Standalone restaurants, Localization (Italian Jain food anyone?) & Healthy foods among trends in Indian F&B!

    From haute cuisine to the mundane, the delectable and scrumptious to the low-calorie and heart healthy, from innovative to downright quirky, food is getting a total makeover. Localisation remains the mantra and across the country, cuisines, heavily customised, are in demand. Fresh, exotic produce, grown for the first time in India, thanks to some pioneering efforts, are opening up exciting possibilities in the culinary world and have got some of India’s top chefs visibly excited. Innovation and creativity, of course, remain central to a menu’s success. Change is in the air. Read On ..

    With so much happening, revenues from food and beverage (F&B) are shooting through the roof and, at established hotel properties, are one the verge of overtaking room revenue. Moreover, the standalone restaurants have emerged the clear winner in their segment. Shamsher Singh Mann, former director at hospitality consulting firm HVS, says, standalone restaurants are being able to command average rates of Rs 2000 – 3000 per person in events. Mann said, "They are already eating into the F&B revenue of hotels and have shown themselves to be extremely hungry for business. They are becoming increasingly competitive, complete with world-class chefs and world-class also in the overall experience they provide."

    With good quality funding from excellent private equity players and venture capitalists of pedigree, standalone restaurants today provide great options. Celebrity chef Ajay Chopra believes the trend and popularity of standalone restaurants can only grow further. He said, "The exploratory palate has really evolved in India and every city that you go to, newer restaurant and newer concepts are opening just because people have become more exploratory. They are actually much more agreeable trying out new stuff than ever before so I think this is the right time for any restaurant or hotel to try out new things as there are a lot of buyers for it now."

    Indeed, innovation, authenticity, specialisation and personalisation remain the key to attracting and retaining guests. And if personalisation means taking a popular European dish and adding a most unique Indian twist to it, so be it! Sachin Mylavarapu, former F&B assistant manager at a leading five-star hotel in Mumbai says he never knew about Italian Jain food! He said, "A Jain pizza is something I haven’t done in my career. But we started customising for our guests after we began receiving requests for Jain food even at our Italian restaurant Prego." Chopra explains further, "t’s not about bastardising the cuisine but also about the palate which has to accept it, the local palate, the local people need to accept it. It happens to every cuisine in every country. Chinese cuisine in America tastes nothing like the Chinese cuisine in China or even in India. People have taken to it after they have changed it to their liking." In fact, chefs and F&B managers say some of their most loyal guests are for vegetarian food as well as specifically Jain cuisine. Across the country’s star hotels, roughly 30% of guests prefer a vegan diet, with some properties even boasting of a 50% vegan clientele. In the banqueting section which is largely driven by pre and post-wedding events and other social functions, this goes up to more than half. The focus is very much on the high-end vegetarian, organic and health food.

    When it comes to health, a number of hotel chains have focused on this segment from early times. For instance, ITC Hotels’ focus on organic produce dates way back to the early 90s when it introduced the concept of different menus based on ingredient availability on different days of the week, emphasizing a focus on freshness and source of produce. With the increase in awareness for locally sourced, organic and healthy produce, it is getting more and more difficult. The supply of organic and pesticide-free fresh produce is unstructured and most farmers aren’t aware of such farming practices in India. Growers of organic, chemical and pesticide-free fresh vegetables and fruits are small and need greater support like extended lines of credit from their clients such as the big five-star rated hotel properties and other buyers. In this scenario, it is heartening, indeed, to hear stories of entrepreneurs such as the Bengaluru-based First Agro Tech Produce Ltd, that claims to be India’s first grower of zero pesticide produce, complying with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Codex Alimentarius, the highest food safety standard worldwide. A global farming organization founded by three Indians, KN Prasad, Nameet Modekurti and Naveen Modekurti, this is a company that is fast making waves, with awareness about them spreading quickly among chefs, especially through word of mouth.

    With a plan to have 1,500 acres of farmland across 16 locations in the country over the next five-six years, First Agro believes they will significantly be able to help hotels and restaurants reduce their costs of sourcing pesticide-free produce, especially since the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has already adopted the Codex Alimentarius standard. Moreover, with the backward integration of kitchen and farm for dedicated fresh produce and the farm-to-fork concept becoming popular, First Agro has plans to expand logistics hubs across the country so that they have a presence closer to their clients, especially considering the perishable nature of fresh produce and the lack of proper infrastructure such as warehouses or cold storage that could have helped in transportation.

    There’s no doubt developments such as these have the potential to shape the nature and direction of the F&B world in India at its very core. However, as with everything, it is the legislation surrounding the industry that must provide the initial impetus, smoothen operational processes and create an enabling environment for entrepreneurial talent.

    The Indian F&B service industry is a vibrant one which has grown rapidly in recent years, driven by changing demographics, people readily disposing their rising disposable incomes and increased urbanization. Industry estimates are the F&B service market is expected to cross Rs 3.8 lakh crore by the end of this year. Three cheers!

     

    - TradeBriefs Bureau

     


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