In September 2013, when Indian Hotels opened Maritime by San Lorenzo, an iconic Italian restaurant from Knightsbridge, London, at Taj Lands End, Mumbai, it became the latest “destination restaurant” to come up at an Indian five-star hotel.
Every hotel chain worth its name — ITC, Taj, Oberoi, Hyatt, Hilton, Holiday Inn and Radisson, to name only a few — is focusing on opening new specialty fine dining restaurants. Many of them are franchises of well known global restaurant chains, but many others are being created in-house by these hotel groups.
“Food & beverages (F&B) contributes around 45% of our total revenues,” said a Taj spokesperson.
The industry norm is about 40-45%, up from 25-30% two years ago. It is expected to equal revenues from room tariffs (current share: 50%), which is stagnating, within the next couple of years.
“F&B is growing at 15-20% every year… room revenues on the other hand are growing 5-7% due to excess capacity…,” said Kapil Chopra, president, Oberoi Group.
No wonder Indian hoteliers are busy wooing their customers’ palates.
“The growing income of the middle class is contributing in a big way to this trend,” said Douglas Martell, VP, operations, South West Asia, Inter Continental Group.
This rising income and increasing exposure to international lifestyles mean that a larger number of people no longer wait for “occasions” (such as birthdays and anniversaries) to dine out but do so as a matter of routine.
“Experimenting with cuisines has also become a common phenomenon,” said Keshav Suri, executive director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group.
“The growth in F&B has also been fuelled by the growth in conferences and banqueting,” said Dipak Haskar, COO of ITC Hotels.
Big hotels are bringing many international restaurant brands to India. Travertino at The Oberoi, Delhi, and Vetro at The Oberoi, Mumbai, offer authentic Italian cuisine prepared by master chefs from the iconic Hassler Hotel in Rome. Earlier, Delhi’s ITC The Maurya had got My Humble House, a well known Chinese restaurant from Singapore.
But hotels are also creating their own restaurant brands. For example, at Oberoi’s Amaranta in its Gurgaon hotel, “fresh seafood is flown daily from the country’s coastline, in keeping with our offer of ‘from bay to plate in eight (hours)’, said Chopra.
Amidst this, old favourites – both foreign and homegrown – such as Wasabi at Taj, Bukhara at ITC, Thai Pavilion at Taj are still going strong.
With forecasts suggesting that economic growth may pick up in 2014-15, the going is expected to get better for Indian foodies.