F&B will be the pivot around which the hospitality economy will increasingly evolve

When we began Traveldine as an outreach editorial project for the travel and hospitality industries a couple of months into the COVID crisis, Food & Beverage (F&B) was an extension of what our core was meant to be. After all, in every world civilization, food forms the fulcrum of all experiences—travel, cultural and leisure. Ergo, restaurants and bars are the crucial lifeblood of India’s economic artery.

The restaurant and food experience is at the centre of all experiences—travel, cultural and leisure
The restaurant and food experience is at the center of all experiences—travel, cultural and leisure.

 

But over the past few months, F&B has moved up front for Traveldine. It was not possible to ignore the innovation in the exciting restaurant space and the transformation being brought about by experimental restaurateurs and chefs. Over the last few editions, we have tracked the restaurant industry in India, and abroad, with some sort of missionary zeal. 

Restaurants have played an essential role in the business, social, intellectual and artistic life of a thriving society. Think of the cafes of Paris in the 20s and the three-martini lunches of the ’50s and ’60s. Humans have sketched world-changing ideas and planned revolutions in restaurants.           

The parisian cafes of ‘20s established new trends of streetside and curbside cafes across europe
The Parisian cafes of ‘20s established new trends of streetside and curbside cafes across Europe.

 

Restaurants lie at the heart of 21st-century Indian life.Beyond the basic purpose of restaurants to provide food and drink, restaurants have, historically, fulfilled a human need for connection and shaped social relations. In the 21st-century Indian life, restaurants occupy an increasingly important place in shaping our overall economy and the nature and makeup of our cities,” says restaurateur-chef Manish Mehrotra. His celebrated Indian Accent offers an inventive approach to Indian cuisine. “We need to look at restaurants through a prism of culture and heritage, but also as big employment generators for India.” 

A Deloitte report, Industry 4.0 in the Food industry, has estimated the country’s food industry at USD 500bn, accounting for 9% of India’s GDP. National Restaurant Association of India (NRA) estimates it employed 7.3 million people in 2019-2020. These numbers are not to be taken lightly. 

Food & Beverage is also an industry that’s crumbling under the onslaught of COVID-induced shutdowns and economic disruption. More restaurants and bars have heartbreakingly closed down, many permanently, over the last few months then they have ever, even in an industry where restaurants shut and new ones open with regularity. 

 

“Even a modest 20% job loss in the restaurant industry employing almost 7.30 million people will aggregate to almost 1.50 million job losses,” says Anurag Katriar, President of NRAI, CEO and Executive Director of deGustibus Hospitality Pvt Ltd. “We have been launching several initiatives to support the industry, but there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.”

Nrai president and restaurateur anurag katiyar
NRAI president and restaurateur
Anurag Katriar

NRAI president and restaurateur Anurag Katriar states that NRAI has launched unique intiatives to support and upgrade the restaurant industry.

NRAI, which represents 5, 00,000+ restaurants, has set up a COVID-19 relief corpus for which funds to support distressed employees of its member establishments have been raised from the industry as well as from customers. They have launched several initiatives such as Rise for Restaurants and Rise for Bars, tech solutions for the Industry, and hosted NRAI townhalls to establish direct communication with the industry stakeholders via an online platform.

Restaurateur after restaurateur has spoken out loud about the devastating effect the coronavirus pandemic has left in its wake. Riyaaz Amlani, CEO, Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality, who we have interviewed extensively, has often spoken about “the dark days and crippling anxiety” he has experienced while trying to keep his people together and his business afloat. Mounting debts and closures are realities that the restaurant industry has battled with over the last few months. Chef Mehrotra speaks candidly about how the business is not reviving anytime soon and winters could be some of the worst months for the restaurants in the Indian capital, due to rising pollution and COVID cases. 

Restauranteur riyaaz amlani
Restauranteurs such as Riyaaz Amlani are experimenting with formats to create restaurants of the future.

 

Yet, each of these great chefs and restauranteurs has dug in their heels and pledged to carry on, supporting their team of chefs, servers, merchants and more in whichever they can.  

At Traveldine, we will be tracking the Food & Beverage industry as it evolves and strengthens, through interviews with restauranteurs, chefs and other key stakeholders. We will track trends, put out their apprehensions, their struggle for survival, new ideas and innovations, and more importantly, how technology will transform the dining experience.

As restaurateur A D Singh says, “Technology will be an enabler to connect us back with our customers. It will go beyond the integrated system for contactless dining and digitising menus we are talking about now.”

A. D singh
A D Singh says technology will be the prime integrator of all dining experiences.

 

As we evolve, we will look at researching the Food & Beverage segment, speaking to the stakeholders and creating reports and other editorial assets and masterclasses with restauranteurs and chefs, engaging with the vibrant community in far more intimate ways and creating in-depth reports.  

The table in mumbai experiments with new format and technology
Restaurants such as The Table in Mumbai have experimented with new formats and technology to get diners back in the seats. 

 

That’s because we believe Food & Beverage will continue to be a crucial industry, employing millions. It is heart-warming to see how the industry has each other’s back and are pulling together. Independent, stand-alone restaurants and even restaurants in luxury hotels have leaned on F&B to see them through the tough times, launching apps, and resorting to home deliveries to earn some revenues.

For luxury and premium hospitality chains, delivering restaurant-like meals at home has emerged as a new vertical and a revenue stream, however small. Marriott International’s big hotel brands such as JW Marriott, Sheraton, Ritz Carlton and Four Points, continue to offer people in different cities home delivery through Marriott Wheels, which they re-launched during the lockdown.

Marriott international food truck
For hotel groups such as Marriott International, F&B has emerged as a financial lifeline amidst lockdowns.

 

Conrad Bengaluru forayed into home deliveries via the Hilton Dining Program. The luxury hotel is not just accepting orders directly but also through delivery logistic partner platforms. 

Food & Beverage has emerged as an alternative vertical to mitigate some of the losses for luxury hotels. The Leela Palace Bengaluru, which has begun takeaways and home delivery service from their Citrus restaurant kitchen, has managed to earn approx. Rs 50,000 per day over the last few months. Even a mid-market hotel chain such as AccorHotels’ Novotels are earning revenues of Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 every day just through food deliveries.  

IHCL launched a mobile app, Qmin, on android and IOS platforms, using which their customers can order curated (or ‘Quarated’, as the group puts it) gourmet offerings from their restaurants. The app has helped augment IHCL’s F&B offerings by leveraging a digital platform to address growing consumer demand for online gourmet food delivery services. 

In Delhi, ITC’s new Gourmet Couch service delivered food from the iconic Bukhara restaurant at ITC Maurya to people’s home. The great chefs of Bukhara would have once considered home deliveries a sacrilege, insisting that the best dining experience can be had only within the confines of the restaurant. 

Image 29
ITC’s iconic restaurants such as Bukhara use their tech platform to reach their guests at their homes under their Gourmet Couch programme.

 

American culinary historian john mariani

American culinary historian John Mariani, writing in Forbes, has warned against being too pessimistic about the survival of restaurants. “Opening a restaurant demands a fervent love of the business, from the owners to the chefs and often the waiters and busyboys who fantasize about owning their place. And because of that love, restaurants have historically proven far more resilient than many other businesses, not least after wars and pandemics have utterly destroyed them.”

Pandemics and wars have often been catalysts for most businesses, but particularly for the hospitality and restaurant businesses. 

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