The Weekend Leader - Rohit Tandon and Karan Makan: Co-Founders of Fraterniti Foods, Creators of China Box and Zoca

From Humble Beginnings at a Hotel Front Office to a Rs. 150 Crore Restaurant Magnate, How a Middle Class Dream Unfolded

Shyla F


Vol 15 | Issue 2

Rohit Tandon, at the age of 43, has already achieved what many dream of. He is the man behind the popular restaurant chains China Box and Zoca, part of Fraterniti Foods – a company he started with Karan Makan in 2017, now boasting a turnover of Rs 150 crore.

Born in Delhi to a family of government employees, Rohit's journey is nothing short of inspiring.

Rohit Tandon (left) and Karan Makan launched Fraterniti Foods in 2017 (Photos: Special Arrangement)

His father was a meteorologist in the Meteorological Department of India in Delhi, and his mother was a teacher in a government school.

Recalling his childhood, Rohit fondly reminisces, “We grew up in a middle-class setting in the Paschim Vihar area of New Delhi. Growing up with my two elder sisters, we were blessed with our parents' undivided attention and time, something that's becoming increasingly uncommon today.'"

Rohit completed his Class 12 at Hansraj Model School in New Delhi and then completed a three-year diploma course in hotel management at the Indian Hotel Management Institute in Lucknow in 2001.

From starting as an employee in the hotel industry to climbing up to management and finally becoming a successful entrepreneur, his story is a remarkable example of hard work and determination.

Rohit's journey in the hospitality sector began in 2001 as an Assistant Manager at the front office of ITC Maurya Sheraton, Delhi, with a modest salary of Rs. 6500.

From this entry-level position, he climbed the ladder to become a manager in a London hotel by 2008, where his annual earnings went up to around Rs. 32 lakh.

Not content with this success, Rohit decided to return to India in 2009 and launch his own business. He started Yummy Tummy, a corporate catering company, with an initial investment of Rs.10 lakh.

Rohit started his career as an Assistant Manager at the front office of ITC Maurya Sheraton, Delhi

Yummy Tummy tapped into the growing trend of corporate culture in the food industry. Rohit secured corporate tie-ups with companies like American Express Bank and Gen Pact, providing meals for their employees.

“It all started in a 650 sq ft space in DLF Phase-3, Gurgaon. That's where we did all our cooking, packing, and delivery,” he recalls. “Back then, DLF Phase 3 was just developing. Within two years, we were serving 300-400 meals daily and making about Rs. 17-18 lakh a year.”

By 2015, Yummy Tummy was a major player, serving 6000 meals daily with an annual turnover of Rs. 5 crore. However, Rohit exited Yummy Tummy in 2016, and joined forces with Karan to start Fraterniti Foods in 2017.

Karan, an engineer by training, comes from a family with a background in the hotel industry. Teaming up with Rohit, who shared his entrepreneurial ambitions, they co-founded Fraterniti Foods.

The duo launched their first venture, China Box, in 2017 in Gurgaon. This Chinese takeaway and urban restaurant tapped into the emerging Chinese café culture in India. China Box quickly gained popularity, expanding to 15 outlets in Delhi NCR by 2019.

However, Rohit and Karan realised that the brand's focus on Chinese cuisine was limiting. They introduced a cloud kitchen model under Fraterniti Foods, offering a diverse range of dishes, from Biryani to pasta and pizzas.

In 2020, they decided to create a new café model offering a wide variety of cuisines. Thus, Zoca was born.

“Karan and I were at the Malviya Nagar branch of China Box, talking about our business. It was right there that we thought of a new cafe concept and chose the name ZOCA on the spot, without any specific meaning,” says Rohit, discussing the brand’s unique name.

“We wanted a name that was easy to remember and catchy, inspired by brands like Ola, Swiggy, and Zomato, which are known for their memorable and simple names.

Zoca, offering Indian, Chinese, and Continental cuisine, opened its first outlets in Vikaspuri and Indirapuram in January 2022. The brand's success led to rapid expansion, with over 130 cafes by 2023.

Rohit and Karan thought of the name Zoca, inspired by catchy names such as Ola, Swiggy, and Zomato

Zoca distinguishes itself in the restaurant and cafe scene by offering live musical performances and stand-up comedy shows during weekends and special occasions, rather than just playing background music. This strategy adds a unique flavour to their customer experience.

They offer different franchise models: Zoca Cafe, Zoca Diner, YOLO Courtyard, and Blink Restro-Bar, with franchise fees varying between Rs 8 to 15 lakh.

Additionally, Fraterniti Foods charges a monthly sales royalty of 4% from these franchises.

Among their 135+ stores, 10% are directly managed by the company, with the rest operating as franchised but company-supervised establishments.

Starting with just seven employees in 2021, Zoca has now expanded its workforce to about 70, all of whom work for the parent company, Fraterniti Foods, in various departments like operations, sales, HR, and finance.

Zoca's presence spans over 135 locations across India, including cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, and Jalandhar.

As Rohit puts it, “You name the city, and we are likely there.” At Zoca, the food prices range from a modest Rs. 59 to Rs. 600 for the middle segment, with the luxury segment offerings priced higher.

Mentioning the top performing outlets, Karan says, “In the premium segment, our first outlet in Malviya Nagar, Delhi, is performing exceptionally well. As for the mid-range segment, our Coimbatore outlet is doing remarkably well.

“And when we look at sales by area, our Ranchi store, which spans about 3000 sq. ft., records the highest sales, even on weekdays, with daily sales reaching around Rs. 1.5 lakh.”

Karan adds that they plan to launch around 20 to 25 new brands across India shortly.

“Our reach isn't limited to North India; we are making our mark in various cities, including Chennai, and have plans to enter Srinagar soon. We are also preparing to launch our brands in places like Katra, close to the Vaishno Devi shrine.”

In a strategic move to stay ahead in the competition, Zoca's founders have also developed about 20 cloud kitchen brands. They recommend that Zoca franchisees enrich their business model by adding three to four of these cloud kitchen brands to their franchise.

Rohit with wife Preeti and children Prayaan and Praanvi

This not only provides customers with a diverse culinary experience under one roof but also enhances the business volume for the franchise owners, ultimately increasing profits for the founders. These cloud kitchens are also available for online orders, broadening their customer base

To add these brands, Zoca franchise owners need to pay a one-time fee of Rs. 1.5 to 2 lakh.

In his personal life, Rohit is married to Preeti Tandon, a professional makeup artist. Together, they are proud parents to 8-year-old twins, a boy named Prayaan and a girl named Praanvi.

Outside of his business ventures, Rohit is passionate about traveling. He says, 'I love to travel and spend quality time with my family. I always make sure we travel together at least twice a year." - ©TWL

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