INDIA – American casual dining restaurant chain Chili’s Grill & Bar plans to open 35 new outlets in southern and western India in the next three years with Rs150 crore (US$23 million) of investment by its local partner TexMex Cuisine India Pvt. Ltd.

TexMex Cuisine is the master franchisee for Chili’s Grill & Bar (owned by Brinker International) for west and south India. In north and east India, the franchisee is Stellar Concepts.

Together, the companies operate 23 Chili’s restaurants in the country, each spread over 2,500-3,500 square feet.

“Chili’s has the potential of going upto 50 outlets in the south and west markets in cities like Indore, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Goa, Hyderabad and Vijayawada. We will invest Rs4-5 crore in every outlet. We are profitable at the restaurant level; we earn Rs50-60 lakh per restaurant per month,” said Ashish Saxena, executive director and chief executive officer at TexMex Cuisine.

In 2016-17, TexMex Cuisine earned revenue of Rs62 crore, (US$9.5 million) which it expects to increase to Rs80-85 crore (US$12.3-13.0) this year.

Saxena said the focus of the chain is on food and not liquor; 70% of its revenue comes from food items. “Our bestsellers include burgers, fajitas and nachos. Almost 40-45% of our revenue comes from vegetarian food items,” he added.

Launched in India in 2009, Chili’s competes with restaurant chains like Smokehouse Deli, TGI Friday’s and Hard Rock Café. Globally, Chili’s runs more than 1,600 restaurants in 33 countries, including Canada, Egypt, Kuwait, Russia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

“The focus is Asia and India is an important market. The brand is looking to enter China and is in the process of setting up its base in Vietnam,” said Saxena.

Experts say restaurants like Chili’s are ideally positioned in the Indian market, where casual dining is gaining traction.

“There is a lot of opportunity in casual dining as well as Mexican cuisine. Also, such American chains offer good value-for-money with sizeable portions. They are very well-positioned,” said Rajat Wahi, partner (management consulting) at consulting firm Deloitte India.

According to a joint report published by the National Restaurants Association of India and consulting firm Technopak Advisors, the food services market in India is projected to touch Rs4.98 trillion by 2021 from Rs3.09 trillion in 2016, growing at an annual average rate of 10%.

The Indian restaurant industry was estimated to have contributed Rs 22,400 crore by way of taxes and created 5.8 million direct jobs in 2016, the report said.

Live Mint