Post the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in India, restaurants have begun to open their doors. However, a lot has changed in the way they operate. In an interview with Voyager’s World, Chef Nimish Bhatia, Chef Mentor and Master of FnB Trade, sheds light on the new practices implemented by restaurants to cater to the guests, who have now prioritized hygeine above all else.
In a competitive market, what are the attributes of a new age restaurant?
The competition today is not between good and bad. It is between good and good.
Bangalore today has graduated from a place of Idli and coffee or to providing cuisine from across India. Consumers are becoming increasingly adventurous with what they eat, how they eat and where they eat. Gone are the days where a standard butter chicken or a Chow Mien is the meal of choice. Now diners eat organic salads within an inflatable pub and sip on locally-produced wine. From healthy fast food to five-figure entrees, the future of food is an ever-evolving experiment. The combination of science to culinary skill is taking the food produce to molecular gastronomy. Hygiene with a Capital H will shadow every act which the diners would want to see all the time.
To me, the attributes of a good restaurant would contain
- Fresh vegetables with a local & International mix
- Healthy & nutrition value of the food would demand more presence
- Hip chic & trendy menus with mixed cuisines
- Lesser ingredients with simplicity in food but varied flavours
- Contemporary food presentations
- If it is Indian food then would have more concentration on grills than curries, made in olive oil or such, trimmed meat fat and a lot of salad
- More relishes in a plate, sauces are passé. Rubs & Marinades would be simpler
- Use of exotic ingredients & also the menu explanations are not there, it is the dish which is self-descriptive of the ingredients & cooking processes.
- Edible garnishes in different forms and Smaller portion sizes…small plates
Does having a specialty dish add value to the restaurant?
A speciality dish or a few signature dishes in food and a few signature mixes in the beverage adds to the USP of the restaurant and becomes a part of the story. This remains in the menu as a highlight whenever the meu changes and it is also well-received by the diners.
What goes into designing a perfect menu? How often do you recommend to change the menu?
Menu is the dressing gown which connects the diner and the restaurant in literal terms. The concept of the restaurant is the soul which keeps it glued. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if he not has not dined well and we are in a commercial platform to have this connected only through our menu.
A perfect menu does not mean a book of 200 pages. It should be the best combinations that comes out of my kitchens, goes a part of my concept, should connect to the service design and the crockery, cutlery or such, connect with the target audience on pricing and the portion sizes as anticipated, allergens announced with the spice levels and finally easy to anticipate for all and lucrative in all its segments.
The menus change cycle is very trendy now, with the world of high competition the new does not last very long, it is replaced very fast to invite and satisfy he diners and recreate similar scopes known styles. The menus of a lot of the successful restaurants change annually, biannually , even monthly and some even daily depending upon the eatery.
Keeping the restaurant investment life cycle in mind, what do you recommend budding restaurant promoters?
The commercial viability of a restaurant is always in its everchanging face though depending on some fixed parameters. The trends in our industry and the anticipation of its face-value define its flow. It could be demographic, the rise of a cuisine or style, concept, service design, finding USP, target audience, ambience, size, etc.
Restaurants, Eateries, F&B Spaces, Bars, Banqueting, Microbreweries or such are spaces thrive on repeat audiences.
How can consultants like you add value to curating a fine dining experience?
You may believe you don’t need crutches to walk when you can fly. Creating a high in F&B is not just a chronological sequence of events but it is the ‘Oomph,’ which can be created by someone who has experienced, created and crafted similar experience. This is not just about the fine dining but also creating the best within the resources. It is a marriage of service design, operational equipment and finding newer highs by virtue of being in the market and connecting the industry.
Our culinary proficiency is to bring a customer holistic ecstasy than a sheer meal delight.
What are the new trends you visualize for the fine-dining restaurant profiles?
Our Industry is experiencing an Alice in Wonderland syndrome. Hygiene is the most important player in the team now and it needs to be visible. It should not hide behind the walls as diners want to see what’s being cooked in bright light. I have also developed a mobile app along with a hygiene expert which validates each process.
The feel in a restaurant would need to be anticipated clinical, precise, full of gizmos and gimmicks to please the hygienic aesthetics of guests.
In your fantastic chequered career as India’s finest chefs, your recommendations for restaurants on their strategies, when they eventually re-open?
We are currently living in testing times— perhaps the darkest medical crisis the history of humankind has ever witnessed and the news around is contributing towards enhanced levels of anxiety. Yes, we are worried about tomorrow and how the dynamics are changing every single moment. No Eureka cry, No Rocket Science: Kickstarting the economy and COViD pains will have to coexist .We will have to trust herd immunity , alchemy of vaccines and excellent convalescence medicine . Even the military strategist say that threat perception is a more potent than execution of the threat, and that’s exactly what is going on with us.
But now is also the time to be more conscious about the choices we make, to bond with our team, focus on technologies, and training our mental and physical wellbeing. Outsourcing and subscription is the key going forward. We understand that there are certain things in our business which is unavoidable like rentals, statutory and regulatory, compliances, the employment of the skilled chefs, key requirements or such and our setups whilst some can be outsourced. Outsourced could be the processes rather than the functions, still keeping your same line of business.
Redirecting and restarting will require a lot of insight and audacity. What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise. If you believe you got a raw deal. Cook and simmer it! Watch it boil over!
Do not wait. The time will never be just right, start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.