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How restaurants can beat the slowdown and connect with customers


India’s Food Service Industry has had an exciting decade with new restaurant concepts, penetration into smaller towns, growth in the delivery business and the entry of new international brands. However, the industry has not escaped the overall slowdown in the economy and has felt its negative impact on consumption over the last six months.

How restaurants can beat the slowdown and connect with customers

But as they say, innovation is the key to growth during testing times. At a time when consumer sentiment is not exactly at its perkiest, restauranteurs need effective tools to build excitement around existing concepts, to retain customers and attract new customers. And it has become all the more crucial that restauranteurs reach customers effectively through digital and social media.

Some trends that will have an impact on the Indian Food Service Industry in 2020 are:

Growth of Cuisine Specific Restaurants

An increasingly experimental consumer palate has led to the growth of various international and regional cuisine restaurants.

Concepts based on heritage cuisines and family recipes are coming to the fore. Bohri Kitchen is a Mumbai based Cloud Kitchen Brand that is inspired by the food of the Dawoodi Bohra community. Similarly, Kayasth by Anoothi Vishal is a unique pop-up event at leading restaurants covering ingredients and history associated with the food heritage of the Kayasth community.

Restauranteurs are focusing on having a more defined identity for their food offerings and concepts.

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating is an increasingly important trend. Increased awareness among Indians of the benefits of ‘Vegan’, ‘Plant Based Protein’, ‘Gluten Free’, ‘Dairy Free’ and others have become important criteria for customers in making restaurant choices.

Health focused food start-ups like Healthie and Cure.Fit have grown to fulfill the demand of consumers. These brands showcase a holistic approach towards leading a healthy lifestyle. Eat.Fit offers a variety of healthy snacks and beverages via subscription. The recipes of food items by such brands are being carefully crafted keeping in mind the nutritional requirements of the body. Healthy substitutes are being aggressively explored to cater to the growing needs of people. The increasing awareness of the risks of chemicals in fruits and vegetables has led to consumers/households making the switch to organic food products.

Restaurants are cognizant of this trend, and their menus reflect a greater offering of healthy options with dishes that are cholesterol free, sugar free, low fat, vegan and others.

Farm to Fork

Even though “Farm to Fork” is currently niche in India, there are an increasing number of restaurants offering fruits and vegetables made at their own / captive farms to consumers. Restaurants like Toast and Tonic in Bangalore and The Table in Mumbai offer a farm to table experience to customers. Pluck at The Pullman Hotel, New Delhi, sources produce from its own gardens.

Dishes at all these restaurants are rendered based on availability of homegrown produce. The ingredients are grown naturally and organically. The menus feature locally produced vegetables, antibiotic free chicken, fresh fish and others.

Focus on Sustainability

There is an increased focus on sustainable dining. The food industry in India is starting to address the environmental concerns of our country. Restaurateurs are making efforts to switch to sustainable options in packaging, reducing electricity and water usage, recycling of waste water and in other areas. Delivery aggregators and restaurant websites are offering options of no cutlery to save the use of plastic.

Customer Acquisition and Retention

Customer acquisition is critical for success in the industry. Restauranteurs have realized that deep discounts are not a sustainable way to recruit new customers. Customers value great tasting food, unique ambience, attentive service and an overall experience which gives them value for money.

A strong digital presence is essential today. Restaurants can effectively inform customers on Instagram and Facebook about new menus, upcoming events and other promotions. Genuine complimentary feedback from customers on social media has a significant impact on a restaurant’s reputation.

Growth of Cloud Kitchens

Cloud Kitchens are a growing trend in all large cities and offering a variety of cuisines across price points. These brands have to create their own niche in the market by creating a product distinction. An effective social and digital media presence which tells the brand story is critical to acquire customers.

Cold Love is an artisanal ice-cream brand in Delhi that offers customers a unique range of flavors in an untapped market. It has effectively created a strong brand persona through its social media handles and participation in marquee events.

It is crucial for brands to look beyond the norm and the expected and offer a unique experience to their customers.