Ask a Bengaluru resident where you must visit if you’re in the city for just a few days and you’re bound to hear a combination of certain things. One of them, and I can say this with entire certainty because I’ve been doing this for a decade, has got to be Corner House.
Yes, the city is teeming with various bars, pubs, cafes and other cultural hotspots, but something about Corner House is just... different. One of the oldest ice cream establishments in the city, it would almost be a disservice to call it a parlour. Since 1982, this ice cream house (and the chain it later developed into) has been serving more than ice cream to Bengaluru’s residents –– with love, heritage, and traditions, each scoop feels like coming home.
Their history is vast and plenty and no part of its future is disconnected from it. It feels like the reason Corner House has such a hold over this city is that over time, somehow, its people grew up with not just their ice cream, but also their people. As Bangalore became Bengaluru, the familiarity of Corner House remaining as it is helped people gain some solace. Not too long ago, founder Narayan Rao and his family celebrated the 40th anniversary of this wholesome establishment. Even four decades later, the excitement and gratitude remain constant through their work and in what it means to them.
In moving forward to cater to a newer, younger crowd, Corner House has changed very little about themselves, Their identity rooted in Bengaluru allows for them to maintain integrity, and simply take steps forward to grow into a larger family.
We spoke with Narayan Rao and got his insights on everything there is to know about Corner House - their journey, ice cream and the culture they have hence cultivated in Bengaluru, and of course, their famous Death By Chocolate.
Corner House has remained Bangalore’s go-to ice cream house for decades. Tell us about how it began, and why was ice cream your choice for business?
I moved to Bangalore in 1974 to study agriculture and I fell in love with the city’s charm. After studying in Austria and Canada for a degree in Hotel Management, I worked in Delhi for a bit and then moved to Bangalore in 1981. In 1982, I started Corner House as a Fun Food Café (QSR) for sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, and a small offering of ice creams. We were famous for our pizzas and burgers, and we had a steady stream of customers who came back to us regularly. We did try a variety of cuisines like Goan, Chinese, fast food, and ice creams. We realised that our ice creams were a clear winner. In 1995, we decided to focus exclusively on ice creams, and there has been no looking back since then. I took the time out to understand more about ice creams, flavours, chocolate sauce and a whole lot more to get the perfect quality and consistency.
Until 1999, we had just one store. We decided to expand slowly and steadily making sure that we maintained our quality and consistency in every new store we opened. In 2007, we opened our first branch in Mysore. Our store numbers gradually increased post-2000. Today, we have a total of 22 branches.
Corner House has been a quintessential Bangalore brand. It has become a part of families and homes; integral to Bangalore’s spirit. For 40 years now, we have offered high-quality ice cream desserts at reasonable prices that adhere to our in-house ‘scoop value’ tenet; a guarantee that customers get their money’s worth.
Your chain of ice cream houses serves comfort for children and adults alike. To facilitate this, what lies at the core of Corner House’s vision for years to come?
We are more than just ice creams and sundaes. For those who have lived in Bangalore, Corner House is an emotion, a happy place, and a legacy brand that is steeped in a uniquely Bangalore feeling.
Here are a few things that make people come back to us:
I. Consistency in quality - Corner House’s recipes are specially crafted and monitored and tested at each stage; from the production line at the factory to the sales counter at every outlet. We monitor each product very closely. Our chocolate sauce has remained a favourite among our customers.
II. Nostalgia - Corner House celebrates the spirit of old Bangalore. Our customers keep coming back to us not just for our ice creams but also for the memories they have with our brand. Be it a small celebration or a late evening family outing, Corner House has been a happy place for people in Bangalore.
III. It’s a brand for everyone - If you walk into a Corner House, you will find people of all age groups, and socioeconomic backgrounds enjoying a bowl of ice cream. It’s a space where anyone and everyone can be comfortable. We have a simple, warm, approachable, and welcoming atmosphere.
Corner House’s chocolate sauce and Death By Chocolate are probably two of the most famous dessert items in all of Bangalore. They are at the heart of Corner House, why do you think that is?
Our chocolate sauce is one of those ingredients that is at the heart of many of our popular offerings. I formulated the sauce with careful consideration. I wanted it to be something similar to a warmth in the cold, or a hug on a nippy evening. Just the right amount of comfort for when you need it. We take special care to ensure that it remains consistent in every scoop we serve.
Bangalore is largely shaped by its brewpub and cafe culture, but Corner House seems to have created its own niche in ‘ice cream culture’. Over the years, how have you succeeded in doing this, and are there any aspects of it that you thought would only work in Bangalore?
One of the things that we identified early on is Bangalore’s love for Chocolate. When we started Corner House, we just had three ice cream sundaes on the menu-hot butterscotch, chocolate mint fudge, and hot chocolate fudge. Our hot chocolate fudge was a winner. It’s a dish that has stood the test of time, becoming a bestseller from our vast menu.
In business, I have always tried to follow the formula ‘Keep it simple silly’. (Popularly known as the KISS Principle). I believe that one of the reasons we have been around for as long as we have is because of our desire to ensure the consistency of our products throughout the years.
I believe in designing a store that has a fit and forget formula; a low daily cost of maintenance that allows for easy housekeeping. This allows us to concentrate on the other aspects of the business and reduce overheads. When it comes to the product, we give customers value for money. We do not spend heavily on advertising and marketing; we let the product speak for itself. We focus our energies on what we do well, which is making a good serving (offering) and making our customers happy. I would like to believe that these principles would work just as well outside of Bangalore.
If you could keep just one item from the menu forever, which one would it be and why?
We have a wide range of customers and they all have different preferences and tastes. So, it would be difficult to choose one product that works for everyone. Having said that, a lot of our customers are very fond of the DBC (Death By Chocolate). I feel it’s the perfect combination of ice cream, chocolate cake and chocolate sauce. The texture of the cake is soft yet holds its structure well and the combination of cold ice cream and hot chocolate sauce with the sprinkling of peanuts on top brings it all together.
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