The perfect cuppa with Dilupa Pathirana
After building strong brands such as Machang, O! with Lion Brewery PLC and Awanhala of the Ceylon Hotels Corporation, today he is giving it his all to make Barista the largest and most preferred coffee chain in Sri Lanka by 2022.
Before Dilupa Pathirana moved to the ins and outs of the food and beverage industry in 2011, his career in branding began with the complex and high consumer involvement insurance industry. Following his transition in career paths, Dilupa has been fundamental in building strong brands such as Machang, O! with Lion Brewery PLC and Awanhala of the Ceylon Hotels Corporation. Boasting a strong educational background, Dilupa holds a 1st class degree in Marketing Management from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, an MBA from the Cardiff Metropolitan University in UK and is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Today however, he is giving it his all to make Barista the largest and most preferred coffee chain in Sri Lanka by 2022.
Tell us about the brand you represent
Our journey from the bean to the cup was set in motion in 2002. At the time, café culture was in its infancy as coffee was still considered as a luxury indulgence. Our quest to provide a truly international experience by brewing an authentic Italian cuppa led us to create the Barista brand. Spearheading café culture in Sri Lanka, Barista was an opportunity to discover both the coffee and the craft.
Since the launch of our first outlet in December 2002, our team has worked tirelessly to create a comfortable ambience away from the pressures of home and work where our customers can relax and unwind over the fragrant aroma of a finely brewed cup of coffee. As our patrons grew, Barista became the most popular international coffee chain in Sri Lanka with 8 café’s and a host of new initiatives underway. We believe that great coffee is nothing without the best customer service, which is why our dedicated, professional team of brew masters will do everything possible to make our customers have a pleasurable experience.
How did Barista grow the coffee culture in Sri Lanka?
During our inception, there were only a few cafés in Colombo; a freshly brewed cup of coffee was a luxury. We paved the way in educating consumers about coffee – this was essential in order to grow coffee culture in Sri Lanka. We were also the pioneers in importing the technology and machinery while building industry infrastructure, along with grooming a skillful set of employees. Additionally, bringing in the required customization and alterations of products and services to blend with the needs and wants of the local market was a daunting task. As the pioneer and market leader within this space, we were automatically faced with the pressure of building and driving the category forward along with setting up operational and service standards of café culture in Sri Lanka. Looking back at the last 18 years, we can proudly say that Barista has done a tremendous job to uplift the coffee culture in the country.
What are some values that have not changed over the year?
At Barista, our aim has always been to passionately deliver the highest levels of experiential services. This includes maintaining consistency in serving the highest quality products while become a globally competitive organization – one that is driven by an insatiable thirst for excellence.
We strive to lead with ideas and firmly believe that honesty to our consumers and all our stakeholders without exceptions are of paramount importance. Being responsive and proactive to changes in the micro and macro market conditions and a passion to outdo ourselves are also among our values which have stood the test of time.
What has changed? How has Barista managed to stay relevant in this competitive space?
We have evolved with our customer and market dynamics; over the last 18 years both our local and foreign consumers have changed. The demographic, sociographic and psychographic changes are quite evident. Barista believes in being responsive to our environment and this has resulted in a transformation in the way we create value to our consumers – from our food and beverage offerings, packaging, standards of customer service, outlet locating strategy, means of communication, adapting to new technology and our ideology of sustainable business growth in harmony with our community and environment are all synchronized to create the best possible value to our consumer.
With so many options, what is it that attracts customers to flock to barista?
In essence, it all comes down to a brand being close enough to the consumer and vigilant to the business environment. Not only do we understand consumer needs, we even anticipate and think on behalf of them before our competitors. What has always worked for Barista is our perfect cup of coffee and the passion and commitment involved in brewing the perfect cup of coffee consistently. As we take our customer service seriously, the time and effort we invest on training and development of staff is what made us the best ranked Customer Service Café in Sri Lanka by the recently conducted online survey by LMD magazine.
Barista has a vision to be the largest and most preferred coffee chain in Sri Lanka by 2022 – What steps have been taken to reach this goal?
As a business, we have gathered a vast amount of experience to run outlets scattered island wide. We have a set of well-trained employees who can be enrolled in any expansion of business and a well experienced top management with heaps of expertise in café management. Our next step is to expand our operations geographically and meet the demands of new customers. We intend on opening up to tourist hot spots and newly developed suburban residential areas.
Barista is also on a mission to increase the usage of coffee in the Sri Lankan market. This is why we are working very closely with different technology driven infrastructure providers to grow the coffee industry. The Piccolo product that we launched in September 2019 with UBER Eats is a prime example of this. We are happy to report that the exclusive channel driven Piccolo product that customers can get delivered to their doorstep for just Rs. 199 has contributed to 30% growth of Barista coffee sales. Above all else, our primary aim is to be the most preferred café chain in Sri Lanka – for that we will do our basics right – the perfect cup of coffee and our Barista branded customer service.