The world is an Indian restaurant

| August 7, 2012

Staff Writer – Archi

Indian restaurants are increasingly making their presence all over the world now. According to food industry estimates, there are more than 10,000 Indian restaurants across Europe and the number is steadily growing. Its no wonder that chicken tikka masala has emerged on top of UK polls as the nation’s favourite dish.

Across the world too, the popularity of Indian food is growing and Indian restaurant chains are following the taste buds. The companies are small compared to the large US chains. But with the diaspora as a captive customer in the beginning, the Indian companies are testing new waters.

Some domestic (restaurant) companies, after having a successful and stable operation in India, are now looking for joint ventures. Among them Moti Mahal, Bikanerwala, Bukhara and Sagar Ratna are a few to name.

As a matter of fact, overseas expansion has become a recipe for growth for many Indian food companies. After building a Chinese restaurant empire in India, the country’s largest restaurateur, Anjan Chatterjee of Speciality Restaurant, has lined up a public issue and plans to take his hugely successful chain of Mainland China eateries to — where else? — Beijing and Shanghai.

After Vienna, Prague and Karachi, Café Coffee Day — India’s largest coffee chain

Café Coffee Day

— is serving steaming beverages and snacks in other European nations. And Chennai’s favorite fast food joint — Saravana Bhavan — is churning out authentic South Indian fare in 10 countries, and is hungry for more.

From joint ventures to franchisees, Indian food chains are setting up their kitchens in Singapore, West Asia, the US, Canada, West Indies and the UK. Interestingly all these regions have large Indian populations who are instantly welcoming such ventures with open arms.

The overseas journey for Indian restaurateurs has been triggered by a host of factors. Business owners see a lot of potential because of the Indian diaspora, consultants note and Indian food is also gaining acceptance worldwide.

Along with China, the Indian economy, too, has been the global flavour of the season; Restaurateurs want a piece of the action. While Chinese food has long been internationally accepted, Indian cuisine was often dismissed as nothing but “oily curries” and “tandoori chicken.” But not anymore. Now Indians travel far more and are thus becoming familiar with world cuisine. And they even look for Mexican or Thai food in India also.

This is a change from the early 1990s, when the food chain traffic was from the opposite direction. After India opened its doors to economic reform, McDonald’s was one of the first to set up shop in the country. Since then, brands like KFC, TGIF, Subway and Pizza Hut have made India their home.

The latest is Starbucks, which brewed a deal with Tata Coffee in January, while others like Dixy Chicken (a British-owned chain specializing in halal chicken), Hooters, Grand Canyon Coffee and Burger King are also investing in India.

The entry of foreign players obviously impacted Indian food chains in a big way. The homegrown brands spruced up their menus and upgraded their standards in food, hygiene and service, besides refining the art of marketing eateries. This has given them the heft and confidence to embark on a global expansion.

But just sprucing up wasn’t enough, however. As the food industry became cluttered, it had to expand. But with saturation in the major metros, growth and expansion meant smaller towns, or going overseas.

Indian food joints have made their presence felt among non-resident Indians, but the real challenge now lies as to break into the foreign population. Only then Indian cuisine can become a popular global cuisine like the Chinese.

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Category: Business, Culture & Society

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