How India eats out

Despite the wide variety of cuisines available in at least the top cities, diners are still conservative about their food choices, preferring north Indian food


Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Indians no longer need a reason or a special occasion to eat out. Indians—across metro and non-metro cities—eat out simply because they want to experiment, love food, or that’s how they want to spend their free time.

They prefer north Indian food to any other cuisine. Chinese is their second most preferred cuisine.

Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are the most preferred destination, followed by casual dining restaurants when it comes to eating out, according to the India Food Services report 2016, brought out by the National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) and consulting firm Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd.

The report was released to NRAI members on Wednesday. The most preferred time for Indians to eat out is between 7.30pm and 10pm, the study found.

So, why do Indians eat out?

For a typical Indian, eating out is a casual occasion.

Indians eat out without family members about 75% of the time, and these occasions come mostly when they are out shopping (about 15% of the time).

Casual eating out also happens when people want to catch up with their friends (about 14%).

“A restaurant today is not just a place for eating. It is a place to socialize, to unwind and more. Eating out is no more the rich man’s indulgence. There are options, and people, irrespective of economic class, go out to eat,” said Riyazz Amlani, president, NRAI, and chief executive of Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, which runs the popular Smoke House Deli restaurants and the Social chain of bars and cafes.

What do Indians eat?

Despite the wide variety of international cuisines available in at least the top Indian cities, diners are still conservative about their food choices, preferring north Indian food.

A typical Indian chooses north India food about 28% of the time, followed by Chinese (19%) and south Indian (9%), according to the report.

But Indians are also warming up to Western cuisine. American food accounts for 7% of total eating out occasions and pizza 6.2%, the report added.

“Indians are not very experimental when it comes to food. And, it’s to do with palate. Plus, options of non-Indian food is very limited, or non-existent in non-metro cities. In metro cities, people do opt for western cuisines, and the share is increasing,” said Rahul Singh, founder and CEO of Beer Cafe.

The report sorts the Indian eating-out population into four categories.

About 36% of them are family bonding seekers; around 25% fun seekers (the ones who like to experiment); about 15% eat out to socialize and the remaining 24% are the discerning urban class—people with higher incomes who are willing to shell out a premium for quality and comfort, according to the report.

For each of these categories, preferences are different when it comes to food, or eating out destinations.

A family bonding seeker on an average eats out 2-3 times a month, or orders in, spends about Rs.5,500 a month for outside food, and prefers to eat north Indian cuisine the most, followed by Chinese.

The fun seekers eat out or order in about 5-6 times a month, spend about Rs.4,500 a month and prefer American food and pizza.

The socializers spend about Rs.6,500 a month, eat out or order in about four times a month, prefer QSR (41% and casual dining restaurants (36%), and like Italian cuisine, followed by Indian.

The discerning urban consumer spends the most—about Rs.8,700—to eat out or order in 3-4 times a month, and prefers casual dining restaurants (37%) most for eating out, likes to eat Italian cuisine, followed by Pan Asian.

The food services market in India is projected to grow to Rs.4.98 trillion by 2021, expanding at an annual average rate of 10%, from Rs.3.09 trillion in 2016, according to the NRAI-Technopak report.

The Indian restaurant industry will contribute Rs.22,400 crore by way of taxes and create 5.8 million direct jobs in 2016, the report said.

The share of the organized food services market is just 33%, the report said. “This is largely due to over regulation of our industry, the complex maze of approvals and licences required and high tax brackets. It is about time our industry’s socio-economic impact is recognized by the government, and it initiates immediate steps to unlock the true potential of this behemoth,” said Riyazz Amlani, president, NRAI.

The report also noted the need for simplification of tax structure and a simplified licensing regime for the food services industry.

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