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As the economy struggles, the casual dining and home delivery services are prospering — all thanks to millennials



The same demographic that has powered Brand Modi’s ginormous success story has also given a new lease of life to the food service business in the country, which is experiencing growth like it has never seen before. The economy may not be in the pink of health, but restaurants, pubs, cloud kitchens, takeaways and home deliver services have never been busier before — thanks to the millennials. India is home to the world’s largest millennial population, of which a significant percentage, mainly urban (especially recent migrants), are tech savvy, career-focused, well-travelled, with higher spending capacities and are open to experimentation.

For people who have invested in the restaurant business, must be loving this overview of the millennials in the India Food Services Report 2019, a comprehensive publication authored by the restaurateur and industry analyst Samir Kuckreja for the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI). It is this market segment that has been singularly responsible for steering the expansion of the “non-homecooked food market” in the country. They have lifted the average frequency of eating out/ordering in to 6.6 times a month (from barely twice a week three years ago) and they spend 2,500 per person a month for this indulgence — the highest per capita consumption spend reported thus far.


Although these figures are still behind the averages in China and South-East Asia, the report points to three irreversible developments:

■ With the expansion of the universe of single adults living and working in cities and towns, and also of double-income, time-crunched young couples, the practice “eating ‘non-homecooked food’ on weekdays” has become common. So, dining out- /ordering in, has moved from being a weekend indulgence for families to a weekday necessity in the changing urban landscape.

■ Millennials drive revenues in ACDR (Affordable Casual Dining Restaurants) throughout the week. They are also the largest contributors to the PBCL (Pub, Bar Café and Lounge) segment. Their most visible sign is the burgeoning of neighbourhood bars — notably, Riyaaz Amlani’s Social and Priyank Sukhija’s Lord of the Drinks franchises, and locally, Vaibhav Singh’s Perch at Khan Market and Manish Jain and Sahil Sambhi’s Molecule at Sector-29, Gurgaon, among a hundred others.

■ Riding on these millennial taste buds, which are markedly more cosmopolitan than those of Generations X and Y, North Indian food has become No. 1 across the country, followed by Chinese (or Chinjabi, if you prefer — my take on this is that it is Pan Asian that is at No. 2) and South Indian (mainly the idlidosa-vada triumvirate). As young people are moving out of their familiar geographies in search of jobs and higher education, they are taking their taste buds along and influencing the local markets to acquire a more national character. Three other developments, related to the rise (and rise) of the millennial market, stand out:


■ This is a social media-led, visually driven generation so food has to be Instagrammable; it has got to look pretty — people call it ‘rainbow food’.

■ The millennials derive their food knowledge almost entirely through YouTube, so restaurants have to get a grip on this medium to be able to capture the mindspace of their most important market. Restaurants, in my view, must invest in dedicated YouTube channels, updated at least once a week, to attract millennial viewership. YouTube, the India Food Services Report 2019 points out, is where restaurants should be announcing menu launches and deals and discounts.


■ With more and more millennials conducting work in restaurants, bars and cafes, these establishments must inveigle them with ‘Free WiFi’ offers. Each time customers opt for this freebie, they open themselves to what the report describes as ‘micro-locational targeting’. Imagine the data a restaurant can dredge out of each patron it baits with ‘Free WiFi’ and the micro advertising opportunities an acceptance of the offer opens up.

For my restaurateur friends, I have one message. Welcome to the Brave New World of the Millennials and seize the opportunities it is opening up.

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