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Art Lunch, an Armenian enterprise providing food, catering and hospitality services, has been able to move to e-marketing model that increased turnover by 78% and improved sales by 31% with EU4Business support through the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme. In turn, the company has been supporting Armenia by providing food to 1,500 COVID patients and individuals who have become housebound due to the pandemic.

Stable business in unstable times

Many years and hard work preceded the moment when a new enterprise called Art Lunch entered Armenia’s food, catering and hospitality market in 2016.

We happened to visit Turkey and realized that lunch delivery service was something new to us,” says Bakur Melkonyan, co-founder and Business Development Director of Art Lunch, recalling a trip in 2002. “Back in Armenia, we began delivering lunches that were made by us and brought to our customers by us.”

A few years ago, Armenia’s biggest cafeteria chain introduced new lines in catering and hospitality. Since summer 2019, Art Lunch has also been providing healthy food to 20 Armenian military units.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic, a state of emergency and quarantine, the unstable situation brought many challenges to the business.

“Like many businesses in Armenia, our cafeterias were closed for two months and only a few were working at the military units,” says Melkonyan. “But it provided an opportunity to move into the online business, so renewing our website, for which we got EU4Business support, allowed us to quickly reorient and organize delivery services.”

Art Lunch started providing daily balanced food containing the right amounts of calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and fiber for about 1,500 Armenians who were either housebound and isolated or were patients. Art Lunch also celebrates their birthdays and provides medical personnel with sweets and coffee.

“Innovative business models helped to minimize the downside for our business during pandemic,” notes Melkonyan. “But we could not ignore the situation and only take care of ourselves.”

As the project went into high gear, Art Lunch worked with its partners to also prepare and deliver about 2,000 weekly food boxes to families in need. 

E-marketing and boosted sales thanks to EU4Business

Art Lunch now has 62 cafeterias across Armenia, five in Russia, three in Georgia, and three in Kazakhstan. The company is now looking at new markets, which will require a good visual identity, active online presence, and branding that has an impact.

“Since we are aiming to expand our business into the European market, we needed a fresh brand and revamped website,” says Gayane Margaryan, Art Lunch co-founder and Managing Director. “We were able to do this: a pilot project helped us build a new visual identity and move into e-marketing.”

A local consultant specialized in branding and e-marketing services developed a new logo, visual identity and brand book for Art Lunch, and re-designed their website.

A year after the project was completed, Art Lunch has succeeded in more than doubling its online visibility to 900 weekly website visitors, and significantly boosted its turnover and sales.

Future plans beyond the crisis

Even though the current crisis is yet not overcome, Art Lunch already has its next plans in the works.

“Art Lunch’s long-term goal is to grow into an international brand and expand into the European market,” says Margaryan. EU support has been there for this phase, as well: the EBRD Advice for Small Businesses international advisory project has started to support franchising for Art Lunch.

For the moment, plans to open a big food court in China are the priority. The company’s logo is in the process of being registered, alongside with the construction plans for the food court facility.

”80% of our franchising package is ready, and we will start with the Russian market,” says Margaryan. “With a few adjustments, sales will be organized in China and the European market.”

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