How 99 Pancakes built its brand with a fun strategy

When 99 Pancakes started off, they barely had five customers a day.

A new business requires a new marketing strategy. 99 Pancakes, when they started off in 2017, didn’t have any. What they did have was a great product that was rare and exclusive— flavorsome pancakes.

The team, however, had no means or resources to market these pancakes. There were zero ads. They had zero presence on social media. For the first 15 days since its opening, the store in Mumbai was almost always empty. Their average daily income was barely Rs700 per day. Nonetheless, this did not stymie Vikesh Shah, CEO, 99 Pancakes, from shutting shop. The team put their heads together and formulated a fun strategy.

99 pancakes
Vikesh Shah, CEO, 99 Pancakes

“When we started off, we barely had any walk-in customers. The objective at the time was to create an impression that our store was crowded and buzzing with activity,” reminisces Shah.

The team created a cool calendar— basically a list of people they would invite for free pancakes for the next 30 days.

“After 10-15 days of almost zero customers, we started inviting our own friends every day so that the store looks full. For 30 days, we would make a calendar of whom we should call and invite them along with their friends and family. Within 12 days, people outside our inner circle started taking notice of our crowded outlet and, gradually, they started dropping in. We were confident about the product. We know it will excite people. We made sure the menu was specifically designed that way,” says Shah.

Ever since, there was no looking back. Today, 99 Pancakes has over 40 pancake outlets across India and the brand is looking at expanding to more cities.

99 pancakes
To cater to more customers, 99 Pancakes keeps redesigning its menu.

“In addition to opening more outlets across the country, we will also be launching our pancake pre-mixes this year for the retail segment to cater to Indian households and to make pancakes a commonly consumed breakfast item. We plan to launch healthier options in our pancake pre-mixes selection that will help us reach a wider segment of the market,” he says. 

When 99 Pancakes was launched, not many people were aware of the concept of pancakes.

“Some customers used to walk in and ask for just ‘cakes.’ We took time to study our customers and raise awareness about pancakes. Even today, customers in tier-2 cities are not really aware of the concept of pancakes,” says Shah.

Apart from using quality ingredients, 99 Pancakes outlets have an open kitchen where pancakes are made live in front of customers.

“People really like to see their favourite pancakes with different toppings made freshly in front of them. This  elevates the entire experience. About 70% of our customers are youngsters in the age group of 16-25 years, who love to explore new stuff. 99 Pancakes has become a favourite pancake place for kids under 10 years as well,” says Shah.

99 Pancakes was the first brand to introduce Mini Pancakes in India. The brand constantly kept evolving and redesigning its menu. It has some epic associations with both national and globally renowned brands like Epigamia, Nutella, Kit Kat, M&Ms, Bounty, and Twix. 99 Pancakes also recently collaborated with Master Chef finalist Karishma Sakhrani and launched a whole new healthy product range called the Procakes.

“In India, DosaUttapamPanki are different versions of pancakes. But most people do not realise that these are forms of pancakes. In the last three years, pancakes have caught the attention of Indian food lovers, and it is now getting into several café menus. Just like brownies that you can see on many multi-cuisine restaurant menus today, pancakes are also adding up that space now,” says Shah.

The bestsellers at 99 Pancakes include Choco Banoffee, Holla-Nutella, Chocolate Lovely, Jelly Berry, Maple Lady, Red Riding Hood, and more.

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