Sandro Norakidze, the Director of Degusto
Sandro Norakidze, the Director of Degusto

Degusto: The Cafeteria with a Fine Dining Approach

June 15, 2024
3 mins read

Degusto, a unique cafeteria that serves a diverse range of ready-made food in a fast and ready buffet format, has managed to create a niche for itself in the Georgian market by offering high-quality food that looks and tastes like that of a fine dining restaurant. With its focus on using only the best ingredients and prioritizing speed, Degusto has become the go-to lunch destination for busy people in Georgia.

It is no surprise that Georgian customers have named Degusto their favorite cafeteria in the country, resulting in the brand winning its first Golden Brand award.

In this interview with Golden Brand, Sandro Norakidze, the Director of Degusto, talks about the company’s unique approach to food production, its expansion plans, and how it has managed to come out stronger from the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q. Degusto has become the favorite cafeteria of Georgian customers. How has the brand achieved this recognition, in your opinion?

A. We achieved this through consistency and a lot of hard work. Receiving the Golden Brand award is an immense honor, and we are thrilled.

Our cafeteria uses high-quality ingredients, including cheese, butter, lettuce, and olive oil, just like fine dining restaurants. However, we prepare our dishes in large quantities and prioritize speed, as our main focus is serving lunch to busy individuals. Our food is sold by weight, so it may not look or taste exactly like that of a high-end restaurant. Nonetheless, we strive to be the number one lunch destination in Georgia and take pride in our diverse and fast menu.

Q. Let’s review the development of Degusto since its establishment.

A. In 2017, we opened Degusto with the aim of creating a space where people could enjoy healthy and diverse ready-made food in a fast and everyday format. We carefully analyzed the needs and wants of our customers and stocked around 80-100 products on the counters. We still have the same number of products on display, but we change them depending on the seasons and current trends in world cuisine.

We spent about one year developing the concept and refining production and operational details before opening our cafeteria. From 2017 to 2019 we opened 14 additional branches, which confirmed that the market needed a space like ours. The “retail metric” also showed good results in all parameters, including merchandise per square meter, etc.

However, the pandemic hit us hard, with five lockdowns and two years of struggle. We had to close four branches. Still, we managed to find a positive side to this situation. The pandemic taught us to be meticulous about costs and work efficiently on our administrative team.

Despite the challenges, we opened six new branches in 2022-2023, bringing the total to 18 branches. Of these, five are corporate and one serves a private school.

We acquired the online cafeteria platform Lanchoba and developed a separate enterprise that produces about 15,000 sandwiches, hamburgers, and ready-made salads every day, using super-modern technology. We also produce lunch boxes that are supplied to the Spar chain of supermarkets. Our goal is to occupy 20-25% of the lunch market within four-five years.

Today Degusto is a versatile cafeteria that caters to three different types of customers. First, it serves retail customers with street cafeterias. Second, it provides cafeteria services to schools, large organizations and other corporate clients. Lastly, it offers an online cafeteria service to medium-sized companies that do not have the space to set up their own physical cafeteria in their office. Additionally, Degusto specializes in packaged culinary and bakery products.

Q. You said that Degusto operates 18 branches. Are all of them located in the capital city of Tbilisi? Do you plan to expand to other cities of Georgia as well?

A. As of today, Degusto only has locations in Tbilisi. The company plans to expand to Batumi, Kutaisi, Bakuriani, and Gudauri with branches and semi-finished products enterprises within the next three-five years.

Q. How is the menu of Degusto created and what are you focusing on at this time?

A. Our system is designed to create seasonal and weekly menus, which are then further broken down into specific days and hours. This means we decide which products should be available at what time and how many times a day they should be made. We rely on statistics from our database, along with a touch of intuition, to compile these menus.

Q. From the diverse menu offered by Degusto, please name three products most in-demand.

A. Degusto’s most in-demand products are Khachapuri, Caesar salad, and Fajita.

Q. What are the key factors that make Degusto competitive?

A. I believe that our ability to excel in production and operational management, along with the highly efficient work of our 500-person team and accumulated knowledge and experience, are the key factors that make us competitive. However, it is worth noting that the market we operate in is quite competitive.

Our aim is to enhance the quality standard of packaged ready-made food production and sales, as well as corporate cafeterias in schools, universities, and large organizations.

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