A mix of flour, milk, and sugar and served with anything from honey to maple syrup, cream, or chocolate – pancakes are the easiest forms of food humans have cooked over the history of time. Legend also goes that humans may have eaten some form of pancakes or the other for thousands of years. Every food culture in the world has some form of pancake – though mostly made of flour, Asian countries mostly make pancakes out of rice flour.
Convenient, comfort food
The version of the humble pancake the world mostly is acquainted with is the Canadian one, served with maple syrup, usually for breakfast. The Holland pancake which looks a lot like the Tamil snack, paniarayam is a bite-sized dessert, to add a sweet finish to a meal. It is this version of the pancake which is slowly entering the dessert space on menu cards.
Widening fan base
As the pancake moves into the dessert space, it seems to be getting more and more popular.
“At our stores, people eat pancakes all day and records show that pancakes are ordered a lot after dinner. I guess because they are a low-sweet option, people consider them as a sweet-something to eat, post-dinner,” Vikesh Shah (43) owner of Mumbai-based chain 99 Pancakes told Business Today.
Shah who runs 45 stores in 15 cities of India, says the response he has received from his current operations has now given him the fillip to scale to 100 stores by 2024.
99 Pancakes: Making a U-turn
During the pandemic, 99 Pancakes shut almost half its stores, most of which were built on a franchise model. “During the pandemic, almost all the stores that people opened casually were shut down. Eventually, only the serious people returned to business. In our next round of expansion, we do not want to allot to franchisees, because we want to retain the uniform quality of our product wherever we are present,” said Shah, who has for the first time, raised a fund worth $1 million. The next round of growth says Shah will be based on shops owned and operated by his company.
You need more than pancakes to sell pancakes
However, Shah believes that no food retailer can sustain one product alone. “The Holland pancakes became an instant hit because of the variety we offered and the easy acceptance of desserts. But we continue to bake everything else.”
Pancakes, said Vikesh is easier to market across India, now than ever. “People are now aware of international food of any kind and wherever we open a store, we get ready customers,” he said.
After pancakes, what?
Shah’s interest lies in innovation when it comes to food. He has recently created a fruit shot to make fruits interesting for those who find eating fruit too cumbersome with all the peeling and dicing involved.
“The fruit shots are fruit pulp in shot glasses. We have already patented it – it is soon going to hit the market. I do believe it will do well like the pancakes,” said Shah.
What does he think makes or breaks a food business? “It is all about your product – find your hero product that is easy on the eye, wallet, and tongue and it will surely work!”
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