Tapan Vaidya, a passionate, innovative, and veteran in the industry and on Caterer Middle East Power 50 List 2020, is currently spearheading the growth of PJP Investments Group in the role of CEO with his own investment. PJP is the owner-operator of Papa John’s in the UAE & Saudi Arabia.
In his 35-year long work journey, across the Middle East & India, Tapan has been associated with the development of hundreds of restaurants across these markets with brands including Papa John’s, Chili’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Outback Steakhouse… it is a long list. Tapan also founded Talli Turmeric® – a hugely popular polished casual dining brand serving authentic Indian food from across Indian regional cuisines, celebrating Turmeric’s position in the Indian culinary landscape, in South Mumbai, India. This October, Talli Turmeric® will soon launch in Dubai in a virtual format through a partnership with cloud kitchen unicorn Kitopi. Currently focused on developing and expanding Papa John’s in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Tapan is keen to give back to the industry from his deep knowledge and hands-on experience. With the current crisis that the industry has now faced for over a year, Tapan has dug deep to bring new insights and creative solutions in handling his business, and he is a successful versatile leader. In academics, Tapan has done BSc in Mathematics from St. Xavier’s College & a Business Diploma from NMIMS, Mumbai, India.
A Glimpse of PJP Investments Group
PJP Investments Group owns and operates 62 Papa John’s restaurants in the United Arab Emirates, with strong expansion plans to build 110 restaurants by 2026. PJP has recently signed on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and opened its first restaurant in Riyadh last month. The development plan includes 100 restaurant openings in 10 years.
While talking about his consumer base, Mr Vaidya said, “Consumers of all ages and nationalities are our customers – that is the power pizza enjoys as comfort food. Quality of ingredients and operational execution in our restaurants are two key elements that contribute to our success. These are not easily achieved, there are processes in place to systematically achieve these two on a daily basis, every day.”
The Inspiration behind the Initiation
Tapan Vaidya waited at tables in a local restaurant during his university days and that experience made him fall in love with the restaurant industry, the trigger was the instant appreciation of a great effort. You serve great food and provide excellent service to a dining guest; you receive an instant reward in the form of a Tip. Simple start of falling in love, but has taken him on a roller-coaster-like exhilarating ride in his career.
Hurdles on the Way
The PJP Investments Group grew from one restaurant in 2005 to 62 restaurants today. This did not happen without teething problems, in fact, the problems grew exponentially large each year as the company struggled to ensure various elements were aligned with the objectives, including recruitment, training, supply chain, striking the right balance between menu price and cost of goods sold – this list is long. However, the team stayed focused on getting the quality of ingredients right and ensuring flawless restaurant operations. This helped them make customers happy and they kept coming back.
A Day in Tapan’s Life
“I wake up early at 5 am every workday and head off for my main physical as well as a mental exercise – half a round of Golf at Emirates Golf Club. I avoid the Golf Cart and walk the course. After a shower at the Club, I drive straight to my office for a day full of excitement. Once a week I would usually have a session with new joiners. I insist on spending a half-hour with them to talk about our Vision, Mission and Values. Then there are the weekly Trade Meetings where the entire management team comes together to discuss last week’s performance”, asserted Tapan when asked about his daily routine.
“Every day, I personally spend time with our operations team from across all emirates, to discuss each feedback received from our customers, negative and positive. A customer who sent in negative feedback is informed and won back while customers who sent in positive feedback are thanked well”, he further added.
The Support System
Consistent focus on the quality of ingredients used and the passion to make every customer return is what has helped Tapan and his venture grow consistently. Papa John’s has a great brand promise of Better Ingredients Better Pizza and they stay true to it at all times, never compromise on quality. And this does not escape customers’ notice.
The visionary insists that the teams in restaurants focus on ROC and not ROI! ROC is Return of Customer – that each team member must focus on taking great care of each transaction, each customer in such a way that the customer only thinks about coming back to Papa John’s!
“If we take care of ROC, then ROI will take care of itself”, said Tapan Vaidya.
Growing through the Pandemic
“At the height of the pandemic at the end of March 2020, when we were facing the closure of half our restaurants in the United Arab Emirates, I took the decision of not letting a single team member go. I knew the restaurants will reopen once the pandemic subsides, but where will we get trained personnel from? Who will make our customers return, if not our trained teams? I am happy and proud to confirm that we not only lived up to not letting any job go to COVID, but we started recruiting even more employees to fuel our expansion, with over a dozen restaurant openings since then”, Mr Vaidya proudly shared.
My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi
The future is very exciting! PJP Investments Group has 62 restaurants in the United Arab Emirates, with over 10 locations in the pipeline. The company is expanding fast, it will exceed the target of 110 restaurants by 2026. Recently, they have just opened their first restaurant in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia very successfully – all set to exceed their target of 100 restaurants by 2030.
Features in the Crown
- International Franchisee of the Year in the global Papa John’s system for 2014.
- Tapan Vaidya was named in the Power 50 in F&B in the Middle East by the prestigious Caterer Middle East Magazine for 2020.
- He was appointed to the Advisory Board of Dubai Restaurants Group (DRG), patronised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce. DRG is the voice of the restaurant industry in Dubai.
- He was awarded RetailME Icons Award 2021 by Images RetailME.
- Featured by The CEO Magazine in their June 2021 EMEA edition.
A Piece of Advice for Aspiring Female Entrepreneurs
Use your instincts to make a decision especially when in doubt, your instincts have been more accurate since time immemorial, and second is a simpler truth easier said than done, ensure your revenues exceed your costs – you can do that if you make your customers return.
Have No Men in your team rather than have Yes Men in your team!