India's consumers get a taste for dining out

Eating out in India used to be an event reserved for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries or festivals. Not anymore.

March 02, 2017

Eating out in India used to be an event reserved for special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries or festivals. Not anymore.

Across the country people of all ages are eating out more frequently whether it’s a enjoying a family meal in a restaurant, socializing with friends or fitting in a quick lunch on a day out.

In addition, many affluent young Indians now live away from their families and often prefer eating out to cooking for one.

“As income of the young rises, especially for those aged below 35, they enjoy eating out frequently and are willing to try and experience something new,” says Pankaj Renjhen, Managing Director – Retail Services, JLL India. “Dining out is no longer just about eating. It’s about trying new world cuisines, soaking in the ambience, having good drink and living the good life.”

India’s burgeoning food scene

As more people choose to eat outside of their homes, the food scene in India is heating up.

In the last year alone, several high-end restaurants and bars including big names such as NRI (Not Really Indian) by twice-starred Michelin chef Atul Kochhar, Fable, Lima, Bombay Vintage, Farzi Café and Masala Bar opened in Mumbai.

New Delhi, too, saw a rash of openings as Masala Library, Papaya, Barush, Lakhori and Sanadige entered the market. It was the same story in other India metropolis – Bengaluru welcomed hip spots such as g77 Café and Toast and Tonic while Pune, Chennai and Kolkata all added to their dining scene.

As consumers become more sophisticated and have more money to spend on eating out, food and beverage (F&B) businesses are getting more experimental. “The fine line between fine and casual dining is blurring. Many eateries – both established ones and new entrants – have taken to changing the ambiance and use of the space depending on the time of the day,” says Renjhen.

For instance, Social, a fast expanding F&B chain in India is a casual dining, drinking and a co-working space in the morning, which transforms into a pub and a performance space in the evening. “Experience is the key,” says Renjhen. “F&B spots will evolve to become more distinct, with different offerings such as co-working spaces for customers as India adopts new trends such as working from home.”

Finding the right location

Restaurateurs and F&B companies are constantly on a lookout for a suitable space to cater to this demand. Neighbourhoods such as Mumbai’s Lower Parel and New Delhi’s historic Connaught Place have since become popular enclaves for restaurants and watering holes.

A choice spot in a mall or in its food courts are also popular with the F&B brands, especially since mall operators are bumping up the number of food options to entice consumers to combat the growing impact of e-commerce. Eatopia in the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, was the city’s first multi- cuisine food court while DLF Mall of India, which opened in Noida last year boasts 76 F&B outlets and a massive food court.

“In fact, many consumers first enter a mall to eat then end up shopping there – not the other way round,” observes Renjhen. “F&B businesses naturally want locations in malls or counters at food courts as they attract customers who have the capacity to spend.”

And Indian consumers are hungry for more. The country’s food services market is forecast to grow from Rs.3.09 trillion ($45.8 billion) in 2016 to Rs4.98 trillion ($74 billion), according to a report from the National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) and consulting firm Technopak.

With rising affluence among India’s expanding middle class and a growing taste for international cuisine, new and established F&B retailers in India have plenty of opportunities to satisfy India’s appetite for eating out.