Bangalore: While Bangalore is still some way from being dubbed the restaurant capital of the country, it is trying very hard indeed to get there. The price-conscious Bangalorean may not spend too much on each visit, but is valiantly trying to make up by the sheer number of meals consumed outside the house.
And this is reflected by the growth in the number of restaurants. Across categories and pricing levels, the city has seen a phenomenal number of restaurants open doors in the past few years - 1400 new eateries across categories in the past six years by some estimates. From quickservice restaurants (QSR), a category that has arguably seen the maximum jump in numbers, to casual and semi-formal dining, finding an eatery that hits the right spot in terms of taste, ambience and budget has never been easier. So whether you want to tuck into a burger from Five Star Chicken - a Thai QSR chain that is expanding rapidly in the city thanks to an aggressive franchise model and a seemingly insatiable appetite among consumers for deep-fried chicken, or hop across to Church Street Social, where despite the chic industrial decor and funky crockery, you can eat and drink without keeping an anxious eye on the tab - the options are practically endless.
In 2008, the country's IT capital saw an individual eat out once in eight days on average. Today, that's changed to eating out once in three days. Three months ago, brand consultant Harish Bijoor ran a proprietary research for a client on the eating-out habits of Bangaloreans. Some very interesting conclusions can be drawn from the data he shared with STOI. "If you take various sub-sets of the overall population, these eating out numbers deepen and throw more light on why a place like Indiranagar has emerged as the country's F&B hub," says Bijoor.
As per Bijoor's chart, a 'junior techie' with an annual income of Rs 3.6 lakh eats out 23 times a month, or almost six days a week. A 'senior techie' with a salary of above Rs 10 lakh a year eats out 21 times a month, or about five days a week. Senior executives in a salary band of Rs 25 lakh to Rs 72 lakh a year and tagged as 'corporate suits' eat out 18 times a month or four days a week.
The really interesting find came from a certain sub-set of the working population termed by Bijoor's firm as the 'retail stud' - individuals who work in modern retail and draw a salary between Rs 7 lakh and Rs 22 lakh per annum. "People in this sub-set eat out 39 times a month or approximately 10 times in a week," says Bijoor.
These numbers seem to be perfectly corroborated by a stupendous growth in the number of restaurants, data for which was shared exclusively with STOI by Boutique Hospitality Consultants, a consultancy firm based in the city that engages in planning, management and research. Founder Taposh Chakraborty says that 1,400 restaurants across price categories and formats have come up in Bangalore in the past six years.
Of that number, nearly 86% new eateries belonged to three categories: casual dining (where average spend-per-person is Rs 500 to Rs 750), casual-fast dining (with an average spend of Rs 350 to Rs 500 per person), and fast food chains or quick service restaurants that see average spends of Rs 250 to Rs 350 per person.
In the same period, only 60 fine-dine standalone restaurants, where average food spends range between Rs 750 and Rs 1,500, opened doors.
Riyaaz Amlani, the Mumbai-based founder of Impresario Foods that runs Mocha, Smoke House Deli and Church Street Social in Bangalore, agrees that the restaurants that do well in the value-conscious Bangalore market are mostly in the casual dining category, though the pricing within the category can vary deeply. "Compared to diners in Delhi and Mumbai, it's clear that Bangaloreans eat out more often. But their average spend per meal is lower. And they are extremely value-conscious," says Amlani, adding that prices at the two Smoke House Deli outlets in Bangalore are 15%-20% lower than those at the restaurant's Mumbai outlets.
Amlani has a theory, that the 11.30 pm deadline has meant most people in Bangalore head straight from the workplace to a pub or restaurant, and are home by midnight. In other cities, mid-week partying stretches till later - which means most people don't do it more than once a week.
Chakraborty says one of the main growth drivers of the food and beverage industry in the city is the fact that about 18,000 to 20,000 new employment is added every quarter. "Spending power in the city has increased tremendously. Today even on weekdays - Monday and Tuesday - it is difficult to get a place at some of the well-known restaurants in the city," says chef Sarabjeet Singh, a restaurant consultant in the city who is in the process of starting an experiential cooking studio called Slurp.
But beneath this stupendous growth in numbers is a grimmer story that not many are aware of. "If 10 restaurants open, four shut down within a year of starting off," says Singh. "In under 18 months, I have seen some restaurants change hands two or three times," he adds.
Singh believes that much of the restaurant growth in Bangalore, especially in the past three years, is the result of IT professionals turning restaurateurs overnight without a complete understanding of the business - one of the reasons why 40% of restaurants that open fail to make it past their first anniversary.
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