India’s 10 fine dining restaurants decode customer behaviour

Very few Indian fine dining restaurants are thinking beyond food influencers and Google SEOs.

A well-travelled food connoisseur, who took his family to a popular fine dining restaurant in Bengaluru, had an unpleasant experience.

He shared the following review on Zomato:

“We ordered mock duck, tofu satay, and pad thai. The only good thing about this place was the portion size and the ambience. Tofu was decent but mock duck was too sweet. After the starters, we asked the waiter to suggest something that we would enjoy. He suggested pad kee mao but that turned out to be the opposite of what we wanted. We feel there was some issue with the food preparation because pad thai was the most disappointing. Having eaten this dish so many times at so many places, it tasted too tangy and slimy.”

This review has cost the brand both revenue and reputation.

Fine dining
Online marketing tactics by restaurants have made consumers wary.

Although several good reviews about the restaurant exist, consumers are aware that, more often than not, positive reviews are purchased, as part of digital strategies — either by hiring a bunch of food influencers to say nice things about the brand, or by splurging on SEO experts to make sure the restaurant ranks top on Google Search. The online tactics have made the consumer wary. Unless the recommendation comes from a family or friend, they don’t trust the restaurant to be good.

Only a few restaurants have truly understood the mindset of the customers and are catering to their needs.

Customers are cuisine-agnostic

Niyati Rao, Head Chef & Partner, Ekaa, says that people are leaning more towards a cuisine-agnostic approach. Customers want to try new interpretations from the chef itself, and they are looking forward to experimenting more.

“Their acceptance for authentic international cuisines has increased and they are willing to go to great lengths to make sure they are getting the real deal,” says Rao.

Fine dining
In 2025, the Indian foodservice market is forecasted to reach $95.75 billion. The growth of CAGR at 10.3%.

There’s no second chance

Indian fine dining consumers seek variety, dishes made of fresh ingredients, and new experiences, observes Manas Wadhwa, owner of Desi Vibes.

“Customer expectation creates the biggest pressure and being in the service industry doubles it up. But you always have hiccups as it is a service industry. Sometimes you are short-staffed, Sometimes the vendor has goofed up, or sometimes something goes wrong in the kitchen; but the customer never gives you a second chance,” says Wadhwa.

As consumers travel and experience unique flavours, a new wave of cuisines is emerging. However, there is also a contradiction here. While consumers seek these global flavours, they also want these to match their Indian palette. Consumers are driven by a sense of exploration or simply the fear of missing out. They are always on the hunt for new experiences.

“We have to maintain the quality of our old menu, while simultaneously increasing new dishes on the menu,” says Wadhwa.

According to kitchen staff, very few customers truly appreciate the effort put in by fine dining restaurants.

“Only a handful of customers love to listen to the story or behind-the-scenes of a dish creation. Customers are so involved in their own conversations that they don’t pay emphasis to the culinary journey and theatrical experience created by the team,” says Sarfaraz Ahmed, Head Chef, Tresind Mumbai.

Fine-dining restaurant consumers don’t mind paying exorbitant prices so long as the food is excellent, and the service is exemplary. However, this has been a challenge for upmarket restaurants who have lost their staff during the pandemic. Many kitchen staff have refused to come back even after things have gotten back to normal.

Zorawar Kalra, Founder & Managing Director, Massive Restaurants, which owns award-winning brand verticals of premium fine dining restaurants like the signature Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, says, “Retaining staff becomes a big challenge in fine dining restaurants because the level of service is a key indicator of the quality of a fine dining restaurant. Very few highly trained staff are available so it depends on the company, the perception of the company in the employee’s mind, and the work environment that you can provide.”

Kalra also employs data scientists to understand the customer better. As many fine dining restaurants are visited by travellers across the world, it is important for resturants to understand how metaverse will create an impact.

Communication is crucial

Interaction with guests, knowledge about what’s in the menu, and the ability to multitask are crucial for the staff of a fine dining restaurant.

“Be it talking to customers or peers, good communication promotes trust, collaboration, and overall satisfaction for guests and employees alike. Restaurants are often busy, so multitasking is essential to meet customer needs. This skill can help prepare the staff for fast-paced environments in the future and may make you more marketable for those types of positions,” says Pankaj Gupta, Founder, Taftoon Bar & Kitchen.

Ingredient challenges

Due to importing and sourcing of certain ingredients from Europe and Southeast Asia, fine dining restaurants in India also struggle with overheads. Smoke House Deli, for instance, which is one of the most sought-after restaurants among health-conscious customers, imports most of its ingredients.

“Our ingredients are all goodness. They are either farm-to-table or imported. The European cuisine is labour-conducive, in the kitchen. Of course, a fine-dine ambience has higher utility costs as well. Earlier, fine dining restaurants used to be spaces that one would only come to for special occasions but the new-normal seems to be that people are now looking at us as providers of comfort food, or soul food. It becomes our responsibility and pleasure to maintain a balance between nostalgia and innovation,” says Ranveer Sabhani, Business Head – South, Impresario, the brand which owns Smoke House Deli.

Sly Granny, a posh restaurant in Bengaluru, is often crowded with customers ordering the famous Sly 9 Burger, Mezze Platter, or Meat Lover’s Pizza.

“What consumers are looking for is hygiene, quality, and quick service. One of the biggest challenges is to stay relevant to customers. We strive to keep evolving with our F&B services,” says Tulsi Soni, Marketing Manager of Azure Hospitality, which owns Sly Granny.

People are more inclined to visit restaurants that are family-friendly, says Atul Chopra, Co-founder, Yazu, Juliette, and Maai. Their bestsellers include Yazu Signature Chicken, Crispy Prawn Cheung Fun, Turnip Cake, and Crispy Lotus Root.

“The average consumer wants something new from time to time. One of the major learnings is to evolve as per the current market,” says Chopra.

There will always be obstacles, challenges, ups and downs, observes Reetesh Shukla, Business Head, Charcoal Concepts, K Hospitality Corp.

“While people think of a restaurant as a food business, it is ultimately a people business. Look after your teams. Only then will they look after your guests. Surround yourself with brilliant hard-working people who inspire you and teach you. Everything else will automatically fall in place,” says Shukla.

There has been an increased spending in the luxury retail segment, observes Keenan Tham, Managing Director & Co-founder, Pebble Street Hospitality, which owns KOKO and Foo.

“We have seen customers drinking single malts and popping champagne bottles during celebrations at our restaurants. People have upgraded their brands for their drinks experience. We’ve also seen a shift in consumer’s dietary preferences, which led us to introduce new sections in our menu dedicated to gluten-free and vegan food. We’ve also introduced various plant-based protein dishes, in response to a rise in the number of consumers looking for vegetarian alternatives to meat. Constantly maintaining the consistency in the uber luxury experience that we provide is quite a challenge. The higher the spends, the higher the guest expectations, and that’s one of the biggest challenges, ensuring guest satisfaction, on every visit, each time,” he says.

Fine dining restaurants can thrive by not just giving customers what they want, but also by educating them on what’s new, exotic, and otherwise unavailable.

Read more:

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