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Global cuisines woo desi tongues

india Updated: May 02, 2008 16:38 IST
Varun Soni
Varun Soni
Hindustan Times
globalisation

If globalisation is here, can world cuisine be far behind? A slew of foreign restaurant chains and labels are seeking out upscale neighbourhoods and hang-out zones to take the palate of the Indian customer beyond the usual burger-pizza routine championed by the likes of McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Wimpy’s.

Irish, Korean, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Australian and Filipino fare are on offer from the labels that are looking for places in malls, multiplexes and tony residential areas of metro cities. At stake is a Rs 1,000-crore restaurant market in India, which is growing at 28 per cent a year as increasing disposable incomes make eating out a passionate habit, aided by overseas travels that spur vagabond tongues.

Gaurav Jain, Director, Sbarro Restaurants (India) Ltd, which has brought in US-based Italian fast food joint Sbarro into India said his products, pizza and pasta, are well accepted in India and the idea is to make them more affordable in well-frequented places.

Sbarro opened its first outlet in Delhi last year and currently has seven restaurants operational in the National Capital Region, where it plans to have a dozen open by the end of May. “Moving forward we expect to open between 15-20 restaurants per year on an annual basis across the country,” Jain told Hindustan Times .

Another US-based restaurant that has already opened in India is Bennegan’s, a fine dining chain based on the Irish tavern style and somewhat similar to TGIF (Thank God Its Friday). Delhi-based Panban International, which imports hotel equipment, has tied up with UK’s quick service restaurant chain, Dixy Fried Chicken Euro Ltd., and plans to roll out 100 outlets in five years.

South Korean fast-food franchise operator Genesis has set an ambitious goal of overtaking McDonald's by the year 2020. US-based Mark Pi, a chain of Chinese restaurants, plans to open 100 outlets in India in the next five years.

Philippines-based fast-food firm Jollibee Foods Corp, which adds rice-based meals to hamburgers, has also evinced interest plans to expand to India and China. Another fast food joint that is seriously considering the Indian market is Australia’s Sumo Salads.

Will so many restaurants from abroad be able to survive in a market that is still tilted towards traditional Indian spicy food? “Probably not,” said Ravi Saxena, MD, Citymax India, which is planning Italian and Mexican restaurants in the country.

“The demand is not so high that such a large number of restaurants enter the country. It has yet to evolve and ultimately, what will work in India are Indian and Chinese cuisines,” he said.

However, what will keep so many these restaurants afloat is a different strategies and the correct social groups. “Foreign food chains should realize that the market is still in its nascent stage and will take time to evolve,” said Saxena.

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