The food forecast of 2016 looks promising — not just for new businesses, but for gastronomes as well. India’s top chefs and restaurateurs share their predictions for the New Year By Priyadarshini Nandy
The past year has been a year of innovation for the food and beverage industry of India. From tech startups and experimental gourmet ventures, the food business has expanded in all directions. Having said that, a few distinct changes will probably end up dominating 2016. And topping that list is the fresh focus on regional food.
“We noticed the trend a few years ago, but now it will only go forward as more chefs and restaurant owners take the same route,” says chef Manish Mehrotra, corporate chef of Old World Hospitality that owns the Delhi-based Indian Accent, a restaurant that changed the dynamics of progressive Indian cuisine in India. And he is right. Bars and restaurants across the country are looking inwards when it comes to their businesses – focusing on local flavours, ingredients, and concepts – be it in the format of casual diners, watering holes, or fine-dining restaurants. “It started in 2014-2015 – the concept of what Indian food in restaurants should be like. And it’s going to be all the more relevant now. The way Indian restaurants approach the food space is going to change. Plus regional food has moved out of its geographical influences, and a lot more of it is going to be visible,” adds chef Manu Chandra, Partner, Olive Cafes South.
|Molecular gastronomy, which had become very popular in many high-end restaurants, will finally see a massive decline because food lovers are now getting real — Chef Atul|
In fact, the introduction of unexplored Indian cuisines, be it from Andhra Pradesh or Nagaland, at cafés and bars is an important change. “These untouched flavours are the hottest trend at the moment and the depth of exploration is so vast that it is unimaginable,” explains Riyaaz Amlani, CEO of Impresario Entertainment & Hospitality that owns Smokehouse Deli and Social.
However regional food might no longer be served in a predictable fashion, especially at upscale places. “The market demand has evolved, and regional cuisine is definitely back in the limelight. But what will happen is that the food will be prepared, and served innovatively,” says says Sameer Seth, CEO and partner at The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai.
I see a lot of smaller places doing experimental stuff becoming popular in 2016. In fact, there is a large crop of young entrepreneurs who’ve moved away from the staid format to do something new
— AD Singh
Zorawar Kalra, founder and managing director of Massive Restaurants that owns Farzi Café and Masala Library, believes that there will also be a lot of focus on locally grown and sustainable produce, and says, “Restaurants opening up in different cities will have to tweak their menus according to their geographical locations, depending on what is available around them.”
From bars upgrading their methods to progressive cooking becoming even more popular — the culinary predictions of 2016 are dotted with interesting observations. “Molecular gastronomy, which had become very popular in many high-end restaurants, will finally see a massive decline because food lovers are now getting real. I also predict an increase in the number of people becoming vegetarians,” says Atul Kochhar, chef and owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Benaras in London.
And when it comes to changes behind the bar, Yash Bhanage, COO and partner at The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai, is relying on much-needed innovations. “Be it bitters, liqueurs, or new flavours, I believe bars of the future will end up creating a lot of in-house products to add newness to their drinks and cocktails. And these creations will be exciting, and a lot more fun,” he says.
Zorawar Kalra’s money is on casual bars, as he says, “I predict a lot more casual bars opening across the country; bars that are cool and hip, and bring value to the customers. I also believe that progressive Indian food is going to go places in 2016.”
The value of luxury spirits directly sold to customers within India is small but growing rapidly. In fact, the growth of ultra premium segment is higher than that of value spirits segment. Imported whisky consumption grew by 17 per cent in 2013-14 while local whisky growth was 3.8 per cent for the same period. The export of Scotch to India between 2013-2014 was up 30 per cent, and valued at £89 million
But when it comes to drinking, global Indians, and in fact most of Asia, are not as experimental as Europe and the USA, says Keshav Rao, founder of Vault Fine Spirits — curator of artisanal spirits. “We have traditional drinking habits that are dominated by blended scotch. However now, the hipsters are discovering sipping rums, gin, tequila and mezcal along with world whiskies such as Japanese Single Malts. I also predict that the urban, metro consumer will shift from quantity drinking to quality, and experiential drinking,” he adds.
It’s also a time to look at restaurant formats, as smaller spaces begin to gain importance in the new year. “Real estate plays a crucial role in restaurant formats. I believe a lot of small scale bars and restaurants will come up soon. These will be more contemporary. And even if they are fine dining outlets, they will be presented in a new avatar,” says Seth.
Manish Mehrotra is of the opinion that large format restaurants are dying all over the world, “Whether you open a fine dining restaurant or a casual space in the future, it has to be small,” he adds, “If you have a big space, you also need to be prepared to serve food that caters to the masses. If you do niche food, you have to be able to fill up the restaurant that many times to cover your costs, and that’s not exactly feasible.”
AD Singh, managing director of Olive Bar & Kitchen concurs. “I see a lot of smaller places doing experimental stuff, becoming popular in 2016. In fact, there is a large crop of young entrepreneurs who’ve moved away from the staid format to do something new. And while not all will taste equal success, it’s definitely a good change,” he explains.
|Large format restaurants are dying all over the world, and whether you open a fine dining restaurant or a casual space in the future, it has to be small
— Chef Manish Mehrotra, Corporate chef, Old World Hospitality
Regional cuisine is definitely back in the limelight. But what will happen is that the food will be prepared, and served innovatively
— Sameer Seth, CEO and partner, The Bombay Canteen
According to the NRAI (National Restaurant Association of India) the food and beverage industry in India was valued at `2,47,680 crores, of which the unorganised segment occupied 70 per cent of the market, and 22 per cent belonged to the licenced standalone businesses. It has been projected that by 2018, the value will grow to Rs.4,08,040 crores, with the unorganised segment dipping to about 61 per cent, and licenced standalone segment going up to 28 per cent.
By Priyadarshini Nandy