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Restaurants don’t want to ration dishes they serve

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The heads of restaurant chains in India said resizing portions of fixed food products on their menu in light of the government’s suggestions to reduce waste is “unrealistic” because most templates and moulds of the dishes they prepare conform to international guidelines.

“Changing portions will mean changing core international recipes and how can we do that?

That’s how you remain competitive and changing that will also impact all processes,” said Rohan Jetley, chief executive chef at American food chain TGI Fridays. “The food we sell here is similar to what we sell in the US.” For at least one Indian restaurant company, controlling portion sizes is not an option.

“We cannot regulate food for all our brands. The core proposition of our restaurant chain Rajdhani, for example, is unlimited food in a thali,” said Aji Nair, COO of Mirah Hospitality & Gourmet Solutions.

Nair said that for Mirah’s other brands such as Falafel’s and Cafe Mangii, the company plans to introduce separate diet menus. While restaurateurs, mostly US based chains, support the idea of reducing waste, they are looking at options such as adding sections for diet-conscious consumers in their à la carte menus so that they are not caught unawares should any guidelines be implemented by the government.

“We have been sensitising our staff to advice consumers on portion control and will continue to as we are open to all suggestions to reduce wastage,” said Jetley.

The food and consumer affairs ministry wants hotels and restaurants to specify the quantity of food per plate on their menus to enable consumers to decide how much they want to order. Earlier this week, consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan called for a stakeholder discussion on food wastage at restaurants and hotels.

US-based Burger King follows international standards in making burgers across all its markets, its India chief executive Raj Varman said.

“Resizing further isn’t really practical, though aspects such as consumer nutrition are big focus areas for us and we will continue to work towards that,” he said.

Varman, who has led Burger King in India since it started in end-2014, said sizes in India are tailored for local consumers, unlike in the US, where the burgers are mega-sized.

Almost all international chains said regardless of whether portion restrictions are implemented, they are moving towards healthier and regulated eating.

KFC said it gives consumers the flexibility to choose portion sizes. “While we proactively improve the nutrition profile of our food content that can be part of a sensibly balanced diet, we are continuously exploring ways to improve the nutritional profile of products,” the chain’s India MD Rahul Shinde said.

CybizBrightStar Restaurants, the operator of Carl’s Jr., Cafe Out of the Box and Molecule Air Bar, said the government’s proposal “might not be the ideal way to combat wastage.”

“Regulating portion size will result in loss for the industry since serving and portions are finalised after months of research and mocks. Altering the portion sizes will require a lot of changes at every level of operations,” Cybiz-BrightStar director Samira Chopra said.

Chopra said the best way to regulate consumption would be by educating guests to order food judiciously. An official at burger and fries chain McDonald’s said re-calibrating food was not an option because the because the company “follows its global templates.” The official requested not to be identified.

“At the ground level, this a very difficult task to implement,” said Arjun Toor, director of Mediterranean cuisine restaurant Baris, which opened recently in New Delhi. “If you have a smart team, wastage can be minimised to a negligible amount.”

Source: The Economic Times

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