The Taj group of hotels is planning to tap the retail market for
branded food and beverage products as well as set up cafes at plazas, shopping malls, and
department stores. The group is using its airline catering infrastructure for this.
A small beginning by Taj has already been made it by
setting up cafes called Caf West at the Westside chain of stores -- a new chain of
department stores set up by Trent, formerly Lakme. Besides this, the group is also
considering institutional catering.
The group is planning to launch its branded products in
retail markets in major cities and towns where its flight kitchens are located. The Taj
group currently has flight kitchens in Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. Other units are planned
for Bangalore and Hyderabad.
According to M S Kapadia, vice-president, Taj Air
Caterers, the aim of the company is to treble its sales turnover over the next five years.
It is working towards increasing the share of its non-airline catering business to more
than 50 per cent of the total revenues earned by the division.
According to Mr Kapadia, airline catering is a low-margin
and high-volume business. As flight kitchens are capital-intensive in nature, returns on
investments are also slow. The expansion of its non-airline catering outlets will thus
help the division improve margins, and possibly give it greater flexibility and muscle in
the airline catering business.
"We aim to become a brand that represents value for
airline passengers and retail customers," Mr Kapadia
In consumer retail, the Taj group has a tie-up with
Birdys, a chain of pastry shops in Mumbai sporting the Taj brand name. Sources at
Taj say that the group is not interested in continuing with the venture.