With almost two decades of the industry experience, Chef Rehman Mueebur has seen lots of high and lows in the f&b business and professional life but this is the first time when everyone is witnessing such an unprecedented challenge. “Most of our challenges in past were at the locality or regional level, due to natural calamities or health disasters, the last worst effecting challenge according to me for food and hospitality was the economic crisis of 2008 which alone had taken a handsome time to recover,” shared Rahman. Never the less it's going to be difficult than ever because it’s not just the pandemic that has effected but a crashed economy that will prevail. Excerpts from the interview:
What new initiative and innovation you are doing at your end?
My portfolio has been more of being into gourmet events and culinary workshops at reputed hotel chains round the country but it seems as the sector is already struggling to maintain its occupancy and banqueting targets, it is crystal clear that the model of business would need a little turn, so I decide to make more of my efforts in increasing the mid-scale restaurants, delivery and cloud kitchens which however was a part of our profile even before the pandemic, but needs to be more focused on it from now. In terms of innovation in kitchen, my team has already started creating recipes that contain more of proteins and immune booster ingredients that should also retain the Mughlai touch of all our royal cuisines.
You are known for modernizing Royal Cuisines of India (northwest frontier, Kashmiri, Mughal, Rampur, Awadhi, Hyderabadi). How can these old age recipes and foods can help boost immunity?
Yes, the cooking in the Indian rasoi has always been the most beneficial and healthy in terms of whichever cuisine you stick to. For the royal cuisines and about modernising it, we already have few recipes which are in preparation and testing mode like rich desserts but sugarless or supplementing it with jaggery or use of immunity-boosting herbs to also drag the aroma in the recipes and many more processes to be activated shortly.
What are some of the ingredients that you always include in your food that is both a taste enhancer and an immunity booster?
We have always been habitual to eating more spices; it’s a lifestyle we imbibe. Be it turmeric, cinnamon, carom seeds, black seeds, or many more. Apart from this jaggery based royal desserts and herbs, especially persian herbs to get the aroma intact for northwestern frontiers recipes are things that we have always been using.
It is believed that food delivery is one of the biggest segment that has grown during the pandemic. Tell us about your venture?
Food delivery, from dark kitchen or cloud kitchen, has been trending as a big business opportunity in a pandemic. Still 5-6 big companies are working on this model but so many big and mid scale investors are planning to launch in a well-organized way. I have also initiated my association with few partners on cloud kitchen to cater at least 25 cities is 1st phase. Also, creating 4-5 different verticals of cuisines in accordance to meet the local demands.
What are the numbers of orders you are doing weekly? Who are the target/regular customers?
As of now, we are operating in Lucknow, Varanasi, Patna, Pune, and Mumbai, almost getting 45 to 50k orders in gross weekly. Now working on to make lower middle & upper middle size income group customs on priority.
Tell us something about your expansion plan?
As already said by this December we will open our kitchens in 25 cities of India, apart from that my international association is still going on with 3-4 countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait & Dubai and expecting it to expand to Bahrain, Iran, Qatar, and a couple more.
How has the pandemic changed the approach in the industry? How long would it take to bring back the sector on track?
As per the current scenario, it’s very tough for a low capital person or anyone having no back from elsewhere to survive. I expect that in 1 to 2 years the middle to upper food industry (like Catering, Banquet, stand alone restaurants, commercial kitchens, food courts) should come on normal track.