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Cafe bars are the new social hotspots in which the urban Indian socialise. With so many outlets mushrooming in the city, do we see any tweak in their offering or are they losing their individuality? Is doing different things to doing similar things differently the key to survive? Vaishali Dar finds out.

Once a popular shopping hub for Delhiites, shuffling through its numerous boutiques and stores, Connaught Place has now become the new social hotspot with a host of chic eateries, bars and bistros, changing the whole dynamics of the place. Above all, café bars have brought a radical change in the wining and dining culture of the city. The new-age café bars offer elaborate menus, chic interiors, foot-tapping music and extraordinary décor. Witness a bartender churn out mean signatures at the island bar, chef dishing out global cuisines, sometimes with a desi twist. The décor and ambience is a notch above the ordinary. From a highbrow bar adorning a classy warm ambience well-furnished in wood to an unpretentious interior with an exposed brick wall or a rooftop alfresco dining, there is certainly a rise in the multiple-format-style café bars in almost every nook and cranny of Delhi.

Such places are popular among the young working population. “I frequent these cafés to unwind with friends and tune in to my kind of music–Electronica. Whether it’s Hauz Khas Village, CP or Khan Market, I love the way these bars are dolled up. The interiors are engrossing, some have all the possible junk intelligently combined while others have walls modeled in glossy fabric,” says Arshi Rajan, a software engineer.

But what’s trending? The burgeoning night out culture in the city has seen a steady rise in numerous café bars, thereby, giving a modified look to an extent, offering similarity of sorts. Kanika Chatterjee, a regular bar-hopper, feels, “The eat-out culture has gone so vapid that now it’s on your tips as to which places to hit and the ones to give a miss. It’s like the entire city has been divided into clusters of good, bad and ugly food. The familiar Indian food with a little bit of oriental and a dash of molecular tricks here and there doing the rounds just to up the glamour quotient. No authentic flavours coming out in the food. The whole idea is to sell their take on fusion to the less discerning.”

So does this influx reflect a level of mediocrity where nothing exceptionally big or new is on offer and that’s what the young and the happening demand always? Riyaaz Amlani, President of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) feels there are many quality products in Delhi that are not doing well. “No doubt, there is a sheer variety of offerings for customers. Out of 500 cafes in the city, only 20 do well and cater to customer satisfaction. Many places are overhyped and the product offered many a times is very mediocre.” Despite that, Bharat Malkani, President of Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) believes, “We are no one to judge the mediocrity level of such outlets. In an ever-evolving society, it is not easy to determine the future. It is a simple case of demand and supply. And an owner’s rightful decision to deliver the best. Today’s business scenario is unpredictable where one is bound to have a situation of shutting shops.”

While the market is brimming with brands, the owners consider staying in the game for a long run and understand the pulse of the market to deliver the right kind of product. “Long term consistency with innovation is the key. So build a place that is genuinely concerned about the guests needs,” says Inderjeet Banga, owner of an upcoming outlet Pranksters in Gurgaon.

Is it a challenge to sustain a concept in the long run? Eateries with unique concept can’t always match up to the expectations. “It’s easier to get footfall in a place where there are ample options, but the competition is strong. The city is flooded with brands and retaining its unique character is difficult. Being special is the key to stay alive in this asphalt jungle,” accepts Nuria Rodrigues, Director, Imperfecto and Informal.

So what’s the catch — exclusive FnB packaged with a unique concept? Priyank Sukhija of Cafe Concept Private Limited feels constant change is the reason that customers stay hooked to an outlet. “From sufi and unplugged nights to a plethora of food and entertainment options, we offer concept-style dining in the most affordable prices. We introduced 365 dishes menu at Warehouse Café, Bollywood theme in Lights Camera Action and magnum drinking bar at Lord Of The Drinks. Each brand has its own identity and offers something new,” says Sukhija. While Delhi’s food and nightlife scene is the most amazing one, Manish Sharma, owner of Molecule Air Bar, feels the customer has evolved. “It is a very challenging state — it’s a price war to product war. We constantly introduce new dishes in molecular gastronomy to have high involvement and curiosity level,” feels Sharma whose outlet is inspired from the British American War concept.

So are these brands being innovative in capturing the consumer market with the owners’ multi-outlet offering plan? According to Umang Tiwari, Director, Big Fish Ventures who runs The Junkyard Café, “Delhiites are spoilt for good, visiting a new place every day. As a restaurateur, we cannot depend on one outlet, rather believe in offering customers different concepts and create places to target different age groups for maximum footfall.” Tiwari’s popular projects like The Vault Café is inspired from colonial world, The Junkyard Café best suited for live events and restro lounge Cafe OMG with quirky food and drinks. Akshay Anand, owner of Hotmess Kitchen & Bar, feels, “Too many brands coming up have not really affected the business. Your concept should be unique irrespective of 100 cafés.” Hotmess Kitchen & Bar is based on the concept of aphrodisiacs serving food that produces exotic flavours. These ingredients boost energy, sharpen memory, fight flab and are natural aphrodisiacs.

While these city hotspots continue to draw customers in huge number, only time will tell whether they last long to cater to a top class experience.

Source: The Pioneer
(Photo: clarionhotelpragueoldtown)

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