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With love from delhi



Amit Burman is known to have a passion for flying and has a valid pilot’s licence to indulge that love. The last, however, is hardly a prerequisite as the Dabur scion — his other compelling passion is food — gets set to consolidate his position on Mumbai’s foodscape. Mumbai is very much on Burman’s agenda as far as his restaurant company Lite Bite Foods goes. His company runs over 120 casual dining and quick service restaurants, including Punjab Grill and Tappa, both of which are present in Mumbai, with the former being readied for a massive overhaul. With the renewed focus on Mumbai, Burman is now hoping for a much higher visibility and a positioning for his brands.

“We are already established. Now, it is time for us to be more visible at big locations,” says Burman, who is aiming to make a splash at Kala Ghoda early next year. “Today’s customers want healthier alternatives, fresher ingredients, and we have been trying to incorporate that into our food while still staying traditional,” says Burman. The renewed focus has meant not only research into more home-style dishes, but lighter recipes like the Chicken 1965, which, he says, will be a far cry from the sweetish, cream-laden butter chicken sauces most restaurants ladle out.

Butter chicken is never quite cooked the same way in Delhi’s Punjabi homes as in restaurants. Home cooks neither add sugar, nor go overboard with malai and makhan. Then, there’s the accent on fresher ingredients and doing things from scratch. “We grind our own spices, make our condiments and pickles,” he points out. Burman does not believe in ‘fusion food’, or that misused term ‘modern Indian’. So don’t expect any modern Indian restaurants from his company just yet.

“I am not in the valuations game,” he says, when I quiz him about private equity and potential funding for his restaurant business, now at the cusp of a rapid expansion. That is slippery terrain indeed for most restaurant companies, who may be growing their chains rapidly across the country but whose profitability is often questionable. The first three months in 2018 will see his company invest close to Rs 30-35cr in restaurants across India. While the fickle Indian millennial consumer with no loyalty to any brand proves to be the bane of many businesses, for Burman, his F&B dominance at airports (including Mumbai) seems to be key.

“Travel is going up in India. Over 80 new planes will be purchased by domestic airlines next year. Since Mumbai and Delhi are choked, these will be parked at smaller airports. We think that is where the growth for restaurant brands will be. That is a more stable business than in malls or high streets, as we have been able to work out those numbers,” says Burman.

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