It was in 1972 that the first ever Copper Chimney was inaugurated in Mumbai by the late actor Dilip Kumar. It had a series of firsts going for it—an open kitchen, at a time when the concept was unheard of, and a female ustad, Chef Tari, at the helm of affairs, among other things. It served dishes created by its founder, JK Kapur, which were reminiscent of recipes from his hometown in Lahore, Pakistan. He migrated to Mumbai during the Partition in 1947, but carried memories of those flavours with him. In the past 50 years, the legacy brand has expanded its scope—innovating with delivery services, and opening 28 outposts in India and abroad, while keeping its classics intact.
And now it is opening its first outlet in Delhi NCR at the CyberHub, with dishes from its original 1972 menu on offer, such as the ab-e-hayat, a vegetable and coconut water soup, grilled burrah chops marinated for over eight hours, chelo kabab served on basmati rice and dal maharaja. This new launch marks the company’s expansion plans to add 50 more outlets across the globe.
In the past decade, the Indian consumer’s perception of Indian food has undergone a drastic change. There is now greater awareness of regional and hyperlocal cuisines. In such a scenario, how has the brand continued to stay relevant? According to Karan Kapur, executive director, K Hospitality Corp, the F&B company behind Copper Chimney, the last few years have indeed marked certain shifts. However, north Indian food still reigns high as one of the biggest categories and continues to grow well. “What customers want now is efficient delivery, a contemporary dining space and innovation,” he says.
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Kapur recalls a phase, some five years ago, when diners were gravitating towards fusion cuisine. “That trend is now dying out. Copper Chimney’s year-on-year growth numbers continue to be strong and that is because of consistency of experience. We are expected to grow this year at 60 per cent higher than pre-covid levels. We have also brought in elements of innovation in the form of small plates that allows for more sharing options for a family,” he adds.
Copper Chimney is just one of the brands at K Hospitality, which also owns brands such as Bombay Brasserie, Joshh and the Bombay B. Across its 500-plus outlets—spanning formats such as QSRs, bars, cafes, food courts and catering—Kapur has observed the impact of the pandemic on consumer choices. First and foremost, convenience in dining—be it dine-in or delivery—has emerged as a driving factor.
“Customers have become very conscious about quality and hygiene. Earlier people talked a lot about experimentation. But the pandemic saw people go back to brands they knew and trusted. Even though markets have opened up now, people are still opting for brands they are familiar with,” he adds. Also, Kapur explains that given that F&B is a people-led business, companies that have managed to look after their teams during the pandemic have also managed to serve their customers better.
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The company has expanded its cloud kitchen business as well, and will be launching one in Gurugram soon. However, even though delivery has seen rapid growth during the pandemic, dine-in too has made a comeback in a strong way. “The way forward now is to build locations with a strong delivery mindset. How do you create a delivery experience which comes as close as possible to the dine-in experience—that’s the focus across the industry,” he says. “For us, responsibilities have been realigned between teams in the kitchen. We now have separate sections that are just managing delivery orders. Back in the day, 30 minutes used to be the standard delivery time. But now the way things are going, 20 will be the new 30.”