Restaurateurs Bhupinder Chadha and Akshay Anand, and Head Chef Parampreet Luthra of HotMess Lounge and Bar spoke to FoodService India about how every season comes with its own set of challenges in terms of demand, innovation and culinary trends.
How do restaurants like HotMess innovate on their foodservice operations to be in step with the season’s special demands and requirements?
Akshay Anand: Summers come with the need to curate a special menu, which is less on calories and is easy to digest. One tends to eat less in summers. We lay out packages that include summer coolers, light appetisers and plan special events for our guests.
Parampreet Luthra: Our primary focus in the summer is on salads, desserts and beverages (both mocktails and cocktails). We use ingredients like raw mango, raw papaya, mint, and lemon. Moreover, we use spinach, pak choy and spring onion, and watermelon as they have a high water content. Indians, and especially the Delhi consumer market, never relish cold soups so we usually leave them out. Preferences are always on cold beverages. My personal favourites in summer are mango with sticky rice and fresh aloo bukhara (plum) juice.
What is the scale of the rejig in the menu and foodservice operations for the summer season?
Bhupinder Chadha: We use food which has a cooling effect, and with high water content to keep our guest hydrated. This year, we have launched our own flavoured water service, with pineapple, basil and lemon slices instead of regular water.
Apart from this, we have made changes to the staff uniform, and cutlery. We now use frosted glass for serving beverages, which helps maintain low temperature. Salads are also served on cold plates.
Parampreet Luthra: We concentrate on light snacks, as people tend to eat lighter meals instead of main-course portions. We have introduced specials like Chur Chur Pizza, and Aloo Corn Kebab, which are easy to digest. We also use a lot of seasonal fruits like strawberry, banana and pomegranate.
How do summer offerings differ in style, presentation and other dimensions from those in other seasons?
Bhupinder Chadha: It varies on cuisine and concept of restaurants. Living in India, we have good summer ingredients that make it convenient to organize summer specials as compared to restaurants that are doing European cuisine or any cold country cuisine. In the case of the latter, fusion dishes have to be invented.
In winter, the service becomes really challenging, especially if the kitchen is far as food gets cold very quick. We ensure that food, before it is plated, is done on heated plates (plate warmer machine is used). Even the dining plates are laid out warm. Most importantly, we maintain our room temperature or
else it spoils the entire dining experience.
In summer, chilling requires a lot of space. Our beverages like beer and sangria are stacked in fridges and glasses are frosted before serving any beverage. We, at HotMess, have imported a machine from Spain which chills the glass in just five seconds to -4 degrees and doesn’t need any large space for operating.
What creative trends in vogue as far as appetisers and beverages go; and who are your top suppliers for ingredients?
Parampreet Luthra: We tweak popular beverages because people’s taste buds are already adjusted to them – like Blueberry Mojito, Cucumber & Mint Mojito. This season our cocktail Imly Patola – made with Thai tamarind – is selling like hotcakes.
In desserts our Passion Fruit Cheesecake and Strawberry Jelly Pannacotta are top sellers. Mango, being a favourite summer fruit, is something that we experiment with a lot.
Any new innovative F&B ideas that you plan to roll out during the summer months?
Akshay Anand: We have started beer cocktails and beer sangrias (beer with summer fruits) and our guests love the concept as well as the products.
What is the scope and room for hotels and restaurants to increase their revenue contribution from appetisers and beverages?
Bhupinder Chadha: A sharp increase in sales is noticed every year for beers and cocktails, especially during lunch hours. To attract customers/ guest, beer towers and beer bucket deals are introduced. The drinking capacity also increases as heavy warm food dishes are avoided. Sales of items like salads, hummus/ mezze platter, and sandwiches increases.
How does summer affect the demand and requirements for kitchen refrigeration equipment?
Parampreet Luthra: Our refrigeration system is serviced before peak summer starts. A chef records the temperature of fridges and freezers on log sheets every three hours to keep a strict check on food quality. We use an ice machine and a cool bar as well.
Do you see summer trends changing for restaurants and which are the factors driving the change in trend, if any?
Bhupinder Chadha: The primary reason for slow business during the summer months is not only temperature but also the fact that schools/colleges/government offices are in a vacation mode. Everyone travels during summer time, which affects our sales. If you are lucky to have establishments in tourist places I the hills or cities with beaches then it works great for you during the three hot months.