Stand-alone restaurants in India are popular with foreign travelers as well as Indians as self-indulgence and a desire for cuisines propels people to splurge on food
Shyam Lal, 48, can't read or write but he can cook. He knows his pancakes from crepes and can offer you anything from a dosa to a pizza and even hummus. His culinary expertise, though, hasn't come from travelling or studying abroad but he has learnt these dishes over foodie conversations with foreign visitors who'd stop by at his tiny eatery in Dharamsala.
Food culture in India is as complex as the tapestry of its heritage. The diverse culinary rituals, wide range of cuisines and the varied cooking techniques make for layer upon layer of an overwhelming yet enriching experience. No holiday is complete without good food and India makes sure it offers a wide selection.
Growth of restaurants in the country has put on the table not only diverse local flavours but a huge variety of international cuisines. Indian food choices are a gastronomical delight with each region offering its signature cuisine. "Eating out today is considered an experience; it has always been a way of life for Indians. It is a way of socialising in the community where people meet new people in a preordained ambience, while savouring decadent delicacies.
In the current times, restaurants have taken over the task for social gatherings, offering novelty and convenience at the same time. Independent outlets therefore continue to dominate the industry in India. There are a total of 1.5 million eating outlets in India and the number is expected to grow very rapidly in the near future," says Samir Kuckreja, president, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI)and CEO and managing director, Nirula's.
The growth of the tourism industry has also been a positive factor behind the growth of restaurants in India. An increasing number of foreign tourists prefer going stand alone restaurants. This was reiterated by M.D. Kapoor, secretary general, Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), who says, "It is evident from statistics released by the Ministry of Tourism that there is an increase of foreign tourist arrivals which was 6.06 lakh in November 2010 as opposed to 5.28 lakh in November 2009 and 5.32 lakh in November 2008. A 14.7 per cent increase has been noted between November 2010 and same period a year before. Foreigners enjoy the local and authentic traditional food and as a result they can be credited to the tremendous increase in the number of eating joints, restaurants and fast food centres at prime locations throughout the country." If this impetus continues to be, more restaurants are expected to mushroom across the country, even in the small towns.
While India's culture and vibrancy makes it a popular choice amongst foreign travellers, domestic tourism is not holding back. Eating out and visiting restaurants are a source of family or social entertainment for domestic tourists. "The dining out culture has emerged with huge infrastructural growth, widening middle class in the cities owing to a strong economy, marking this change in the lifestyle" explains Vyoum Ghai, promoter, the Panchshila Rendezvous and joint secretary, NRAI.
With international restaurant chain entering the indian foyer and increasing the competitiveness, special attention is being paid to hygiene and cleanliness. Being assured healthy and wholesome food options and quality outlets is a significant crowd puller. Restaurants are located near tourist attractions and offer wide variety of dining options ranging from fine dining to value-for-money food. International players in the Indian hospitality industry have raised tourist expectations.
"International chains have connotations of quality and hygiene that extend globally and tourists visiting India are comforted by the presence of such outlets in taking care of their basic needs without the mortal fear of having an upset stomach," explains Kuckreja.
To secure their share in this market, restaurant owners continue to revamp their food menu to meet the changing trends. "Rise in India's outbound travel and exposure to different cuisines has led to an increase in demand for good quality food in India," explains Kabir Advani, managing director, Berco's.
The growing popularity of restaurants signifies an increase in the work force engaged in this segment of the food industry. Though opening a restaurant is not an easy task but a degree in hotel management will provide you with the basic knowledge of running a food joint. It is important to understand market demands and not to forget essentials like the licensing process.
This industry is becoming a popular career choice amongst young entrepreneurs and foodies. More and more people are opting to work in different segments of this industry or start their own entrepreneurial ventures. With increasing demand, changing consumer patterns and the rise in profits, the future of the restaurant industry looks bright and promising.
Reproduced From India Today. © 2011. LMIL. All rights reserved.