Restaurant Group D+1: Flavors of Spain in Asia
Tapas, churros and delectable low-calorie ice cream, Spanish-owned restaurant group D+1 is bringing its concept of quality, affordable flavors of Spain to the rest of the world.
With some fifty stores in several countries throughout Asia, and plans to expand to the Middle East and North and South America, Singapore-based D+1 is capitalizing on the global love for Spanish tapas and other culinary traditions, such as this country’s famed churros. Top-notch ingredients, affordable prices and modern touches are just a few of the concepts that are driving forces behind this company’s success.
Foods and Wines from Spain talked to D+1’s CEO Miguel Díaz about how this company got its start and what the future holds for these Spanish entrepreneurs. This is what he had to say:
How did the idea for D+1 come about?
D+1 was conceived of as a company dedicated to exporting Spanish products and the Spanish experience to the rest of the world — since our country has such excellent and renowned products. Spain has a high level of recognition abroad, not only for its gastronomy, but also for its beaches and interior tourism, as well as our excellence at sports, culture, history and fashion, etc. We only needed to believe in this and make a move internationally. We created the company and are now on our way to launching in more and more countries, while also strengthening our products in newer markets.
What type of obstacles did you have to overcome early on?
Like any other project, it wasn’t easy. But we already had positive experiences with starting other companies that continue to do well, so it came down to attracting talent and restaurant industry professionals to our company and comprising a team (since the founders didn’t have any previous F&B experience), as well as applying analytic principles and knowledge that we had successfully applied to previous ventures.
Why did you opt to create two brands of Spanish food (and one for ice cream?)?
D+1 has various restaurant lines, all of which share a common denominator: Spanish roots (products and experience), maximum quality and affordable prices for the whole family. We expanded the “Yolé” brand of ice cream both in Yolé shops and supermarkets, adding a chain of Spanish “Tapas Club” restaurants and “Chulove Café” cafés. The reason we decided on these brands and not others is because we were looking for an excellent Spanish product that was popular with foreigners, with the ability to create good business opportunities for franchises and distributors.
Here is a little information about each brand:
Yolé: a brand of ice cream that can be eaten at the Yolé shops (soft-serve ice cream service), and in 500 ml and 100 ml containers that are sold in supermarkets. This ice cream has a great flavor without any added sugar, making it low in calories. You can enjoy a tub of ice cream as good as any of the ones sold by leading brands, but with only half the calories and zero added sugar. This is gaining in popularity among international distributors, who are starting to demand Yolé ice cream for their supermarkets.
Tapas Club: casual-dining Spanish restaurants. Spanish food and ambience in restaurants that make you feel like you’re in Spain, despite being thousands of kilometers away.
Chulove Café: the latest concept we are developing. By the end of April we will have 3 Chulove Cafés operating in Singapore and Indonesia. These theme establishments sell churros, prepared in non-traditional formats.
How has the Spanish tapas concept been received in Asian markets?
The word “tapa” is already a global term — so much so that you can often see it used with other cuisines, like Japanese. If fact, if you look closely, you’ll notice other cuisines serving small dishes made to be eaten in two or three bites, just calling it something else. But in general, when you say “tapa,” the whole world understands what it is, although they may not always associate it with being Spanish.
Spanish cuisine is all the rage, not only in Asia, but the rest of the world as well. The important thing now is to make sure it is not a passing fad, but one that sticks around, like Italian or Japanese cuisine. And this is what “Tapas Club” is all about. It was conceived of as a chain of Spanish restaurants featuring simple, casual dining, and welcoming all audiences to come and try our tapas... Thus far it has been very well-received, so much so that this year we will open in a fourth, and possibly a fifth country, as we continue to expand.
Do your customers understand what it means to eat “tapas style”?
Yes, people understand that a “tapa” is a small dish, easy to understand, made using good ingredients and for sharing.
Similarly, are they familiar with churros con chocolate?
Churros are another example of something people all over the world know about — more than we think they do. Chulove Café is the result of combining traditional churros with a modern twist, and it is going really well. The churros can be eaten at the restaurant or taken to go, coated in new flavors that are very popular with families. What’s more, local supermarkets are now asking us to prepare these products for retail sale, like any other pastry item. The reception has been very positive so far.
Which countries are D+1’s restaurants specifically geared towards?
I would say practically any country in the world. Currently both the restaurants and ice cream shops are located in various countries in Asia (Singapore, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan...), but we have already set our sights on the American continent. In the future we would like to have a presence in both South America and the USA. But to do so we will need to find the right partners.
Were there any countries where the concept was harder to explain, or are tapas and churros universal concepts?
They are universal concepts... More than the concept, the complicated part is explaining to people that our brands and products are high-quality, but not expensive. People are sometimes nervous about trying a restaurant with foreign food, and paying a high price for something exotic. D+1 is very careful when it comes to pricing, in order to ensure that our establishments are affordable for the general public, so that everyone can enjoy high-quality products and good preparation at very good prices. We do high-volume products, while making sure that the business is very profitable for our franchises.
With more than 90 locations in 10 countries, what is the next challenge for D+1?
We have a lot of challenges. Many of them have to do with studying or designing internal projects for the different brands, which will soon be launched. The brands and products can always be improved upon.
A current challenge is to make the Yolé ice cream tubs — without added sugar and low in calories — reach the largest number of supermarkets in different countries all over the world. To do so, distributors need to try the ice cream and see for themselves that it has an equal or better flavor than that of leading brands, but with much fewer calories and no added sugar. It’s surprising! But the challenge now is name recognition and for them to demand the product.
Another example, this time in terms of internal operations, is a system of digital ordering that we are developing for the Tapas Club kitchens, which will optimize the efficiency of the kitchen staff at our franchises, and improve the wait time for service. We reduce costs, while increasing the quality of the experience.
Do you have any plans to launch in other regions?
Yes, we are currently in discussions with restaurant groups to launch in the Middle East and America, but we are very selective in terms of which business groups we will trust with the operation of our brands, and therefore the most important thing isn’t the speed of our expansion, but rather finding the right partner in each country.
On the other hand, we have started talking to ice cream distributors for the retail sector in certain countries. We want our Yolé ice creams to make it into more markets.
Text: Adrienne Smith /@ICEX