Experience Meets Convenience

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To keep up with the growing competition, savants of F&B industry believe the need of the hour for quick service restaurants is to stay updated with changing trends

The burgeoning quick service restaurant (QSR) market in India has become opened up avenues for the F&B industry, enabling customised food, design, ambience, and experience. The competition is not only between Indian brands, but also between national brands and foreign QSRs. With the expanding market, where national brands have a foothold in major cities and new entrants are growing at a swift rate, there is the need for both to stay updated.

To analyse the current scenario and understand the opportunities, challenges and solutions for QSRs, Hotelier India organised an exclusive roundtable discussion in partnership with Harman at Hotel Westin Gurugram on 18th May, 2017 alongside the Hotel Build Forum 2017. The half-day discussion, moderated by Premal Zaveri, associate director – hospitality and leisure, CBRE, witnessed the participation of leading restaurateurs, directors, chefs, F&B heads, consultants, procurement and product development heads, alongwith PR and marketing professionals.

One of the most disscussed topic in the QSR sector is experimentation with trends. From design and customising menus across outlets, brands are going all out in this space. How do QSRs envision trends in the next decade? What impact does this have on business profitability and consumer satisfaction?
Vishal Mahajan, director, Jubilant Consumer says, “For any concept to be called a trend, it should see its business model validation across channels. As a lot of sales happen online it has to see a strong pull across all sales channels. It should also have an inter-generational acceptability to sustain over a decade. Any concept that does not look at these two points is at a risk.”
Currently QSRs are oscillating between being simplistic, but on the whole intending to give their consumers a never-before like experience. Navjot Singh, director and principal architect, NSA Design Studio said that the general trend in terms of ambience and design is rustic, rugged and grunge. “People across the board just want to feel comfortable,” he says. “Simplistic restaurants work better as it soothes you. It depends on how evolved we are, how much have we travelled and are aware of trends,” adds Nitin Luthra, executive director, Carl’s Jr. India.
Global QSRs such as McDonald’s and Pizza Hut have never gone the simplistic way and have maintained their appeal for a long period of time. However, Indian brands are exploring local themes that have lesser to do with the colour and more to do with the connection and experience.
Supporting this thought, Luthra said, “It is a very bold move for QSRs to look into architectural conceptualisation. We see a lot of them exploring calligraphy and hand painted art on walls.” He also added that it’s essential for QSRs to look at the aspects of music to attract diners.
A study about music and restaurants reveal that when a restaurant plays lesser-known music, people tend to spend more money. Ankush Agarwal, ‎director, marketing and business development, Harman said that he recently visited a QSR where people were listening to the music and sharing notes. “The time people spend at a restaurant is because of the ambience and experience. Music plays an important role,” he says. Gurgaon-based Imly restaurants, owned by Varun Puri, focus a lot on family time. Their ambience and menu is designed for children as well.


QSR restaurants are getting innovative with their menu in as many ways as possible, with occasion-based themes being the most experimented. Wow! Momo is one such QSR that has gone out of its way to create a innovative experiences. They created special rose-shaped chocolate momos for Valentine’s Day and played around with their sauces (orange, white and green) for Independence Day. Sagar Daryani, co-founder and CEO, Wow! Momo claims, “You have to reinvent yourselves so that your brand does not get boring. It is important to understand how to create the impulse to draw traffic into your QSR.”
Chef Arun Chanda, founder and director at Mint Hotels & Restaurants Consultancy, thinks that automation has helped in improving the efficiency of kitchens and increasing sales. “The trend in the kitchen today is a mix of Indian and other international cuisines. To make this happen we need more kitchen space and this is where we use automated kitchen equipment,” he says. He says that QSRs owners are constantly looking for a twist in the menu, for example a lamb kebab, which can be made with a twist of another cuisine appeals more to the consumers than just the normal kebabs.

Every day, dozens of food delivery specialists are mushrooming in an app- and tech-driven world. With apps like Swiggy and Zomato that deliver fresh food at one’s doorstep, delivery chains are a platform for smaller QSRs to reach to consumers easily.
“We must agree that there are lesser mistakes in orders on Swiggy and Zomato as opposed to off-the-counter orders. Earlier people would go to a restaurant to have a good time and now it is in the comfort of your home,” notes Luthra.
Daryani said that delivery chains give QSRs profits as it is equivalent to a takeaway. “Given the high real estate rates, companies want more walk-ins but if that is not possible then the only solution is to increase your reach,” he adds.

In India, franchising is still a misunderstood subject and most restaurant businesses are not ready to get into it. However, due to the pressure of expansion, they engage in this.
“Before getting into franchising, you need to ask yourself, do you have processes and systems in place? I started franchising six years ago, but created a manual on franchising only two years ago. There are no rules and regulations in India, unlike the US, where you need to pass certain parameters,” says Sharad Sachdeva, CEO, Lite Bite Foods, India.
Franchising is not something that India is ready for, or vice versa. Nitika Kapur, co-founder and head of product development and innovation, Nukkadwala, adds, “There seems to be an intellect and educational disconnect between companies and foreign brands and the working society of India. India is a growing economy but people who run businesses in India have a long way to catch up with what’s already happening abroad. Foreign brands are successful as they are very process-driven, while we are still struggling.”

QSRs in India do not buy properties, which boosts up profits. They rent out spaces when they want to expand. The other factor that influences profitability is outsourcing. “At Carl Jr, 27 people manage 3,500 F&B units in the US for a total revenue of USD 4.8 billion. This is where strategy, technology, and automation comes in,” said Luthra. Unlike the Western culture, in India, managers of QSRs are yet to be accustomed to incentives and tips. This culture, in the US specifically, has driven sales and profit to another level.
Needless to say, QSRs will continue to boom in India and cater to people’s gastronomic interests. There is a huge preference for Indian flavours despite the international brands making a headway in terms of expansion. The success of a QSR is completely dependent on its location and the impression it creates, which prompts consumers to revisit the place.

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