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How you will eat in 2022

Chefs and restaurateurs talk about their biggest takeaway from the pandemic, and predict the trends for the new year

People will fulfill the yearning for restaurant-style experiences with gourmet delivery options. (Photo: Pexel)
People will fulfill the yearning for restaurant-style experiences with gourmet delivery options. (Photo: Pexel)

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Cocktail kits came home, outdoor seating became the norm and pizzas turned into a lockdown favourite. The last few months have been challenging for chefs and restaurateurs, but they persevered, launched delivery-only menus and tried to offer some respite from Covid woes, while keeping their bottom-lines in check. Lounge spoke to seven industry experts who shared their learnings from the pandemic, and predictions for 2022.

Less is more
Zorawar Kalra, Founder & Managing Director, Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd.

Learnings from the pandemic: 
The biggest takeaway has been to ensure reasonable occupancy costs (rent). If your occupancy costs are under control, even when there are long periods of low demand, you will still be able to hold on and keep your head above water. Secondly—it’s linked to rent—you have to study the unit economics. Every single item of the profit and loss sheet has to be examined to find out where you can introduce leanness. Several restaurants go down because they are bloated with too many costs that they cannot reasonably support. Look at your business from a mathematical perspective to survive unforeseen circumstances.

Predictions for 2022: 
Restaurateurs will start to look at slightly smaller restaurants and not pick punts on high rents. There will be smaller menus which will let them control the food cost. Indian consumers have now become used to small menus. I also foresee a big uptick in regional cuisines. For instance, I crave for good Goan dishes in Delhi and there’s no decent restaurant serving this food. Guests, especially the older crowd, prefer sitting in an open space, and more restaurants will introduce an open area. They are more fun too; think of it like sitting in a convertible versus a closed car.

Also read | How Zorawar Kalra became the food ambassador

Premium home dining
Karyna Bajaj, Executive Director, KA Hospitality 

Learnings from the pandemic: 
The last few months have witnessed how restaurants translate their brand offerings to tailor unique hospitality experiences, while ensuring superlative comfort and safety. Given the current ecosystem, it is imperative for premium dining restaurants to approach innovation through the lens of adaptability and flexibility.

Predictions for 2022: 
One of the biggest trends I foresee as premium dining adapts to the new normal is a greater focus on specialised delivery services. There will be more cloud kitchens and at-home kitchen experiences focussing on specialised offerings. Menus will become more inclusive with vegan, vegetarian offerings, nut-milk based, dairy free alternatives to cater to a wider customer base. As specialty restaurants look to innovate, there is also the likelihood for premium dining brands to experiment with spirits such as tequila or mezcal and create unique beverage programs.

Refined choices
Keenan Tham and Ryan Tham, Directors, Pebble Street Hospitality  

Learnings from the pandemic: 
Our biggest learning has been adaptability. When the first lockdown was announced in 2020, we had to switch gears and focus on delivery. In the last few months, dine-in became popular again and we pivoted to meet this demand. But, we did not lose focus of the delivery experience and continued to provide our services to people who were on their weekend getaways to Amby Valley, Lonavala and Alibaug. Earlier, eating a premium meal at home was uncommon, but the last few taught us that customers are willing to spend on luxury dining at home. We conceptualised personalised butler service, high-end curated meals and supremely premium menus. When restaurants reopened, we saw a similar pattern for dine in. Due to the cutback on luxury travel, people started spending more on fine wines and high-value dishes.

Predictions for 2022: 
We see guests enjoying a more refined cocktail list, rather than a vast one. Consumer tastes have changed in the past couple of years, and we’re seeing more guests opting for high-end alcohol brands. There is also a rise in tequila-based drinks, and it will become the next big thing for 2022!

Democratised technology for cloud kitchens 
Karan Kapur, Executive Director, K-Hospitality Corp. 

Learnings from the pandemic: 
As a business, be conservative in your approach now, in order to be able to take calculated risks to expand whenever we come out of the pandemic.

Predictions for 2022: 
There will be a significant growth of local Indian brands through the cloud kitchen space. With the democratization of technology and sharing of insights amongst companies, you can expect the emergence of new local, regional and national entrepreneurs looking to aggressively tap the delivery sector in the country.

Micro restaurants
Chef Amninder Sandhu, founder at cloud kitchen chains like Ammu, Barfi & Sons and premium catering venture Bliss Food Experiences

Learnings from the pandemic:
To stay humble and do whatever it takes to keep the business afloat. The complexity of the pandemic has made us break preconceived notions which I believe is definitely my biggest learning.

Predictions for 2022:
Consistency will define cloud kitchens more than ever because there is serious crowding and imitation. There is also a newfound appreciation for dining out now, and a lot of the delivery-only brands will convert to micro restaurants.

Zero waste dishes
Chef Abhishek Basu, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu

Learnings from the pandemic:
People are constantly seeking innovation in their dining experience, whether in restaurants or at home. So, it’s also essential to make our meals a part of our guests’ home dining experience, which is why DIY kits gained popularity over the last couple of months.

Predictions for 2022:
There will be a greater focus on zero waste dishes that use every aspect of an ingredient to ensure there’s no (or minimal) food wastage. As we continue to become more aware of the effects of food waste, we aim to adopt a sustainable lifestyle which will lead to the popularity of this concept. We plan to introduce a number of these dishes on the menu, like watermelon rind stir fry, beetroot skin salmon carpaccio, all-things pumpkin ravioli, fish head scrap stew, and more. The possibilities are aplenty!

Pizza party
Chef Aabhas Mehrotra - Executive Chef at Sorrentina 

Learnings from the pandemic:
In the last two years, the demand for comfort food surged. I believe people will continue to be drawn towards familiar dishes and foods that evoke a sense of nostalgia. We introduced thin crust sourdough pizzas, customised pizzas, vegan pizzas and even folded pizzas to adapt to this change.

Predictions for 2022:
There will be newer pizza concepts, such as blonde pizzas, personalised pizzas (in the shape of your initials), frozen pizzas, and pizza cones. We've noticed that people are opting for plant-based meats and aiming for a balanced approach to diets. I see a lot of innovation in the 'good for you' and vegan pizzas category.

Also read | How Omicron disrupted a rebounding restaurant industry

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