From a business perspective, what is your opinion about the year gone by?
It was an extremely rewarding year. We are truly humbled by the overwhelming response our patrons have showered on us across the various concepts that we operate in. We not just celebrated Jiggs Kalra’s contribution towards reviving, restoring, recording, reinventing and reintroducing Indian cuisine to diners from across the globe and placing it on the global map, but also launched our first ever foray into another cuisine with the launch of our new, modern Asian concept Pa Pa Ya in Mumbai. There have been many milestones that we have achieved and hope to keep the same pace going in the years to come.
What are your expectations from 2016?
We are going to introduce a couple of new dining concepts, thereby endeavouring to set new benchmarks and attain new heights in the global hospitality arena.
What are your goals for 2016 and how do you plan to achieve those?
Our vision since the inception of Massive Restaurants has been to build the world’s best restaurant concepts across categories, creating unparalleled dining experiences, and achieving near perfect guest satisfaction levels consistently. It is this vision that forms the basis of all our endeavours and has been the driving force for us.
How do you see the challenges in 2016?
The biggest challenge is of restaurants being able to put in place certain international processes like prior reservations, dress code, etc., which I feel we are still trying to get around. Then there is also the point of a diner’s perception and expectations when it comes to dining out in India. While we have been able to bust some age old notions,
in the process showcasing the robustness of various cuisines through our restaurant concepts, the guest’s perception of what they expect as against what they may get is a difficult one. Lastly, quantity is not always a deciding factor about the quality of the cuisine served; as consumers we tend to think very highly of a place if there are a 100 dishes on the menu, as compared to a place which may have, say, 50–55 dishes.
What will be the trends to look out for in 2016?
Some key trends which seem to be catching up and I expect will become big in the coming
Tapas – Now and going forward, the scales are shifting towards small plates and the concept of tapas style menus where diners get to experience a large array of the restaurants specialities, while not filling themselves to the brim will take precedence. Tapas style menus are a trend that many restaurants have started adopting in recent times and something that we see picking up both in the Indian as well as the international restaurant space. This trend is still at a very nascent stage and will take some time to gain momentum, though the process has already started. Use of fresh produce – Locally sourced vegetable and fruits have become a norm and many chefs and restaurateurs have already begun their own small farms as an extension of the restaurant or away from it. The reason for this trend are multidimensional; while on one hand it’s more cost and time effective for restaurants to develop their own produce, on the other plucking and using fresh produce in the dishes gives guests a whole new dining experience, which is more engaging.
Molecular Gastronomy – Molecular Gastronomy is a technique of food science, where you use certain processes like spherification, gelification, powderising, deep freezing and much more through various certified natural ingredients like maltodextrin during the process of cooking. While molecular gastronomy has been prevalent and hugely successful globally for the past few years, Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra and Farzi Café have been credited with introducing it in Indian cuisine and recently Pa Pa Ya has done so for Asian cuisine, to Indian diners, which was never done before and is a relatively new concept in India. While the diners find the concept fascinating, there is still a lot left to explore in the concept and a long way to go for the diners to be aware about the nuances of the process, for a pure molecular gastronomy concept to work in the Indian environment. Also, there is a generic perception of the concept being unsafe, which is largely owing to the fact that diners haven’t been exposed in depth to the concept of molecular gastronomy; this notion doesn’t hold true in actuality. The elements used in molecular gastronomy are all natural and mostly plant extracts, which are globally accepted and certified and now being very frequently used in India as well.
Traditional Vs Modern cuisine – Diners globally, today, have become quite adventurous and have allowed their curiosity to get the better of them. This curiosity to try new dishes / cuisines has given space for fusion variations to come up. However the downside to it is, in the Indian context, that “traditional Indian” cuisine is getting lost or losing focus. While we may be stepping away from traditional cuisine due to globalisation, there is enough demand for authentic as well as contemporary Indian cuisine in their respective spaces. While the demand for traditional Indian fare is still equal to what it was a few years back, modern Indian cuisine is only set to take centrestage in times to come.
Progressive cuisine – Modern age diners are looking for out-of-the-box concepts and something that breaks the daily monotony of home dining. It is here that the concept of Progressive cuisine has stepped in to bring in a sense of surprise into the fray of dining out. Using modern culinary techniques, latest technologies and cutting-edge styles of presentation, progressive cuisine aims to showcase cuisines from around the world in a contemporary manner, bringing them to the 2020’s. Don’t mistake progressiveness with the earlier concept of fusion, which sadly many believe to be the same.
Use of exotic and high quality imported ingredients – Earlier, it was largely the domain of super luxury hotels around the world. Today, restaurateurs and chefs globally are investing in offering their patrons a similar experience, using high quality, exotic and imported ingredients not as a point to lure in the well heeled, but to add to the dining experience. They are offering a more authentic and flavourful cuisine at practically 1/3rd the cost of what one pays for a similar experience at a luxury hotel. While this has already been in process, the trend is only expected to become bigger in the coming years.
Going Glocal – Glocal (globally local) is the new wave. The times to come will witness use of many international ingredients in Indian dishes and many Indian spices / ingredients in international favourites, not just within the culinary boundary of India, but overseas as well. This trend is a result of diners becoming more adventurous; while there is a segment that still prefers the traditional cuisine, the newer generation is ready to experiment in order to find newer and finer flavours.
Luxurious Dining – Luxury is now more affordable as a result of disposable income and the availability of brilliant, luxurious (and affordable) premium fine dining restaurants outside the confines of five star hotels. This is one trend that is only set to become bigger in times to come.
Prior Reservations – While Mumbai believes in making prior reservations, mostly because of the traffic scenario and distance being measured in time than in kilometres, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai, among other cities, don’t believe in the concept. Having said that, some diners across all these major metropolises still make prior reservations to avoid not getting or waiting for a table once they reach the venue. As an example, with our brand Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, we have witnessed something that is unheard of in India – prior reservations with a waiting period of a fortnight, especially for weekends even after two years of the restaurant’s launch. Hence, I see this becoming a norm in times to come.
Culinary Tourism – In the recent past we have seen many chefs of Indian origin being invited overseas to showcase Indian cuisine to the Western audiences. The same has been the case with chefs of international origin being invited in India to showcase their cuisine at specially curated events. This form of interchange, although seen in ancient times as well as effectively done by people like my father Jiggs Kalra, late Tarla Dalal and Camilia Punjabi in the 70s, 80s and 90s, is seeing a surge in the form of Culinary Tourism and is set to become bigger and an effective way of showcasing authentic cuisines from various countries to the Indian audience.
Regional goes international – India is a treasure-trove of and, in my opinion, the only country in the world to have so many regional cuisines. While Indian regional cuisine has been lead by Punjabi cuisine to the global audience for over five decades, I see the coming years focusing on regional Indian fare from across the landscape of India, being taken forward to the international audience not just within India, but overseas as well.
International cuisines – After Japanese and Teppanyaki, other international cuisines like Vietnemese, Cambodian, Mexican and Lebanese will see a surge in popularity in India in the coming years.
Which format according to you will thrive in 2016 and why?
They all will and the reason is simple – eating out has already taken centrestage across all key cities in the world and in India. The trend is only expected to further seep in to the smaller, non-metro cities. There is enough demand for all formats to co-exist and we will witness some newer formats coming up as well, such as Smart Casual and Casual-Fine Dining.