Despite the growing demand for junk and international food, certain local cuisines, served thali-style, will be in demand forever as they are made fresh everyday and are basically home food. This also ensures the customer gets a variety of delicacies to try, says Mr Aji Nair, AVP F&B Operations, Mirah Hospitality, which runs the Rajdhani restaurant chain. People are increasingly plumping for thali-style restaurants to entertain families and large groups, to try ethnic/authentic cuisine, even that of their own community.
Speaking to Business Line here, he said Rajasthani, Gujarati and various South Indian cuisines fit this bill. Other cuisines, such as Bengali, are not as widely popular as people who would appreciate that food are concentrated in pockets. Rajdhani serves a mix of Rajasthani and Gujarati food.
Rajdhani, which has 30 outlets across 19 cities and one in Oman, plans to add another 18 in the metros, Pune, and enter Coimbatore in 2011-12. It will invest Rs 25-26 crore in expansion this year. The brand originated in the Eighties in Mumbai but began expanding in 2004-05 when modern retail gathered steam. While it has had to shut down a couple of restaurants, the recent slowdown got it some good real estate deals, Mr Nair said. In 2010, it opened 10 restaurants, spending Rs 20 crore.
The chain has differential pricing across its restaurants and pre-decided daily menus are issued from headquarters to maintain quality. Deals with suppliers are struck much ahead to stay ahead of price swings.
At Chennai’s Express Avenue mall, for instance, the thali is priced Rs 325 including taxes but in Ampa Mall in the same city, it is now priced Rs 199. Questioned about the pricing, Mr Nair claimed that despite two price hikes at the 11-month old Rajdhani at EA, there has been no dearth of customers new and old, of all ages. In places such as Shirdi, the thali is priced Rs 175 but lower costs and large number of customers make up for it, he explained.
Present in malls
Rajdhani is mostly present in malls, and franchises form only 2 per cent of its business, Mr Nair said. The chain is part of the Mirah group’s Rs 160-crore hospitality division which owns the Citrus chain of four-star hotels; Falafel, a brand of eateries serving Lebanese cuisine; Café Mangii (Italian), Mad Over Donuts, and also is the India franchisee for the Man U café bars (but not in Bangalore). The chain’s annualised turnover was Rs 75 crore for the year ended 2011, and is likely to touch Rs 125 crore for year ending 2012, Mr Nair said. So far, the focus has been on Rajdhani. The Mirah group has interests in textiles, construction, entertainment and trading.
Source : The Hindu Business Line