Traditional F&B’s versus Desi-Videsi startups!

Currently valued at US$ 39.71 billion and expected to grow at a CAGR of 11% to US$ 65.4 billion by 2018; food sector in India is a high growth and profit sector. Moreover, the market of Indian food servicing is expected to reach US$ 68 billion by 2018. India is moving in a direction of organized food business and that is one major reason why the startups in this sector are poised to grow in the coming years. Though the challenges like real estate prices, lack of availability of trained personnel, licensing, sourcing of raw materials, etc. do exist, but still the fine dining, casual dining and quick service restaurants’ as have made a big market in India. 

Young professionals’ being the major customers of this segment, the startups in the food space have witnessed a major transformation. While the traditional F&b has been winning the hearts of many, the new players in this segment have come up with various Desi versus Videsi twists in cuisines, fusion flavors in snacks and drinks, experiential dining and so on. There has been a rise in concept and theme based restaurants. While the traditional food outlets serve typical Indian food, over time it has become ordinary, with the same dishes and presentations available everywhere. Sadly, in the traditional outlets, the cuisine hasn’t seen much of an innovation. Quantity is given more preference over quality and presentation. Having said that, today, the startups in this sector are laying a lot of emphasis on innovation. They are retaining the essence of the cuisine while offering an ultramodern experience which engages all the five senses. The startups have set their focus right on innovation in cuisine along using contemporary cooking styles and methodologies. They aim at bringing a sense of surprise into the overall experience. This new wave is being referred to as ‘Progressive’ and it has revolutionized the way we experience the cuisine from our own country, thus breaking numerous notions and myths. While some traditional restaurants may still be following themes, the startups have surely shifted their focus to culinary innovation.

A lot of startups are also experimenting with western sauces & dressings.  They have realized that there is a growing demand for western cuisines and they are exploring it by serving consumers with international quality products. Startups have expanded their portfolios by offering innovative international products suiting the Indian palate. They are serving local sourced sustainable food & ingredients coupled with some foraging elements along with using fresh produce from restaurant kitchen gardens or easily accessible farms. They realize the thin demarcation between fusion cuisine & the concept of Progressive cuisine. Startups offering progressive cuisine are combing the traditional aspects of a region’s cuisine, and by using modern cooking techniques, global influences and presentation styles, they are presenting food in a whole new avatar.

Food startups have shared that they are very careful while designing the menu. If you see the number of unique dishes in their menu, leave customers wanting for more. Dishes like Pork and mango salad with plum ginger dressing, Miso Lamb chops, meetha achaar lamb shanks, dal-chawal arancini, duck samosas, pulled pork phulka tacos, Fig and confit duck samosa with sweet and sour glaze & Tandoori chicken roulade to 63 degree egg with asparagus and beans and red pepper calibres, mix veg cheese cake with porcini valute, etc are in the menus and each item is unique to cater to the taste buds of their visitors.  

Drinks and cocktails are the major game-changers when it comes to eating outside. Startups are inventing new cocktails using fresh local ingredients. People are also heath-conscious and they look for healthy and exciting choices. A unique cocktail menu, allowing the guests to choose well behind the bar from fresh natural ingredients, local flavors and craftsmanship is what different they are doing from the traditional FnB outlets. The owners and chefs interact with the guests and encourage them to try new flavors for different experiences while drinking responsibly. Local ingredients and keeping it simple so it can be replicated easily is what the startups are capturing on.

Concepts like food trucks, Pay-as-you-like, chef driven restaurants’, global food , meals by air are all visions brought into action by food startups. Traditional FnB outlets have majorly been all about the food, where the chef was an unknown entity at the back of the kitchen in a white hat. Startups have changed it and made chefs as their face. Ek baar, English Vinglsih, Farzi Café, Flyp, Masala Bar, Mighty Small, MRP, Not Really Indian, The Terrace, Light House Café, Social, Lord of the Drinks, Vault, Junkyard, Boombox, Out of the Box, Beer Café, and so on, the list is moon and back. Startups in F&B have proved their market presence.     

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