It’s lunch time on Monday, and Imbiss in Bandra (West), known to be a carnivore’s delight, has only two tables occupied.
“After people heard that we had taken beef off the menu, the number of diners has dropped by about 20%,” says owner Bruce Rodrigues.
Imbiss specialised in beef and pork; its best-selling items were its beef burgers, steaks and roasts. “We had a minimum of 100 orders for beef every day, out of a total of about 500 orders,” says Rodrigues. “We plan to substitute with buffalo, but we were known for the quality of our meat, and buffalo is not the same as bull.”
Across Mumbai, the refrain is the same.
From high-end five-star hotel restaurants such as Zodiac Grill and Wasabi by Morimoto at the Taj and San-Qi at the Four Seasons to meat-heavy standalones like Imbiss, Between Breads, Gostana and Pot Pourri, and fine-dining restaurants like Ellipsis, Yuuka and Pali Village Café, the ban on beef imposed by the state government earlier this month has already hit business hard, sending restaurateurs scrambling to create new dishes and find new ways to woo customers.
At American-style diner Between Breads, for instance, the bestsellers were the 10-ounce beef cheeseburger and the beef sandwich. “We are selling as long as supplies last, but these will not be available much longer,” says co-owner Rueben Borah. “Beef items make up at least 20% of my revenue… I don’t know how it’s going to be once I replace it with buffalo meat. Buffalo meat is too tough, and it can’t create the juicy cheeseburgers that were my USP. I will be rethinking the entire menu and coming up with better recipes for buffalo meat.”
At fine-dining restaurants such as Ellipsis, the impact is similarly severe.
“We have regulars who would come every day purely for the beef items. We sold about 15 beef burgers and about a dozen beef steaks a day, so we stand to lose about Rs2 lakh a month,” says chef Kelvin Cheung of Ellipsis. “There is no question of substituting the meat. The imported beef we used was of the highest quality. The mushrooms duxelle and foie butter we serve it with will not work with the tougher, grainier buffalo meat.”
At Wasabi, the imported Wagyu beef steak sold for Rs12,000 a serving; at Zodiac Grill, the Chateaubriand Steak sold for Rs7,100. Both items found about six takers each, per day; both items are now off the menu.
San-Qi’s Teppanyaki Kobe beef sold for Rs9,775 a serving and had about three takers a day.
“That’s a loss of revenue of almost Rs9 lakh a month. It’s huge,” says chef Vikram Arora.
San-Qi imported all its beef from Japan.
“That beef was a big part of how we fused modern techniques with traditional Japanese flavours,” says Arora. “We can’t just replace it with buffalo. Instead, our marketing and kitchen teams are rushing to create new dishes and revamp the menu entirely.”
For diners, the result of the ban is a double whammy — first, the loss of the beef dishes, then a projected rise in prices as restaurants try to make up for the lost revenue.
“Our beef dishes accounted for 2% of our revenue,” says Paul Kinny, chef at Yuuka, the Japanese restaurant at Palladium mall. “You can’t use buffalo to make dishes such as beef bulgogi, because the sauces won’t work with tougher meat. So we are planning to change the prices of other meat dishes to compensate for the losses.”
Prices are likely to rise across the board, adds Cheung of Ellipsis, since chicken, lamb and buffalo will become more expensive as demand rises.
Gone from Mumbai menus: dishes you won’t get anymore:
Beef burgers, tenderloin steak and roast beef at Imbiss, Bandra
Beef burger and Philip steak at Gostana, Bandra
Beef carpaccio and Australian beef steak at Ellipsis, Colaba
Kobe beef steak at Yuuka, Palladium, Lower Parel
Teppanyaki Kobe Beef at San Qi, Four Seasons, Worli
Wagyu beef steak at Wasabi, Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba
Chateaubriand steak at The Zodiac Grill, Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba
Beef cheeseburger, beef sandwich at Between Breads, Bandra