Meet friends from Ahmedabad championing healthy fast food globally
Balista in a short span of four years is set to spread its wings across four continents.
Armed with secret recipes for healthy, crispy, and fresh American and Italian delicacies, two friends with common goals are ready to compete with international giants like McDonald’s and Burger King.
Meet founders Sanjay Patel and Hardik Luhar, whose love for food made them pursue totally different paths from their majors in science and pharmacy, respectively. They as founders worked for the same pharmaceutical company and grew to become family friends. But food was their first love. Later, Patel’s 10-year stint with an international QSR in London inspired him to introduce his own recipes. Luhar is an expert in quality and manpower management, SOPs, workflow, and waste management. Together they make for a competent leadership for the foundation and development of a homegrown fast-food chain.
If all that you think is junk with mere mention of the fast-food, Patel and Luhar want you to do some rethinking. “Our food can be prepared and served fast, but still it is very much fresh and healthy. There lies the secret of our own recipes”, they proudly share.
For three months in 2016, all the duo did was mix and match different ingredients, prepare different recipes, try and test and finally come up with items that offer a perfect balance of nutritious values and taste. The result was mouth-watering yet fresh varieties of 6 burgers and 6 wraps.
It all started with a food van. “On the offer at the van was a great customer service, along with delicious and hygienic food. And, the customers’ response was satisfactory”, they say
Like recipes, there is an interesting story behind the name Balista as well. It means a large crossbow used in ancient warfare to fire missiles. With secret recipes as a weapon, Patel and Luthar also jumped in the game to take on the QSR market. “We came across the name while watching a movie together. It was perfect for our brand’. The team has registered the trademark.
The global size of fast food and QSR in 2020 was estimated to be USD 163 billion. The market reports say it will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.1% from 2020 to 2027. The demand is fueled mainly by the increasing acceptance of fast-food among all age groups.
Balista has pulled up its socks to be part of this growth story. After two very successful branches in Gujarat -Ahmedabad(Bodakdev) and Gandhinagar- the third one is coming up in Canada. With foreign investors on board, Balista is going all ballistic with plans afoot to start 12 branches globally in 2021. So far Balista has served 5000 plus customers.
Their homemade original recipes have already gained significant fan-following in Gujarat. Unique pizza wheat flour base, burger veg patty, chana patty, banana patty, wheat flour bread and wheat flour wrap has found their own loyal customers, who look of taste and health both. The unique way of preparation, which avoids overcooking, keep vegetables nutritious values intact. Their months-long research has made them come up with chemical and stabilizers free hummus recipes, green chutney, pesto pasta and pizza pasta sauce.
The quality of food is not limited to ingredients. It extends to its packaging. Balista strives to deliver a high-quality complete package. For the same, they prefer nothing but grade packaging material.
Patel and Jain believe that Balista’s total vegetarian authentic homemade menu is something that is an emerging challenge for international chains. Options of Jain items expands their customer base among all age groups in the family.
“We are working hard, day and night for food quality and customer satisfaction. In India, we see lots of opportunity in vegetarian healthy fast food, homemade recipes. But we wants to go global as well”, they say.
Balista is preparing to grow its QSR chain on the FOCO franchise model. As a franchisor, they provide franchises with required training including how to get or produce some of the raw materials. Part of the raw materials are also supplied from the central kitchen.
The best part of any franchise could be they need not worry to find a special chef and maintain them for the Balista outlet. The franchisor has its own Standard Operating Procedure(SOP), which is super easy to follow. The SOP serves as a basic guide to prepare food and it comes in handy for anyone to prepare items as per requirements. The training module is all set in place for the smooth start and functioning of any new branch.
Though Balista has pitched itself against giants like MaCdonals, Burger King and Burger Singh, Patel and Luhar are confident of making their own space riding on secret vegetarian recipes. With a strong management team in place, they are happily catering a dynamic menu with wide varieties like burger, wrap, sandwich, pizza, pasta, fries and shakes.
Initially, the two friends had begun with a small fund of Rs 8 lakh. Covid-19 outbreak and the restrictions including lockdown and night curfew has obviously hit them like any other business. But the road ahead is bright. By March 2021, they hope to be back in the game with full power. Sales are projected to increase and their tie-up with Point-of-Sale (POS) like pet pooja, CRM bingage for better marketing will yield desired results.
Balista has in the past four years seen great growth in customer base. The brand is quite successful in building loyal fans as well. The founders feel they further plan to work hard to build a solid marketing strategy for attracting newer customers. With the opening of a branch in Canada by April 2021, the next destination they are now eyeing are both local and international places including Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara, USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Balista is moving ahead with a vision to serve nutritious fast food across the globe. Today no cuisine can match the popularity and affordability of fast food items. But they are equally unpopular for the junk it adds to the body. Balista has been started to fill up this gap.
As a franchisor it wants its franchises to share the same vision and brand value along with the focus on ROI. Taking along franchises, the chain aims to be the champion of healthy and delicious food.