By Sharmila Chand
Food and hospitality go hand-in-hand. Now more than ever, tourists and travellers in India are expecting hotels to go above and beyond their expectations and not only provide top quality lodging experiences, but also the best possible food experiences the given destination has to offer.
“When it comes to hotel stay, a great many leisure travellers in India are not any longer looking for just a place to relax. They want a quality hospitality experience during their stay. In view of the growing foodie culture, guests are now very particular about the quality of the food they are served while travelling. There is a growing demand for healthy, organic and locally sourced options while you are on the move,” stated Chef Naveen Handa, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Hotel Chandigarh.
Let us have a look at some of the key food & beverage trends in 2017 and beyond which are or would be prevailing across the Indian food service industry and are expected to shape the contours of the industry in the times to come. Adopting them can enhance guest experience for the hotels.
Healthy Eating and Artisanal Cocktails
“Eating healthy is gaining momentum in India’s food service industry. Consequently, nowadays Chefs and mixologists in the country are trying their level best to extract the most out of nature and deliver it to the people seeking more nutritional values in the form of healthy dishes,” asserted Vishrut Gupta, Director of Food & Beverage, Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity.
“Considering the growing focus on healthier offerings, vegetables will be the centre of attraction in restaurants in India, in 2017. Certain vegetables will get prominence for being particularly rich in nutrients and for being versatile,” opined Handa.
“We can expect to see more veggies and previously discarded leaves or greens, in products and menus of hotel’s restaurants in the near future,” he pointed out further.
Handa predicts that “in the near future, the Indian food and beverage industry will be more specific about the origin and flavour of its offerings with Chefs putting up special menus with ingredients sourced from their own kitchen gardens.” The reason for such an emerging trend, according to him, is a more health conscious customer base.
“The restaurants are moving towards organic, farm grown and locally sourced products to win the confidence of the guests, and cocktails in the industry have moved way forward from traditional cocktails to artisanal cocktails with unique mixology attached to them,” offered Gupta.
“Latest trend fostered by food lovers in India is focus on low on fat and more on flavour food. Organic food is also consumed more frequently in the restaurants than before, despite it being a little more expensive than non organic food,” proffered Rajesh Khanna, F&B Head, The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa.
“Vegetarian food is gaining popularity in few cuisines. More people in India are now actively choosing to eat less meat, and that is creating more opportunities for alternative proteins. People are eating more green vegetables and fruits now than before,” iterated Khanna.
Plant Waters, Breakfast and Virtual Kitchen
Gupta went on to talk about some dominant prevailing trends, which according to him are going to be the top three food & beverage trends in the Indian food service business during 2017.
“Plant waters is a growing trend and fashion that people are adapting internationally. Plant’s waters like maple water, artichoke water, and edible flower water, which can be a source of natural sugar, salts and minerals, are essential for the body. They are now in demand in the Indian food service industry,” informed the expert.
“Energy drinks with preservatives are losing popularity. The new trend of flavoured water is the primary focus in gyms and spas, which help body to recuperate faster in a healthy way. I must say that restaurants in India will adapt these trends soon and we will see maple water and artichoke water being used extensively instead of regular bottled water,” opined Gupta.
According to Gupta, breakfast in the Indian food service industry is witnessing a significant change. Regular fried eggs and omelets are being replaced by fried chicken, bacon and chicken burgers filled with mayo and Béchamel kitchen sauces. “This trend is mostly picking up in smaller joints that provide round the clock breakfast menu to consumers,” he affirmed while pointing out “Focus is also towards naturally sourced grains, honey, and milk from the farm. The source and its authenticity are also being discussed with the customers so as to inform them about the product that they are eating.”
Gupta opines that lots of restaurant owners in India are now focusing on reaching to maximum number of locations by means of virtual kitchen; it is a new take on the delivery of food to the consumers at their place. He views that the virtual kitchens are gaining popularity due to their easy access, due to the comfort they provide, and due to their affordability.
Food Arts, Seafood Tower and Sous Vide
“Teppanyaki food arts are gaining currency in the Indian food service industry. In fact, various food arts are now getting presented in front of guests, where exotic ingredients and recipes are at play,” said Narendra Prabhu, the General Manager at Signature Club Resort, Bangalore.
“Seafood tower is another top food & beverage trend, pervading through the Indian restaurant business. The seafood tower has evolved farther with unique fusion of seafood and shellfish; the shellfish is grilled and artistically arranged on glass fountain with selection of dips and sauces,” pointed out Prabhu.
“The sous vide recipes are also gaining currency, which is a healthy alternative to cook your red meat and high carb ingredients. It involves cooking your ingredients in a temperature-controlled water bath for a prolonged period of time. This method of preparing food is loved for its convenience & precision and also here all the nutrients are completely retained,” explained Prabhu.
Trends in, Trends Out
“The popularity of Japanese cuisine in the Indian food service is going beyond sushi, pizza using naan bread is the in thing, and alternatives for olive oil, like grape seed oil & flaxseed oil are gaining popularity in the Indian food service industry,” observed Prabhu. He also maintained that “generic buffets & food festivals, unhealthy and deep fried finger food are fading trends from the Indian restaurant business.”
“Customising the food and beverage experience will assume more innovative forms in 2017. Specially crafted menus reflecting new trends and seasons will be another way of staying ahead,” Handa pointed out.
“The ‘back to the roots’ trend is in vogue these days in the Indian restaurant business, especially when it comes to regional cuisine. So, the focus in 2017 will shift to lesser known traditional recipes. Known for their nutrition quotient, age-old cooking methods from our heritage kitchens are making a comeback,” informed Handa.
“Secondly, home-made concept dishes like cured meats and locally brewed alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will also be much in demand for their more personalised and richer gastronomic experience,” he articulated.
“Locally sourced products and unique gastronomic experiences continue to be the rage. Moreover, the theme of fusion food has gained much wider acceptance, allowing Chefs to have fun and be more adventurous with regional Indian cuisines. This trend gives Chefs the opportunity to bring all their knowledge and experience into play as local food is infused and plated in a modern contemporary style in fusion cuisines,” explained Handa.
According to Handa, the social media will play an increasingly important role in shaping the food and beverage trends, in the Indian food service industry.
“The emergence of the food-centric media has ignited interest in cooking, eating and exploring new flavours and combinations not only for the purpose of nourishment and taste, but also for the purpose of sharing one’s unique preparations and recipes through the social media,” he averred.
“One trend which is soon expected to become outdated is that of processed food,” stated Handa while adding, “As compared to processed food, freshly-cooked or home-made food is expected to be more in demand. Many of the processed food contain too much sodium, sugar and fat, which clearly interferes with health. The trend of eating healthy food that promotes wellness is growing not only in India but the world over.”
“Another trend that is on its way out from the Indian restaurant business is the extensive use of imported produce. Considered more nutritious as it retains most of its nutrients after being harvested at the peak of the season, local produce is expected to become trendier this year. On the other hand, imported food items are not procured seasonally, causing them to lose much of their nutritional value,” elaborated Handa.
“Eye appealing and carefully crafted dishes are the trend, with presentation of the food being the focus,” Gupta added.
“The experience of the individual guest is now more important than ever in the Indian restaurant business, and there is now greater focus on the presentation of food. More unique, more creative the food is, the better it has chance of appealing to the guests. Nowadays food should appeal both to the eyes as well as to the appetite. Food decorated naturally will have better market impact in the Indian restaurant business of the near future, as compared to food infused with added colours and flavours,” elaborated Khanna.
According to Gupta, “Fine dining expensive restaurants in India are losing popularity, paving way for value for money experiential restaurants.”
He feels that molecular cocktails were once a big trend but are now fading in popularity from the Indian restaurant business.
Khanna views that “light food, fresh food and food cooked in minimum oil will be the ‘in’ trends in the Indian restaurant business, and artificially flavoured food, artificial colours will be losing market appeal.”
Khanna also feels that wastage will decrease substantially from the Indian restaurant business, and focus on fewer ingredients, on prominent taste of single ingredient, and smaller portion sizes will be in.