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Last orders: Cashing in on Saints Valentine and Patrick

india Updated: Feb 15, 2013 18:27 IST
Serena Menon
Serena Menon
Hindustan Times
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If Hallmark didn’t already own the credit, the food and beverage industry would be the next to blame for hard selling Valentine’s Day to us. Yesterday, I spent an hour sorting mails from my inbox about meals that cost lakhs and pizzas shaped like hearts. Even though one would like to believe that February 14 isn’t considered cool anymore, it was a jungle out there.

That way, restaurants especially in Mumbai have been responsible for introducing many random occasions to the city — International Beer Day (August 5), St Patrick’s Day (March 17), Oktoberfest (well…), Chinese New Year (February 10 this year), World Food Day (October 16) and so on. And a surprising number of people even eat into these strategies.

Unlike other businesses that regularly use ads and billboards to grab eyeballs, the food and beverage industry relies on the press for visibility to a large extent. Yes, there is the occasional spotting of ads by Mainland China and Global Fusion, but more often than not, it’s the word-of-mouth publicity that gets around. I remember the owner of a city bar telling me how for the first year, all he did was hope he could recover the R28 lakh he spent on the interiors and getting permissions.

About four or five years ago, eateries discovered that changing their menus qualifies as news. And it does. Then many places started altering their offerings too often, innovating furiously to get noticed. And these aren’t seafood restaurants or others like Ellipsis that have made their ‘new menu every day based on the freshest produce’ clause their USP.

The nostalgia of returning to a restaurant and ordering something you first tasted 10 years ago, of course, has been completely lost in the process.

It’s understandable why a place like The Irish Pub sells offers like it does on something as bizarre as St Patrick’s Day. The bar is packed on most of the 52 weekends of the year, but the weekdays still need to be accounted for. And now with over 10 new restaurants and bars having set up shop in Mumbai in just the last two months, competition is only getting tougher. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself celebrating World Pasta Day on October 25. Though I’d rather have them introduce World Whiskey Day. It arrives sooner too, on May 18.