Foreign cuisine restaurants serving a variety of global food are going great guns in India, with some of them doing fantastic business. However, there are a few challenges too to be overcome to realise the full opportunity, said some members of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) that FoodService India spoke to.
The market for foreign cuisine restaurants has been growing rapidly in India, notes Rohan Jetley, VP–Marketing and Development, with Bistro Hospitality that runs the TGIF chain in India serving TexMex (American and Mexican) cuisine. “The more the number of foreign cuisines that come in India, the more the exposure the Indian consumers get. And the more they get exposed, the more the demand for global food goes up in the country,” he says.
Vikas Arora, Executive Director, Geoffrey’s, which serves European cuisine in Delhi, seconds Jetley, pointing out that Indian consumers have started to experiment with different kinds of food. “They are no more afraid of trying out new dishes,” he says from his experience as a restaurateur.
NRAI President Samir Kuckreja says the tastes of Indian consumers have evolved a lot in the last five to seven years. Benefitting from this, many foreign cuisine restaurants have come up in various cities and are now doing well. He feels that this growth has been driven by various TV programmes such as the Master Chef Australia and other Indian shows. Also, the Internet has played a huge part in making the concept of foreign cuisines popular.
Some players, however, say it will take some more years before the full impact of foreign cuisines is felt in the country. Tarsillo Nataloni, who runs an Italian restaurant called Flavors in Delhi, argues that the trend of eating out at foreign-cuisine outlets is picking up but the acceptability of global food among Indian consumers is largely restricted to Chinese dishes.
He agrees that many more people are now travelling abroad and the “global village” culture is spreading in India, supported by social and electronic media. “But I am unable to assess the impact of this on the entire Indian market of foreign food other than the traditional Chinese cuisine. In larger towns, foreign food initially caters to foreigners and those associated with the original country of the cuisine for business, study or family,” adds Nataloni.
“Creating awareness about the various cuisines is a big challenge for foreign-cuisine restaurants in India. Except for people who travel regularly, other consumers lack knowledge about the various different dishes of the world,” says Jetley.
Kuckreja says that chef training is a big challenge in India as we lack good training institutes in the country. Giving support to his thought is Nataloni who says that despite the natural cooking talent of Indians, restaurants serving all kinds of cuisines struggle to find properly trained chefs.
Jetley says that though they follow a chef-driven model, getting a chef from abroad is not an easy task for Indian restaurant owners.
Kuckreja’s perception as an industry watcher is that most foreign cuisine restaurants are profitable. This is because they do not have major overheads and they do not belong to a corporate chain. Moreover, they do not go for a very fancy location either.
Gastronomic cuisine is the next big thing which is picking up in India, according to Jetley. This cuisine is very expensive and very difficult to execute. It is basically a fusion of various different flavours infused into foods that are created in the kitchen, he says. Japanese, Korean and Mexican cuisines have emerged big time in India, feels Kuckreja. The reason is the increasing population of the Koreans in the country. Arora on the other hand says Lebanese is one cuisine to watch out for in India in the future.