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How Did The Chocolate Room Go From Ahmedabad’s Streets to 395 Outlets in 11 Countries?

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World Chocolate Day 2024

Ever walk into a place and instantly feel transported? You step through the door, and BAM! The air explodes with the rich aroma of chocolate, a symphony of scents that whisks you away to a world of pure indulgence. Plush interiors, a cozy vibe, and contagious happiness fill the room—it’s an experience of a European cafe dream.

Did you know: Two-thirds of the world shares your love for chocolate?

Calling all chocoholics this World’s Chocolate Day! Come indulge your senses in the story of a brand that made decadence a global phenomenon! 

The birth of the Chocolate Room

The Chocolate Room

Vikas Panjabi and Chaitanya Kumar weren’t your typical entrepreneurs. While studying in Australia, they discovered a world beyond coffee culture – a world of rich, decadent hot chocolate. 

They saw a gap in the Indian market, a nation yet to experience the magic of a dedicated chocolate cafe. This sparked a dream to bring a complete chocolate culture to India. Quickly, they put their thoughts into action and acquired the master franchise rights for The Chocolate Room. 

Chocolate room experiments

From Scratch to Success

The early days were a delicious experiment. They learned everything from scratch, from mastering the art of serving customers to navigating the complexities of running a restaurant. 

Their first outlet in their hometown, Ahmedabad, in 2007, stood out amidst the booming coffee house scene. The duo’s journey wasn’t easy. They discovered that the Indian palate craved a balance between sweet and savory.

The menu evolved, incorporating savory options alongside their signature chocolates. The crowd started pouring in from all corners. 

The chocolate room expanding

Building a Buzz in Tier II Towns

Forget the big city splash! The Chocolate Room started small, building a buzz in tier II cities.

Customers from Mumbai and Delhi would even trek to Ahmedabad to get their chocolate fix, urging them to expand. “We waited three years before opening in Delhi,” Vikas says. 

They focused on creating a following in smaller towns first, letting people discover the magic of chocolate cafes. Turns out, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Gurgaon became their lucky charms!

The chocolate room franchise

From One to Many

Limited funds demanded a clever strategy. Vikas and Chaitanya turned to franchising. However, ensuring consistency across outlets was paramount.

They meticulously sourced raw materials from Europe, created a foolproof operating model, and nurtured a strong in-house branding team. 

Unlike others, they believed in empowering their franchisees. They provided training and marketing support and even encouraged referral programs, building a strong network of brand ambassadors.

Live kitchen at the Chocolate room

The Secret Ingredient

Chaitanya admits that The Chocolate Room isn’t just about the food; it is about the experience, unlike cafes that serve pre-made treats.

The Chocolate Room offers live kitchen magic. Witnessing the creation of their desserts and savories adds a layer of freshness and theatricality, setting the brand apart from the competition. 

Vikas and Chaitanya heavily promote this unique aspect through online channels, attracting a diverse clientele – from families with young children to corporate professionals seeking a sweet escape.

Story of The Chocolate Room Storytelling 00 07

Innovation Breeds Resilience

The COVID-19 lockdown forced a new reality. People stayed home.

The founders adapted swiftly by introducing retail packaging of their menu favorites and hosting online contests, keeping the brand relevant. This agility ensured they not only survived but thrived during a challenging time.

The chocolate factory empowerment

More Than Just Chocolate

Coming from a humble background, Vikas and Chaitanya understood the importance of a happy workforce.

At the Chocolate Room, they foster an environment of open communication, regular training, and growth opportunities. Many who started as housekeepers have became store managers too. 

The company offers English language classes and loans to help employees build their lives, which means 90% of the initial staff has remained with the company for over 15 years.

The chocolate room supporting women

Women in Business

The Chocolate Room actively supports women entrepreneurs, with 30% of their franchisees being women.

Vikas proudly talks about the brand’s strong belief in empowering women to follow their dreams and build successful businesses.

Consistency of the chocolate room

The Recipe for Success

Maintaining a consistent taste across hundreds of outlets is crucial. The Chocolate Room ensures 90% of raw materials come from a central source. Standardized recipes, training manuals, and regular audits ensure quality control. 

Vikas also acknowledges the need for flexibility. Local preferences are catered to by adapting presentation and recipe elements without compromising the core chocolate experience.

Story of The Chocolate Room Storytelling 00 11

Innovative Treats & Interactive Experiences

The Chocolate Room isn’t afraid to push boundaries. They have introduced innovative concepts like the “Cuddle Cup” for comfortable sipping, the “Melting Pot” for interactive chocolate indulgence, and the “Aussie Cup” for a unique coffee and chocolate pairing.

Story of The Chocolate Room Storytelling 00 12

A Cup of Joy for the World

The Chocolate Room’s journey isn’t confined to India. They have ventured abroad, establishing a presence in Dubai, China, London, and several other countries.

Interestingly, their initial focus was tier II cities in India, creating brand awareness before entering metros.

Story of The Chocolate Room Storytelling 00 13

The Chocolate Dream

The Chocolate Room is far from finished. With over 395 stores in 11 countries, it serves more than 100 beverages and desserts made with pure Belgian chocolate. It plans to expand further into tier 2 and 3 Indian cities and across Africa. 

An IPO is on the horizon, fueling their ambitious growth plans. But Vikas and Chaitanya’s vision goes beyond just numbers. They want The Chocolate Room to continuously improve its digital presence, embrace technology, and provide an even more delightful experience for customers and franchisees alike. 

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I’m Archana R. Chettiar, an experienced content creator with
an affinity for writing on personal finance and other financial content. I
love to write on equity investing, retirement, managing money, and more.

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