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Future is Gourmet Ready

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What are your views on gourmet food retailing in India?

Food retailing in India is now moving to the next level with increased appetite of Indians to experiment with various cuisines. As new age Indians are travelling more within India and abroad, they are acquiring and developing their taste buds for various kinds of food. Also, cooking channels and reality cooking shows are becoming increasingly popular.
Consumers are now wanting to eat and cook new cuisines more and more. There is also a large expatriate population in cities such as Delhi, Gurgaon, Bangalore, Mumbaiand Pune who are already well versed with these kinds of food. Hence, a gourmet store such as Foodhall comes into the picture where everything from around the world as well as India is available under one roof. Through such formats, we will meet the requirement of the well-travelled new age Indian.
What factors are propelling the industry’s growth?
Rising incomes, more people travelling overseas and increasing health and nutrition awareness have made gourmet food a huge opportunity in the country. Gourmet food retailing is only going to get bigger in India. India has a very young population that is willing to experiment and fl irt with new cuisines. The expatriate population in the country is also constantly demanding newer specialised products such as gourmet cheeses, artisanal breads, and so on. This is going to increase consumption. Also, especially in the metros, with time and space reducing, a woman is going to look at outsourcing a lot of her kitchen activities. Thus, categories such as pastes, sauces, chutneys, peeled and chopped vegetables, curries and other value-added products are going to emerge.
What is Foodhall’s market positioning?
went the gourmet way by opening its first premium food chain Foodhall (spread across 15,000 sqft) in 2011 at Palladium – , Mumbai, and the second store in Bangalore, which is around 30,000 sqft. In less than two years, the Group is all set to expand the chain in major metros and tier I cities. With the opening of the over 5,000 sqft Foodhall in , Vasant Kunj in New Delhi. the Group has taken the store count to three.
As a brand, Foodhall caters to Indians as well as expats who are well-travelled and well-versed with fi ne foods and have a refined palette. We believe that our customers are evolving and asking for exciting options in a new and interesting manner.
As regards competition in this space, we are in a very different market and are very confident about what we are doing. Rather, we are trying to do things as differently as possible.
What is the USP of Foodhall?
We have been constantly trying to distinguish ourselves from many other food retailers in the country. Foodhall is a foodlifestyle store designed for someone who enjoys and understands the finer nuances and aspects of food. Hence, we are probably one of the only stores in the country selling eight different varieties of mushrooms, and a wide range of exotic fruits and vegetables from blueberries and raspberries to avocados.
We keep engaging with our customers and even conduct food workshops on a regular basis. Our focus is to ensure that a customer who walks into our store not only shops but also discovers and experiences something new each time. We have constant sampling activities in all our stores, and our chefs are constantly delighting customers with new ingredients, recipes and dishes. It’s the experience that one gets when one shops at Foodhall that we are trying to build.
Does the staff require any special training to handle gourmet products?
Yes, we do invest a lot of time in training our staff as they have to deal with a wide variety of products on the shop floor. It is imperative for them to understand not only the products but also the tastes of the consumers. Since there are lots of specialised areas in the store such as fruits and vegetables, cheese and cold cuts, we ensure that we create specialists who are extremely knowledgeable and can help serve customers in a better manner.
What are the average footfalls?
It is not the quantity of customers but the quality that matters. So a good 20 customers can give you the business that you are targeting.

What kind of innovations have you introduced at Foodhall?
An interesting innovation and a highlight of the Foodhall is the “Open Kitchen” serving fresh cooked food. In addition to this, we have a Spice Bar that offers a range of spices sourced from all over the world in association with a Denmark-based spice specialist company called ASA. The Spice Bar also offers a specialised service to customers for grinding and making their own blends. There is an Olive Oil Bar where consumers can taste and buy the fi nest olive oils from Italy and choose from a range of infused olive oils. At a Demo Station, live cooking sessions by chefs are conducted everyday. Special cookery workshops will be conducted periodically by celeb chefs and industry experts for hands on learning by the customers.
Which cities are on your expansion radar?
We already have two flagship stores – one each in Bangalore and Mumbai. We have forayed into New Delhi with our store at DLF Promenade. Going ahead, we are planning to open another outlet in Gurgaon in the next two months; it will span an area of around 10,000 sqft. Following the launch of the Gurgaon store, the next outlet will come up in Pune in the current year, post which, we will not expand further, at least this year, but will focus on strengthening our new store format at their existing locations, by maintaining the high standards and by ensuring complete customer satisfaction at every level. We also aim to roll out flagship stores with satellite stores around them in key cities. Currently, we are in the process of studying how many satellite stores a flagship Foodhall store can command.