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CEO of Cosmopolitan: “Digital Is The Best Medium”

After food forums exploded with chatter on their diverse breakfast menu, I reached out to Mohsin Ihsan and Danish Ishtiaq, the co-founders of Cosmopolitan , to learn about their quick success.

Of all the names, why Cosmopolitan?
It was a well thought of name. We witnessed a generation exposed to cultures all over the world, be it London, Tokyo, Paris etc. Cosmopolitan is a culture choice, commonly adapted by the fashion centric audiences. The name was suggested by Ahmed Ali Shah, CFO of L’Oreal.

So you’re from well off families. Why did you start the business?
Initially it was the economics. The demand was high of this concept. We haven’t had much entertainment in Karachi. All you can do is go out and eat. In the middle of the project there were major challenges. As of now, we can call it passion and true love. We started the concept in June 2013, with talks with Realtor. This business is people oriented.

What can you cook now?
I can make breakfast, eggs and all 🙂

Doesn’t that backfire?
It has once or twice, but our focus is always on professionalism. We have not compromised on anything in between.

If you could go back to the day you started, what would you do differently?
We always believe in developing the team. We would have done more training sessions for ourselves and the staff. We assumed the staff were versed in team building and its an avenue we would have worked. We would want this to be stable right now then slowly fix our work schedule. We’re balancing between this and our family businesses.

How is this unique?
We want to be the epitome of hospitality. It’s lacking in Pakistan. When we opened up there was just Xanders in this lane. The quality and variations go out the window when you’re hospitable. From back end to front end staff, they should have the guest on their mind.

How many guests do you serve per day?
We average 215 guests per day. Our model was 3 course meals. We started breakfast 3 weeks ago. We planned for breakfast for 30th August, fifteen days after launch. We realized that the market needed something unheard of. So we changed the concept of breakfast completely.

How did you market the business, and what was the logic behind the mediums utilized?
We capitalized on social media, primarily Twitter and Facebook. As three partners, we belong to different backgrounds on affluence, so that helped too. It was mostly digital. For the first 15 days of run, we invited people from various social settings, for a pilot test run and that created a positive buzz. We are currently purely digital and its the best medium.

From a brand strategy perspective, how do you think people feel when they hear the name of your business?
Honestly it was supposed to an upscale eatery, a sort of boutique rest. We want people to feel elevated when they come here. We want them to leave with the experience. We want customers to experience international cuisines, as if they are enjoying them abroad.

There are some food business that use non verbal cues to pressure customers to leave early. Why don’t you use them?
Sure, it hurts our top line, but we want people to experience comfort and ease. We belong to the same social setting that expects an extraordinary dining experience. If people are craving for such experiences, they can always go to BBQ players.

You may have seen the maids issue on KFD. What’s your take on it?
It’s very sad on both parts. Not just by the people dragging their maids along, but also by the eateries that stand by and do nothing. I think its the eateries job to at least ask the customers if they would like to order for the help.

What do you think food businesses can do to ensure traffic law obedience by delivery teams?
Honestly, the food business should but the impact will come to the customers. Then again 35,000 people on KFD bash you for a 20 minute delay.

What is that balance between penalizing for late and rewarding on time?
The right balance is the motivation and encouragement of the staff. We penalize the staff on punctuality. We make sure that if a guest complains about not being looked after. We do not tolerate the idea of a customer leaving unhappy.

What’s your top performing food item?

Breakfast as a whole and the all time favorite is the pamasan chicken since day one. Everyone has it and its normally fried with crumbs because its run of mill. We do it, how it should be – baked and topped with crumbs and pamasan cheese differently. We have greater portions.

A recent post of KFD alleged that food business owners should play a role in improving the area surrounding their outlets. What’s your take on this?
We fixed our road ourselves. The authorities that were supposed to do it were delaying it. We payed a private contractor to get it done. The general issue is the disposal of trash. When you go to the back, you’ll see the area cleared of waste. We have a contract with someone that ensures safe transit of the trash.

What do you think about businesses that opt for positioning under Shariah compliance?
Positioning for the heck of it is something anyone can do. If they follow through with it, then it matters. I think they are doing it just for conversions on that segment. This is Islam of convenience. Music are okay but movies are bad. It’s easy for us to play music but not to serve alcohol. We say no to 45-50 people only because of booze. We want to be focused on our core business.

What’s the most absurd reason someone has given your food a bad review?
Couple of months ago: a group of 35 ladies and their host wanted us to lie to 32 other households about what was and what was not on the menu. Our slogan is “House of Yes”. She threatened to write a negative review on KFD and SWOT if they didn’t comply with her demands.

Any plans for an eCommerce focus or loyalty system?
We’re currently considering a mobile app that allows for ease in transactions and serves as a reservation system.

What’s the growth plan for the next quarter?
Consistency. We would like to retain our guests and provide consistency. We now have ramps for the elderly customers, who are now frequent customers.


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