed milk dashed directly into the cup (inspired by the international market).
  • Innovation around the conventional Espresso- Affogato which is a shot of espresso poured over a dessert. Likewise, various combinations can be worked out to bring out the best offering.
  • Fusion Drinks- This is a fad amongst masses as they treat the taste buds with a unique flavour. Some examples are Jamun Banta, Kaffir Lime, Rose Faluda and Banoffee Pie.
  • Cold Brew is topping the chart these days as a new rage. Here, coffee beans are brewed in cold water, tastes far less bitter and can be served hot or cold- chilled with ice too. Moreover, it is considered to be a healthy coffee because it is less acidic, improves cholesterol, helps you reduce weight and reduces the risk of heartburn. The brew is also best for dieters and sweet without a sweetener.
French Press

Do you have a specific preference for your cup of joy?

I’m a double shot Espresso guy without sugar but at times also prefer having a hot and steamy Cappuccino!

Which are the top three types of coffees every enthusiast should try according to you?

  • Cold Brew- Vietnamese (it is a heavenly blend of coffee and special cream that surely brightens up the day).
  • Signature Drink- Brrrista Blast (an Irish flavour of chocolate & ice cream).
  • Espresso- As pure aroma of Arabica beans stand out in Espresso.

 Any tips on how to make the regular brew more interesting?

Amongst various options to spice up your brew, below are the tips-

  • Conventional methods of making coffee- Pour Over, French Press, Espresso and Cold Brew
  • Experimentation- Cappuccino with flavours like Hazelnut, Irish Cream, Caramel, etc

Any parting words of wisdom?

Indians are getting more and more drawn towards coffee and innovation around it, which is leading to the excitement in domains like Cold Brew, Pour Over and French Press. Regular customers are getting evolved whereas new customers are joining the bandwagon. Coffee is the new fad.

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