Technology and convenience will drive the F&B segment in the times ahead. Given that stand-alone restaurants have demonstrated a stronger appetite for innovation, they are most likely to carry forward the segment.

137F&B industry is a dynamic entity that has constantly evolved, shaped by the changing demands of consumers. Taking a stock of the future of F&B in the coming months and years, Zorawar Kalra, Founder and Managing Director, Massive Restaurants said that fine-casual was going to be the next big trend in the segment. “Given that today’s consumer is driven by a vast array of information through technological input, fine-casual will be the mega-trend. I will go as far as calling it a phenomenon,” he said. Noting that healthy eating habit that was percolating in the masses was fuelling healthy and casual dining, he said “people have increasingly begun consuming more organic food. Another fascinating development is the focus on regional cuisines which is picking up at a pulsating rate.”

Rahul Khanna, Owner and Co-Founder, Azure Hospitality explained why there was sudden push towards casual and fine-dining. He attributed the trend to changes that had come about in the past 2-3 years. “The biggest reason for this trend is the abundance of choice that consumers have in their midst. Abundance of choices makes you decide. With the power of choices at hand, people have the instinctive luxury to out-rightly reject you,” he said. 

Sharing that for service providers to be able to succeed in a very competitive market space, suppliers must be able to have clarity about their goals in the long-term. “The issue will come down to who has the ability to connect to the audience,” he substantiated. 

Rohit Dasgupta, Senior Vice President, EasyDiner elaborated how he was able to make a dent in the market. “We started in 2012. We started as a website which powered table reservations,” he revealed. Giving an insight into his company’s growth, he shared with the gathering that they survived because they had a functional phone-line that drove as much as eighty percent of their entire bookings. “If you look at the trend now, there is a complete reversal in the last four years. Today, almost 80 to 90 percent of our bookings are driven from the online space. It is mostly because people want to discover new products and services; it is also to do with the fact there is an instant gratification,” he shared.

Rohit Dasgupta, Senior Vice President, EazyDiner noted that there had been a drastic shift in the way business was being approached by service providers. “Consumers are shifting from offline to online. Earlier, there was inhibition to go to a five star restaurant. Portal like ours is making people try new things in spending the same amount of money.” he explained.

Rahul Khanna, speaking on the issue, said that he did not look at it as a high-street mall vs. a hotel thing. “Hotels are beginning to realize that they are good at providing good accommodation. As the trend continues, high-street food will come to hotels,” he added.

Zorawar Kalra concurred with Rahul Khanna stating that the reason why hotels were more into rooms was to do with plain economics. “Hotels will focus more on rooms and it is a given when over 80 percent of your entire revenue is generated through rooms,” he explained. He further argued that there was more innovation now in stand-alone segment. “It is unfolding in India, as we speak. This change will have a profound impact on the industry and works well for consumers because it makes eating-out more affordable,” he said. 

Looking ahead Rohit opined that hotels needed to figure out a way to reach out to people. As far as stand-alone hotels went, their entire focus was on marketing. “The reason why hotel restaurants may find tough to compete with stand-alone restaurants is that they do not have such a profound focus on marketing their product,” he reasoned. 

Adding another dimension to the argument, Vivek Kapoor, Co-Founder, Dine-out added that being bereft a larger budget, stand-alone restaurants were more open to innovation and working on joint platforms. “It helps them in marketing their products better,” he added. 

Rahul Khanna noted that it was up to the operator to cherry pick amongst a number of platforms to choose from. “Ideally, a restaurant must work with someone who understands the market and has a long-term vision about heading forward,” Rahul said. 

Zorawar concluded by arguing that food-tech was a fabulous space and bound to grow. “The reason for its success will be convenience. Convenience will rule the market. No matter what happens, a consumer will always give priority to convenience, and that is why I believe food-tech is the next big thing in the F&B space,” he noted.