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Dining out? What’s the new normal in hotel kitchens and fine dining restaurants? Top trends to watch



Planning to dine out or still undecided about it? The country’s fine dining restaurants and kitchen spaces are poised for unprecedented changes to cater to the new normal. From digital menus to contactless in-room digital butlers and more, India’s premium hotels are set to change the way you dine in 2021.

Indications are that technology will play a pivotal role as a key gamechanger for transforming your dining experience. The Financial Express Online’s Swapna Raghu Sanand spoke to key stakeholders spanning India’s hospitality sector to identify the sweeping changes and what the top trends for the upcoming year are.

One of the top hospitality trends pertains to the use of technology to facilitate seamless hospitality services and online payment experience.

As Nibhrant Shah, CEO & Co-Founder, Isprava & Lohono Stays told The Financial Express Online, “Customers were always kings, but now will be able to reserve a table and precook their order which will lead to no waiting time. With the help of their smartphones one will be given the exact seating arrangement to minimize customer interaction, provided with faster internet for a more seamless online payment experience and access to much more due to digital being the present and future of the marketing industry.”

Contactless dining options including in-room digital butler app

Speaking to The Financial Express Online, Rakesh Sethi, General Manager, Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru said, “Contactless digital dining menus are being offered. Also, a contactless in-room digital butler is being developed. Be it sharing instant responses and information to questions, handling requests, noting down food orders as well as booking requests, and providing the most up to date recommendations, this 360-degree guest communication platform lets guests interact with the hotel through their personal smartphones.”

At Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru, food safety standards and new table service protocols have been reinforced, enabling social distancing practices by reducing allowable capacities, increasing distance between furniture and limiting party sizes per table. In addition, there is an enhanced sanitisation programme with a focus on high-touch and high-traffic areas.

Social distancing between tables inside restaurants

Meanwhile, Senthil Thangavel, General Manager, Poetree Sarovar Portico, Thekkadi told The Financial Express Online, ” Changes in the restaurant layout ensure that each table is at least one meter away from the other. Guests will be allowed inside the dining area after they have used the hand sanitizer placed at the entrance. Dinner plates are placed in a plate warmer set at 60°C. Staff maintain sufficient distance while taking orders and during service. All dining tables, food service areas and bill folders are sanitized before every service. Our servers wear face masks and clean protective clothing and gloves at all times and their hands are sanitized before food pick up and delivery.”

Highlighting the sense of work and pandemic related fatigue that people are challenged with, Gagandeep Singh Sawhney, Executive Chef, Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru had earlier shared with The Financial Express Online several changes that are taking place in the hotel menu and the kitchen.

Innovative food offerings and DIY kits

Interestingly, the pandemic has also created significant opportunities for innovative snacks and easy-to-make DIY kits.

Traditional food items that are unique to specific regions such as the North East are also picking up demand and new traditional food items are being introduced to cater to the growing demand for regional food items.

According to Dipali Bhattacharya, owner of Prakrity Food Products, “We are planning to increase our items in our snacks category and ship those across the country too. We are already working on a new ready-to-eat breakfast mix, which is an Assamese traditional item called ‘Joplan’. Also, three more picks are work-in-progress and these are roselle sweet pickle, elephant apple pickle and pineapple spicy chutney.”

She highlights two unique and organic pickles, raw turmeric coconut pickle and methi pickle, which are notable for health benefits.

While not all food startups and companies are focused on boosting immunity, there is considerable awareness on the importance of eating responsibly.

According to Avinash Bamania, Assistant Professor, Food Production from ITM-Group of Institutions, “Companies like Food Darzee, Vezlay, Licious etc. have started identifying the need of serving food of impeccable quality and have introduced several products in their line-up. For instance, teenagers are trying keto pizza, soy chap kebabs, and healthy meat spreads as alternatives to the regular products. But, with high prices of these products and lesser area of coverage, companies are not able to realize their full potential. Therefore, collaborations with social media personalities and celebrity chefs have proved to be a better option to market these products to reach a wider audience.”

This observation raises an apt question: Given how food start ups and online ordering apps are aggressively coming up with unique initiatives, what is already changing inside hotel kitchens and fine dining restaurants that can pave the way for top trends next year?

Increase in food takeaways

According to Nibhrant Shah, CEO & Co-Founder, Isprava & Lohono Stays, safety has been a big concern. Therefore, takeaways are going to increase significantly as it reduces multiple contact of the food delivery agents.

All Day menus instead of two meal menu

A notable aspect he touches upon is that as more and more restaurants are coming up with unique alternatives to increase revenue, one such popular alternative is to run an all day menu as opposed to the traditional 2 meal menu which would increase the footfall, and subsequently the revenue of the restaurant. Simply put, gear up for three shift restaurants in the coming year!

Naked Kitchens to boost confidence of customers

Ever wondered what’s cooking in the kitchen since you can’t even see it from where you are seated? This is a key concern for guests who are grappling with the new normal. Is there a solution? Indeed!

“Naked kitchens offer confidence and trust. This is because of the visual appeal of the food. The cleanliness of the kitchen can be effortlessly inspected by the people which bolsters the confidence of the hygiene standards maintained,” Shah told The Financial Express Online.

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