INOX looks to amp up its F&B caliber

INOX is aiming to maximise its prime locations, multi-cuisine menus, in-house restaurants, to offer an F&B-focused experience. And not just for movie-goers.

As more and more states go into lockdown mode, many businesses are struggling to stay above water. Entertainment is one such casualty; with theatres operating at 50 per cent capacity in some parts of the country and shut down completely in others. INOX Leisure Limited, one of the largest multiplex chains in India, with 643 screens in 152 multiplexes across 69 cities, has taken up the challenge posed by lockdowns in a unique way – by reinventing itself as a F&B-focused company.

However, the seed of this idea of reinvention was sown before the world witnessed the pandemic. To improve its reach and better connect with consumers, the company had partnered with online aggregators to deliver their trademark “movie snacks” to homes. F&B accounts for a quarter of the company’s revenue, bringing in Rs 467 crore in financial year 2020, and with the new focus, it aims to strengthen this component further.

“Our food is unique in terms of taste, freshness and relevance. You won’t find the kind of popcorn, nachos and other snacks that we offer, anywhere else. So, if you’re watching a film at home, or getting together with friends for a screening, you can simply order in all the snacks you’d want on such occasions,” says Dinesh Hariharan, Deputy Vice President, Food and Beverages Operations, INOX Leisure Limited.

Then, of course, came the lockdowns, which made the move towards F&B not just relevant but critical for business.

The fact that INOX has a wide variety of dishes and cuisines, all available under the same umbrella, is something the company wants to leverage on. “You could say our food has the range of a multi-cuisine restaurant’s menu, with the detailing of a specialty restaurant. You can compare our pastas and pizzas with those from some of the finest Italian restaurants. For our popcorn, we use imported corn and condiments, which makes it unparalleled in taste.”

The menu at INOX, which is 90 per cent uniform across the country, is curated by renowned masterchef, Vicky Ratnani. The 10 per cent is left to regional specialities, for which local experts are roped in. “Favourites such as chaats, rolls or samosas, are made specially, according to regions. The samosa that you’ll get in Mumbai will be totally different from the ones you’d find in Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai.”

Along with multi-cuisine specialities and snacks, home-style food such as rajma-chawal, and premium desserts, round off the INOX food menu. “Our menu is curated considering all kinds of palates, and we want to ensure that you can order food for any kind of occasion.”

Given the kind of space INOX lobbies have, the company wants to not just have an extensive menu on offer for delivery but also extend its own existing brands into full-service restaurants. “INOX lobbies are premium spaces, where we’ve also created in-house sub-brands, such as Café Unwind and Insignia, which is a fine-dining option with a live kitchen. We want to develop these brands as restaurants, where diners can walk-in. Along with these in-house brands, we are also associated with nearly 200 unique brands across the country. We want to compete with food courts, because we can offer an experience which can work as a one-stop-solution for all kinds of F&B needs. We want to cater to not just the theatre-going audience but also mall customers or diners from the nearby catchment area. We occupy prime locations and have the culinary expertise as well, to be able to transform into an F&B-focused entity.”

Aside from online aggregators, there are also collaborations with food coupon companies such as Dineout and EazyDiner in the works. These partnerships, along with special promotions and innovations, will be used to drive footfalls.   

While the focus will be on both dine-in services as well as takeaways and deliveries, INOX is looking to extend even further. “If there are events, birthdays, anniversary celebrations or any special occasion, we will cater to these as well. We will use all possible platforms to promote our brand’s capabilities. We will leave no stone unturned.”

The positioning as an F&B company is not a knee-jerk or business continuity measure. INOX is viewing this as a long-term plan, a natural evolution of its capabilities. And given the situation with lockdowns currently, and possibly in the near future, it might just be one of the best ways to not just survive but thrive.

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