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Affordable Technology Taking Indian Restaurants Online – NRAI President

Birender Singh

Birender Singh

National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), one of the leading associations in the country having operations in 13 Indian states, has elected a new team. Kabir Suri, the former Vice-President, has become the new president and shares some insights on the market, pandemic, association, etc. In an interaction, he speaks on the recent changes, implementation of new policies by the government on mandating the nutrient values, and how online players are changing the restaurant businesses.

Q1. I wish to become the president. How is your designation treating you?

Ans. Thanks. I was very much into the system, and I was part of the leadership during my previous tenure too. My team is very much focused on growth and sustainability. We would want to increase members in every nook and corner of the country. The other focus would be enhancing the government relationships which we have already. We were behind many regulations from the Governments.

Q2. Speaking on the Government norms, what is the feedback from the industry on the mentioning of the nutrition value of every food product?

Ans. It might be easier in other countries. However, I am not sure if that is possible in India. India is a tough market with a lot of unorganized players. While we welcome the move, we also request the government to give breathing time for the industry to adapt to the new policies. Because the one significant hindrance for the industry is kind of regulations, I am sure the hoteliers might need time to adapt to the system. However, mandating the mention of the FSSAI number in tax invoices is a welcome move as it will streamline the industry better.

Q3. Where do you face challenges in government regulations?

Ans. Regulations. One funny quote in the hospitality sector is, “It is easier to get a gun license than getting one for a sandwich shop’. Hospitality is one sector that generates massive employment for the citizens. Ideally, we should have one separate ministry to look after us. However, we have to knock on the doors of every other department for every single aspect. For example, if the FSSAI is the only food safety body, why do we have another agency under state governments? We would ideally request the government to ease the way of doing business.

Q4. How do you see restaurants are becoming a hotspot for many start-up companies?

Ans. The barrier of entry in restaurants is lesser. However, sustaining in the industry is challenging, and failure rates are higher in the sector. Start-ups entering the industry should understand the challenges the industry faces and not see the glamour element, which is visible only from the outside world. 

Q5. With online delivery taking center stage, which format of restaurants would perform better?

Ans. Any form of a restaurant that is clean and hygienic would perform better. I predict QSR will perform big in terms of both online and offline. We also noticed many IPOs launched by many QSR companies. However, the rise of e-delivery is an alternative for home-cooking and not eating outside. Humans need a social life, and we cannot imagine social, professional, and family gatherings without restaurants.

Q6. Compare online Food delivery in India with the West.

Ans. If we look at other markets, the business models are not as successful as in India. Reason- India being a technology hub, we would have all the latest technologies at affordable rates. Also, with our population, I see food portals are doing exceptionally well.

Q7. Do you think online booking apps will swallow the traditional eating methods?

Ans. I don’t think so. Of course, online adoption has increased even in B and C class cities. However, I would not say it will bypass the traditional culinary method. Despite this pandemic, 60% of businesses are through dine-in for many restaurants, and only the remaining 40% is through online portals.

Q8. What are the other vital trends you predict?

Ans. I foresee the increase in kitchen automation and billing technology to be adopted widely as massive cost-cutting has happened across the verticals. While hoteliers learned a lot of lessons from both the waves, hoteliers are also trying newer revenue options which they had never done earlier. For example, restaurants that were never present on food delivery platforms before started entering the space. We need to wait and see if the coming year will challenge the Indian hotelier to innovate or survive.