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Casual Dining Boom: Segment poised to grow at scorching pace

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Rohit Malhotra, Head of Operations, Barcelos India, outlines his vision for the booming casual dining segment in the country and his plans to make Barcelos India an established player in this space…
India is a growing market where consumer preference keeps changing. It is the reason why demand for various cuisines and styles of food keeps pushing, leading to the current boom in food service. The largest contributors to the boom in the food service space have been casual dining and fine dining restaurant. Apart from the ever growing fine dining market in India the QSR and casual dining space is also a major market segment now.
While fine dining restaurants have started showing an interest in entering the Indian market, it is the global fast food brands that have upped the ante on Indian markets and are expanding aggressively. More international QSRs have established their footholds in the major cities and are now expanding into smaller cities with smaller formats.
To withstand the competition, most of the players are customising their menu in terms of flavours, pricing and services to meet Indian consumers’ inclinations.
However, across the world, the QSR market is slowing down because people now prefer to go for healthy food. People of India are now more educated about hygiene and healthy foods. The consumer is more aware about the nutritive value of a product, before purchasing it. Nowadays, gen-next is much more aware of the brands than before and is more focused on the health and fitness aspects.
This evolving consumer behaviour has spurred the trend for casual dining. Customer trends are also gradually moving from the fine dine to a more casual dining culture. The segment is at a booming stage with 60-80 per cent growth per annum.
Barcelos, as a casual-dining healthy eatery, presents a great option for the health-conscious Indian youth, to look at healthy and nutritious food, saturated fats like oils and butter, with virtually no adverse effect on taste.
Many research reports have also revealed that even at times of financial distress people will not stop eating and the F&B industry will be constantly growing. Factors like value for money, quality service and experimentation in cuisines have become the core competence for any restaurant in the industry.
Indian consumers are increasingly dining out, particularly in urban areas. About 50 per cent of India’s population eats out at least once in every three months and eight times in a month in bustling metros as compared to the US (14 times), Brazil (11 times), Thailand (10 times) and China (9 times).
Urbanisation, changing lifestyle and food preferences are giving impetus to the F&B industry. The other key driver for the growth in the F&B sector is the rising number of working women and eating-out options.
Barcelos, with its roots in culture, tradition and history, is a household name for its flame grilled menu with peri peri sauces. Historically the seat of the Braganzas, who ruled as the monarchs of Portugal from 17th to early 20th century, Barcelos makes a fair point of being an authentic Portuguese offering, albeit laced with the dark and mysterious flavors of the African continent.
The casual dining specialist has introduced a well-researched specialty menu in authentic Portuguese flavors catering to a predominantly vegetarian segment which covers about 40 per cent of incoming footfalls.
The Indian palate has traditionally gravitated towards more chilly and spicy flavors and the Barcelos flame-grilled, peri-peri offering brings out the ‘bestin-class’ spicy fare that naturally tickles the Indian taste buds.
In 2016, Barcelos has so far opened two new outlets, which run on two different concepts. Also, it has launched its new menu focusing on the blend of entertainment with food & beverages.
Since the opening of our first store, we have spent time on understanding our customers, working on the menu and finding the right locations to open our outlets. By fiscal 2017, we plan to open about 10 more outlets. Although we opened our debut restaurant in India in 2015, I believe that 2016 will be a more crucial year for us as we will be opening new projects with new concepts.
Barcelos has created its own unique following by introducing to the discerning Indian foodie their own brand of innovation. We have revolutionised the concept of the ‘burger’ in India by presenting it in different colours. And now, for the new projects, we are making new changes and bringing on new innovations. As the food industry is at a booming stage right now, I believe it will have a knock on effect on casual dining restaurants.
In terms of our expansion plans, we are targeting all major metropolitan cities for the next three to four years. For the phase one of our expansion in 2016, we are targeting Delhi-NCR, Kochi, Chennai, Mumbai, Jaipur, Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Goa and Kolkata. I hope to establish our brand identity in these cities fi rst before moving on to our second phase of expansion in the coming years.

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