At the sidelines of the launch of cloud kitchen brands MeatMe, BhookHara and Chaatoreez in Gurgaon, Chef Harpal Singh, who was present to endorse these outlets, talked to Restaurant India about the disruption that is being created by cloud or dark kitchens and whether this can pose a threat to conventional restaurants as also why this model is a great platform for home chefs
What do you have to say about the disruption that cloud kitchens are creating in India?
I think cloud kitchens are only going to increase as the eating habits of people in India are changing in major metro cities. There is a lot of disruption we will see in times to come. I still remember how we used to take food to our homes in the small town we lived in when there was no delivery mechanism. It was more of a family dining experience than understanding the economics behind it. To put it another way, the economics were not understood well; it was more of a get-together for us. However, now people will soon get to order from their homes even in Tier II, III and IV cities through this model. If I talk about restaurants, they feel their food is more about passion unlike these cloud kitchens and they believe that people will eventually come to them to have the experience of dining outside.
In your opinion, do you think this model is a threat for restaurants?
An experience centre will still be an experience centre. We can have six varieties of chutney and unlimited sambhar in a South Indian restaurant. However, this is not possible when you are ordering. If a person feels like having his meal at home and does not want to go out and get stuck in the traffic, he will order from a cloud kitchen. On the other hand, if people want to experience the food at a restaurant with their family and friends, they will go to brick-and-mortar restaurants. I think there will be some impact on the business because of the differences in their price points.
What are the culinary trends you see?
Nationally, people are exploring and looking to taste different varieties of food. But what I have started to observe is that people are interested in exploring more of Indian than international food. At the end of the day I have realised that all Indians are looking at something which they are comfortable with. Even if it is simple ‘khichdi’, people will look at it seriously if it is being served in a different style without compromising on the taste. Many chefs for that matter are also experimenting on their own; they are just not searching the recipes online but are actually going out and looking at what’s happening at the local level and then coming back and doing the same recipes in their own formats.
For instance, when I went to Chhattisgarh I wanted to have the regional food there but I couldn’t get it as Chhattisgarhi food was not being served in the mainstream restaurants. Then I got a chance to have the regional food from a lady who was managing a traditional restaurant; she was cooking Chhattisgarhi food at home and bringing it there. It was wonderful. In order to showcase India’s regional cuisines, I have started helping home chefs. We started presenting Bihari cuisine in a general format and the reaction I got from people was that Bihar is not only about Bihari food; there are other cuisines as well. So, now we try to incorporate as many regional cuisines as possible, whether it is Bihari, Bengali or Kashmiri, Assamese, etc.
Do you think cloud kitchen is a good platform for home chefs?
Yes, that is something I am planning. We will try and bring them into cloud kitchens. When I meet home chefs, their first complaint is that they have been doing this for so many years and still there is no recognition. So I bring them on the YouTube channel. Thus, slowly we are bringing people on our network. The aim is to give them a platform where they can present their food and earn some recognition from it.