While India has always been a food-loving country with each region having its own special cuisine, Indians have never been very big on eating out. But all that is changing now. There has been a great shift in the eating habits of Indians. Unlike the old days when most people were very uptight about their choices, now customers are experimenting.
While earlier North Indian food captured over 50 percent of the market, now it has come down to 29 percent because people want to explore new cuisines, burgers, pizzas, pasta being the common ones. There also has been a great surge for Lebanese, Mexican, and Asian cuisines lately. Especially in metro cities, restaurateurs are coming up with new concepts introducing new cuisines.
This is attributable to the fact that Indians are travelling all over the world and returning with their palates pleased and tempted by the exciting flavours and delicious foods on offer throughout the international travels.
In addition to the changing food preferences based on what other countries are serving, the evolving food habits, dual-income households, increasing health awareness, more dining-out options, and rising aspirations are all contributing to bringing a tectonic shift to the Indian plate, especially in urban households.
This exploration of food outside of the conventional gamut is not only leading to the increase in the demand for foreign cuisine but also the exotic ingredients, where people are ready to play around with foreign recipes at home too. The restaurant industry in India has been growing at a rapid pace over the last decade or so and the growth story is set to continue for the next foreseeable future.
Global cuisine attracting foreign investment
It’s not just Indian, but also international chefs who recognise the huge untapped market and have set up high-end restaurants in the country. Ian Kittichai, the famous New York chef, opened a Thai restaurant in Mumbai called Koh. Since he imports all his ingredients, he is able to serve his diners authentic Thai fare with a modern twist.
An interesting trend has begun and due to an increased interest in India as an investment destination, many international fine-dining chains are waiting in the wings to set up shop in India. The Indian consumer has a lot to look forward to in terms of experiential cuisine in the coming years.
“It’s time that restaurants especially fine dine, look at international cuisines and experiment with their menus. There is a large population that does travel globally experiencing different cuisines and ingredients and would love to have the same experience back home. Plus there is huge younger population which does not mind experimenting and trying out new unexplored cuisines like - Ethiopian, Nigerian, Scandinavian, Peruvian etc,” Chef Harsh Shodhan, Founder of The Gourmet Kitchen Co. commented who also feels that this will also increase demand for international ingredients and imports of the same will become cheaper.
Not that cost heavy for business
With food also comes service and with India’s large population cache, the industry does churn out a large number of well-trained service professionals like chefs, pastry chefs, service staff etc. to bring an international dining experience to our shores. Shodhan further suggested that by running a tight ship and without being over the top, costs can be controlled and managed without having to compromise on quality or quantity. “It’s time and we are ready to embrace world cuisines locally,” he added.
Up until a few years ago, the only international cuisine that worked for the Indian palate was perhaps Chinese and Italian. Since then, the Indian palate has grown to accommodate global cuisines.
India does have an array of global restaurants like London-based Hakassan restaurant serving Cantonese-style cuisine, Las Vegas’ Le Cirque serving up authentic French and Italian dishes; South African casual dining chain Nando’s famous for its peri-peri chicken; and American fast food chain Taco Bell serving Mexican inspired dishes setting up shop in India.
“A restaurant trend we are sure to see is a focus on global cuisine. Comfort is the trend ahead. Post lockdown, when we change the Menu of La Roca to world cuisine, it worked wonders for us,” Founder of Eastman color Private Ltd, Dinesh Arora mentioned who owns brands like Unplugged courtyard and La Roca.
Moving out of comfort zone
However, Udit Bagga, Co-Founder of OTB Courtyard strongly feels that people want to expand their palettes and hence have gotten very experimental with dishes like tacos, pita bread, and hummus, enchiladas, etc. which are served with an Indian touch. “They have ingredients that are used in Indian food as well, hence they don’t taste completely aline. Apart from these, bakeries have gotten a lot of traction as well. There are literally thousands of commercial bakeries and home bakers in every city right now because of the increasing demand. Items like donuts, croissants, baked bread, waffles, pancakes, etc. have become part of everyone’s daily breakfast. People are looking for variety and options to bring a change in their daily routines and International cuisines are definitely helping out,” he said.
The imported food industry in India, growing at 22-23 percent, is being closely followed by domesticated international foods having a growth of 14-16 percent, while traditional products are growing between nine and 12 percent. While value-conscious, Indian consumers do not want to miss out on alluring foods full of international flavours but, are happy with the products manufactured in India by Indian or international brands and offer value for money.