Kalra’s restaurants use a lot of technology, including a very advanced CRM system.
While a full return to normal may not be in the cards for restaurants, there will be continued interest in fine dining experiences in India.
In an interaction with TravelDine, Zorawar Kalra, Founder & Managing Director, Massive Restaurants, sheds light on the consumer behaviour patterns at restaurants post-Covid, the current challenges, the use of high-end technologies, and how his personal learnings in the past two years is playing a role in his present success.
Change is consumer behaviour
Consumer patterns have changed quite significantly after Covid, says Kalra.
“People are now okay with lesser waiting staff per restaurant because they realise the problems the restaurants have gone through post the pandemic,” he says.
He observed that consumers also don’t mind smaller menus as they realise that the kitchen staffing might have been reduced.
“In fact, a smaller menu leads to a better experience for the guest as there is lesser preparation in the backend. This means that the food items that are coming out are of higher quality. The tipping culture of the country has changed for the better, people are more empathetic towards waiting staff and thus are tipping better,” says Kalra.
Shedding light on the best sellers at his various restaurants, he says that in Masala Library, the tasting menu accounts to about 70-80% of total sales.
“This has always been the case ever since the restaurant opened. The tasting menu is a long 2.5-hour journey across India through your tastebuds and it is still the most popular item. This includes both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes,” he says.
At YOUnion, Mumbai, three bestsellers include Tawainese popcorn chicken, Avocado Tart, YOUnion Fried Chicken Burger.
Kalra’s restaurants use a lot of technology, including a very advanced CRM system that not only tracks data but also helps in reaching out to their million customers at appropriate times. The brand also uses digital menus.
“We have now incorporated many data scientists on payrolls whose main job is to study our POS system that is completely customised and gives us real time data of every aspect of running a restaurant. The data scientists extract the report, which help us in running the business in a more efficient manner,” he says.
Highlighting the biggest challenges of running a fine dining restaurant, he says that high quality staff is often difficult to come by as there is high demand.
“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. 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,” he says.
On his key learnings over the past two years, Kalra says that Indians love eating out and the food business, if allowed to remain open, is basically recession-proof.
“Return to demand usually is very quick provided the ecosystem and the authorities help in the propagation of the industry, which is now the second largest employer of human capital in India after agriculture. It also contributes to 2 or 3% to India’s GDP which is a large amount and, as such the industry should be given special status. That being said, the key learning is that if you maintain quality and if you keep innovating the customer will always keep coming back. Indians love eating out more than any other form of entertainment. In fact, eating out is 40% larger than Bollywood. As a result, the demand is always there. High quality services and products will always be able to garner their fair share of the consumer market,” he says.