East Indian market has always remained a food lovers land. From setting up the culture of clubbing which further brought the restaurant and the nightlife culture, it has grown from being a traditional land to global acceptance of the food. At the same time we have seen emergence of innovative cuisine in the area where restaurant owners are focusing on innovation driven by the local taste. And, as a restaurant owner what are the things one need to change in their business to bring out the best? And how should one weigh consumer and fulfil their demand is an important factor for the growth of food culture in the region.
Changing consumer behaviour
There are two specific segments that has grown in the last few years; the dine out occasion customers or people who are eating out because of the segment change. People are eating out and that’s one simple fact about the region. There is no much entertainment in the city. Malls were the thing of early 2008-2009. People have always loved going out to fine dining restaurants, enjoy on occasions. “Kolkata has not changed much from early days as eating out was always there in the genes of people here but what happened is that further in the north east at places like Siliguri, Darjeeling and further down to Assam there is a definite boil on how consumers are willing to spend more and more money,” shares Manish Tandon, CEO, Au Bon Pain, adding that over the times people have started loving high end projects and experience.
But surprisingly, with all the exposure that the region is getting, unfortunately global cuisine is still a niche and consumption happens in the cuisines which are more familiar amongst customers and locals. The oriental and the Indian side of things do better in market like Kolkata. People here are still very local on how they want to eat out. More local taste, more familiar taste is driving the business and eating out scenario here in the city. Kolkata is that metro which is a great gateway city for India and now it is for North East and it is culturally exploding. Restaurant owners see an influx of people coming here and food is getting branded. Malls are opening doors for more destination restaurants. Branded food is the way forward as brand comes with a guarantee to bring aspiration to the consumer. “What we saw in French loaf was sticking to the quality. There is a customer out there, right price point for right quality. If you continue to deliver service and value to the customer they will come back to you,” adds Reynold Fernandes, CEO, Oriental Cuisines Pvt Ltd.
Growth of an experienced class
These days the market is divided between the GenXers who come out with families and friends to dine in who is looking for a varied customer experience around them. Millennial is a segment that is growing who is the spenders of today and tomorrow. “It is all about the way your brand connects with the target audience. The target group is completely divided and you will not see them together,” adds Fernandes.
There is a growing myth these days that people are attracted to food pictures and that’s how they decide where to go while selecting a restaurant. They build an opinion outside the restaurant and then experience the restaurant. The truth is people in Bengal live to eat. For them food is always a priority more than the eye pleasing pictures of the food. “We have realised in the last 5 years is that the food is something which attracts the customers. Ultimately what survives is the quality. Once people start liking a thing they tend to order it more,” points Sahil Jain, Co-Founder, Dineout, adding that 80% of people order North Indian, Chinese and Italian food online that has been a consistent trend throughout the country. Nightlife is constantly growing as a trend. Sunday brunches have grown significantly over the time.
Commenting on the same, Binod Homagai, Co-Founder, Wow!Momo shares, “Cracking the customers’ mindset is important. We saw that momo was picking up and customers liked our product and the innovation we were doing. It is the flavour that we captured. When we entered local markets we localised momo keeping the local intact.”
Hence, we can say that though people love to explore things and innovation is what drive them to a restaurant, local flavours and taste is an addiction for the customers here.