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Will your pav bhaji cost you more now?



The onion crisis has people across the country in tears, literally. While many in Mumbai have been using onions sparingly at home, eating out, too, could become an expensive affair as standalone restaurants and eateries are talking of increasing prices on the menu.
‘Earlier, you would cry while cutting onions, now tears come to the eyes thinking of them’

Santosh Shetty, President of Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association, shares, “We have already advised our members to stop giving free onions. In the coming days, we will have to do something about the prices of the dishes or we may have to cut out certain items from the menu. In South Indian dishes, onions are not used that much, but for dishes like pav bhaji, the taste is sure to change without them. With the surging prices of onions, our purchasing cost has gone up at least five to six times. We are bleeding, actually. Earlier, you would cry while cutting onions, now tears come to the eyes while just thinking of them.”

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, President, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), adds, “Onions are a basic ingredient in a lot of dishes, especially in Indian food. Most of the gravies are made with onion as the base. Therefore, reducing the amount of onion in a gravy would be tantamount to changing the recipe and taste of the dish. Hence, that cannot be done. So, the only other thing left is to raise the prices, which will impact the common man. Out of most of the restaurants in our region, less than five per cent would be high-end fine dining spaces. The rest cater to the middle class.”
While some people suggest using white onions or spring onions as a substitute for red onions, according to him, it is not an option as it alters the taste of the dish. White onions are comparatively sweeter than the red ones. Hence, he feels most restaurant owners won’t change the taste of their dish and this will end in a hike in menu rates. Kohli adds, “Some people have already started increasing their prices, eventually it will lead to higher menu prices. Fine dining restaurants will be able to absorb it for a while, but not for long. Smaller eateries have already hiked rates and some are in the process of increasing prices. If the pricing of onions does not stabilise, menu prices will increase by at least 15 to 30 per cent.”
Increasing onion prices are eating into the profits of small eateries
Doing away with the practice of giving extra onions as a side is one way of coping with escalating cost for small eateries. The increasing onion prices are also eating into the profits of these joints which cater mainly to the middle class. And while some are hoping for a breakthrough, others are bracing to absorb losses at least in the interim. However, that’s only a stop gap measure, explains Meldan D’Cunha, owner of a suburban standalone eatery. He shares, “At the moment, I am absorbing all the losses as I cannot cut down on the amount of onions used in the preparation as it will alter the taste of the dish drastically. Some eateries are currently buying onions in bulk from places like Dadar market where prices are at least `20 cheaper than other places.”
Adopting a wait and watch approach

Even caterers in the city are bracing for an onion crisis. Floyd Red, a caterer in the suburbs shares, “Currently, I have been absorbing the losses as I cannot reduce the amount of onions used in a dish as it will drastically alter the taste. However, if the rates keep on increasing I will have no option, but to increase rates for each dish by at least Rs 100 to cover the extra costs spent on purchasing onions.”
Meanwhile, there are some who believe in a wait and watch approach. Riyaaz Amlani, a member of National Restaurant Association of India (NRA) says, “We’ll absorb the cost for now; it’s a temporary thing and hopefully, things will get better soon. It is always unfortunate when prices go up, but we are hoping the situation will settle quickly.”

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