Indian wrap company Zabardast has paused its search for franchisees as it looks to pivot its business to become more digitally and delivery focused. But it has not scrapped plans to scale up the business, and is looking to launch an investment round.

The business started working with Seeds Consulting in 2019 with a view to launching a franchise model, but Zabardast founder Neelofar Khan told MCA the inability to trade normally during the pandemic has meant those plans have been put on hold.

The business currently operates eight sites – four in central London, two in Croydon and one in Bluewater shopping centre, and has recently opened a further site in Whyteleafe, Surrey, for takeaway and delivery only. It has temporarily closed several of its sites due to lockdown – Clerkenwell, Waterloo and Bluewater – as there was not enough footfall to trade viably.

“At the moment it’s about survival. We had to quickly change,” she said. Khan explained that because its customers are now living and working in the suburbs rather than city and town centre locations, it decided it would bring the business to them – which is what was behind the decision to open the Whyteleafe site.

It has been scaling up its delivery operation and has just recruited a data scientist and was looking to analyse as much data as it can, whether that’s from Deliveroo or its own customer data, and make sure that its menus, marketing and offers are targeted to the appropriate demographics.

Khan said Zabardast also had an eye of potential investment opportunities in order to realise its growth ambitions. “Our next major step will be going for an investment round. So far, we have done it ourselves but in order to really scale up that is something we are looking at,” she said.

She added that the business was currently in the process of negotiating with all of Zabardast’s landlords in order to try and reduce the levels of debt “that all hospitality businesses have developed”. “Some of them are understanding and want to engage, but there are still a lot of landlords that don’t understand the dire situation that we are all in together,” she said.

Earlier this month the business also opened a large purpose-built central kitchen, off the Purley Way in Croydon which will service its existing shops and allow for expansion. Khan said the business was also looking at how it could offer delivery from that site also.