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The Financial Express

From roadside cart to burger brand

| Updated: November 28, 2022 15:21:53


Chillox cart in its early days Chillox cart in its early days

Siam Ahmed (pseudonym) just got his paycheck from his part-time job. For a university student like him, this day is heavenly. Tired and hungry, he gets an irresistible temptation at the sight of the red, glowy sign on his way home. He slowly enters the restaurant and orders his usual chicken burger with cheese. "What is your preferred sauce level, sir?" Looking around hesitantly, Siam went on in his thinnest voice, "Umm, more sauce." When his scrumptious burger arrived, he forgot about all the guilt of social media image and went for a big bite with utmost pleasure.
If you have a smile of familiarity on your face right now, you might be thinking about Chillox. If we ask around Dhaka, Chattogram and Mymensingh for go-to fast-food places, Chillox will definitely come up as a suggestion. Even if people hesitate to mention Chillox as their favourite burger place for the 'saucy' burgers, many love it more because of the addictive 'sauce' inclusion.
Keeping the sauce fight aside, all will agree that Chillox has consistently been one of the most popular Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) in the country. In fact, from every item on the menu, the decor, and the pricing, everything celebrates the bustling vibrance of youth.
With more than 5,000 burgers sold every day on average, Chillox has etched its place in the minds of Bangladeshis in the past six years. Nonetheless, the beginning of its journey was not that grand. Many of you will remember the small cart on the opposite side of BRAC University at Mohakhali serving burgers humbly.
There are many roadside food carts all over Dhaka city. Of all the carts, how did this one become a famous fast-food brand in Bangladesh? As one of the three partners of Chillox, Maruf Hasan Nirzhor recalls the beginning; he says that Pranto Bhowmick and he were school friends when he met another partner Ahmed Faiz during his undergraduate days at IBA, Dhaka University.
Pranto knew a good burger maker, which gave birth to the idea of becoming burger sellers in the minds of these three youths. Pranto and Maruf are the founding partners, while Faiz joined them after a few weeks as a current partner.
"Initially, we did not have any big dreams or plans. We just wanted to sell burgers and make people happy," says Maruf. For the three youngsters at the junction of academic to work life, this cart was something to look forward to beyond the typical 9-5 cage.
Ahmed Faiz shares an interesting incident from the earlier days of Chillox, "We offered our friends to try our burgers for free. Eventually, they started to come and buy our burgers after work or take orders for family or office gatherings. This is how our initial marketing went with word of mouth from our close friends." Later on, the popularity of the cart burger went beyond the school, university, and office crowd of Mohakhali and attracted foodies from different parts of Dhaka.
The food cart that started its journey in February 2016 had to shut down for placement reasons in the December of the same year despite the skyrocketing demand for its burgers. Nonetheless, in 2017, the disappointment of burger fans went away as Chillox launched its first proper outlet at Mohakhali. It turned out people did not forget the cravings; in fact, more and more people started to join the Chillox fanbase. The unique honey mustard sauce was one of the prime reasons why Chillox burgers became the perfect delight for our Bangladeshi tastebuds.
After some time, a social media trend claimed burgers are 'cultured and gourmet' with less sauce and more raw patty, which brought Chillox into the limelight in every stirring burger discussion of Dhaka youths. Chillox went for some amusing posts and marketing tactics to play along with it. They brought the flexibility of choosing sauce levels to cater to customers' demands. However, the secret insight is that most of Chillox's customers go for the 'more sauce' option to this day.
Since around 2015, Bangladesh has had a boom in the restaurant and fast-food industry. Many restaurants werelaunched, and many were shut down. The pandemic worked as a deterrent as well. How did Chillox manage to sustain this journey in this saturated market?
Maruf answered, "Ensuring that we are serving the best product and a good value for money in every scenario is what brought us here. This is indeed a challenge because most restaurants reduce the quality or compromise on costs after a certain level of popularity to make a profit. Our success has always been associated with the quality of the product we serve. We believe that by simply balancing this, we can sustain in the long run in the business."
Indeed, prioritising quality and pricing comes before anything else. Ahmed Faiz added another dimension to it, "We always focus on training our front liners in a way that they represent our brand values. End of the day, good service with a good product completes the offering."
He also added that since the beginning, all three of the partners have been involved in different functions of Chillox, from literally making the burgers to being behind the analysis and management, which has shaped their entrepreneurial journey.
Chillox currently has outlets in 11 different locations in Dhaka, two in Chattogram, and one in Mymensingh. Moving forward, the partners mentioned that they want to tap into the potential market outside the capital city and expand into different parts of Bangladesh. As part of this goal, there is good news for the foodies in Narayanganj because the 15th outlet of Chillox will be opened there in a couple of months.
In the restaurant industry of Bangladesh, foreign brands fall behind for various reasons; local brands compete with each other and flourish in different ways. What does Chillox have in store to offer to win hearts?
Maruf said that they go by the line; you can make six more people happy with the amount you spend for one customer. Indeed, not just with burgers, they at different times satiated demands by introducing trendy items like cheese fingers, fish tots, flavoured chicken wings and tempting desserts, just what the youths crave. However, their burgers have always stolen the highlight, and the brand tends to keep the focus on this for times to come.

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