The fourth session on the first day of the East India Retail Summit (EIRS) 2013 was on “Emerging Concepts in Food Service Business.” Speakers at the session included Viren Kothari, CEO, D’Oh Boy; Harsh Sonthalia, Amigos; Pooja Baid, Picadilly Square; Anuvrat Pabrai, Founder, Fresh and Naturelle Ice Cream; Akshit Agarwal, Kaidi Kitchen, Tyre patty; Rishav Kanoi, Tea Trove; and Bibi Sarkar, Bibi of Taajas. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Executive, Au Bon Pain moderated the session.
During the session, the speakers discussed about the last couple of years that have witnessed a plethora of new concepts and formats in food service retailing. There is a lot of experimentation being done with recipes along with tweaking the traditional Bengali cuisine as well. The food panel probed the changing consumer food habits, tastes, trends, and the future of the vibrant industry in East which is poised for a significant growth in years to come.
Gupta started the session by questioning the speakers about the reason and inspiration for opening their restaurants. Sarkar began by saying that the place where she started her restaurant was small, but she tried introducing new items in her restaurant. She further added that some people are quite hesitant in trying different varieties and new items, but there are many who are adventurous too. Sarkar gathered a lot of inspiration for her restaurant from international travel. She was the first one to start selling momos in Kolkata. In the earlier days, food programmes were not being telecasted on the television and thus people were not much aware of such continental food items. Sarkar also shared that initially she expected her customers not to pay for the food if they did not like it but give feedback. She suggested that food service players should get adapted to the indian palate without making a mess of it.
Sharing his experience, Kanoi stated that he had the idea of reinventing tea, making new innovations like serving tea with things like yoghurt, ice creams, and soda. He said that every product has the potential to be marketed. The only thing is that they have to be served well to the customers. He spoke about a special category of tea, the tea shot that is prepared using express machine and is a craze among the youngsters as they take it together like tequila shot.
Agarwal mentioned that initially he was reluctant whether people will accept his restaurant or not. But it became a 100 seater restaurant in last December and is now a 200 seater in Chennai.
Pabrai said that they are the only Indian company to provide natural ice creams. Their products are a replica of foreign ice creams. He added that they are happy and glad to serve their customers.
Citing her reason for setting up a restaurant, Baid stated that she had a passion for cooking and while helping her mother managed to learn recipes. She collected ingredients from overseas for her recipe just to give a new taste.
Kothari said that he started D’Oh Boy, the doughnut chain in Kolkata thinking that Kolkata was a bit deprived of of doughnuts. It was a challenging task but it now serves people who are even calorie conscious. The offerings are also reasonably priced for the school goers. He also said that the right location did wonders for them.
Gupta went on to ask the next question to the speakers about taking the business aspirations to the next level. Baid said they just started with a 400 sq.ft., the concept was very concrete but the space was very tiny. She added that the right place was a must as it would only take the business to the next level.
According to Pabrai, there lies a joy in creation. The company had an idea of where it wanted to go and what it wanted to produce. Gupta’s next question to the speakers was: With taste palate being the same, how do you use different ingredients?
Sarkar mentioned that Maggi chilli garlic sauce was a major ingredient in one of her items and when its manufacturing stopped, they faced great difficulty. They then mixed different sauces and tried to bring the same taste in a specific dish. She said that standardisation is very important. Ingredient is important but one must not hitch from usinga substitute.
Kanoi responded to the question by adding that they made scrambled eggs using expresso machine without using butter or oil.
Pabrai talked about procuring the best ingredient, and added that unavailability of raw materials poses challenges. Baid said that working with only one supplier, one may get stuck. Sarkar then spoke about the availability of the materials in the market.
Talking about sourcing of manpower and their training, Sarkar suggested that there should be institutes where people can be trained like catering colleges. Baid stated that as she dealt with Europian food her staff did not have enough knowledge about Europian food, its ingredients, and recipes. She then helped her staff stressing on the fact that the staff should know what they are selling.