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Chennai dines in style

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Mugalivakkam resident K Vijayakumar had fewer options for a dine out on Mount-Poonamallee Road a decade ago. Ten years later, the road is dotted with a slew of choices to explore.
“In 2007, we had only a couple of eateries at Manapakkam and Mugalivakkam. Now, we have many leading vegetarian food chains and branded restaurants in the vicinity,” Vijayakumar said.

Unlike the realty market, the demand for space to house eateries is spiralling. About 60% of the retail space absorbed in the city and its suburbs last year was for establishing fastfood joints, restaurants, restobars and cafes.

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Sanjay Chugh, founder of Skylines Property Consultants, said the absorption of space for eateries is growing at 20% a year. “Retail space absorption was 0.5 million square feet in 2017. Of this, eateries comprising quick service restaurants, fine-dining establishments, cafes, restobars and pubs are estimated to have absorbed about 0.3 million square feet on city high streets and suburbs,” he said. The high streets include Anna Salai, the stretch of Mount-Poonammallee Road between St Thomas Mount and Porur and OMR.

Ground floors are the most preferred due to visibility and convenience. “Of late, many ground-floor spaces which would house offices are being lapped up by eateries and restaurants especially in the central business district (CBD),” Sanjay Chugh added. CBD consists of Anna Salai, Radhakrishnan Salai, Nungambakkam, Greams Road, Egmore and T Nagar.

Industry sources said Khader Nawaz Khan Road at Nungambakkam fetches the highest rent for eateries estimated at a maximum of ?250 per sqft. It is followed by Anna Nagar and T Nagar.

South India Hotels and Restaurants Association secretary T Nataraajan said Chennai has a range of eateries catering to people from all walks of life, which other cities cannot match.

However, though the demand for space for eateries soars, only the best have survived the competition. Real estate agent Mohan Kartha said, “While there are new entrants, many restaurants exit the business.” “Those who had entered the sector with nil experience believing it to be the profitable venture have burned their fingers,” said R Rajkumar, secretary of Chennai Hotels Association. According to him, 300 to 400 restaurants were shut in and around Chennai in 2017. “About 1,000 eateries have come up in the city and peripheries between 2015 and 2017 but as the sector is plagued by various issues shortage of manpower in particular, some could not survive,” he said.

However, noted chef K Damu said many new entrants have become successful restaurateurs. “Many who knew nothing about the sector, have come out successful as they depend on the chefs for quality and managers for service. Some could not sustain as they concentrated on the quality and missed out on the service,” he said.

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