“Dy­namism of Ban­ga­lore makes ev­ery­thing worth­while,” says Chef Manu Chan­dra

India Today - - SIMPLY BANGALORE - The author is Ex­ec­u­tive Chef and part­ner at Olive Beach, Mon­key Bar and Liketha­tonly

If some­one were to do an anal­y­sis on the most dif­fi­cult cities in In­dia to open a restau­rant in, Ban­ga­lore I’m quite cer­tain will be fight­ing for first place. Friends in other fields tell me that it is not dis­sim­i­lar in other busi­nesses. My re­tort is that nei­ther do they have a clamp on op­er­at­ing hours, the in­fa­mous 11: 30 pm dead­line, nor do they have to deal with a bit of moral polic­ing. In the eight years that I have been here, I know for cer­tain that not a sin­gle new ex­cise li­cense per­mit­ting the sale of liquor in an es­tab­lish­ment has been is­sued; a new li­cense for wine was cre­ated only due to a strong do­mes­tic grape grow­ing lobby. Trad­ing in ex­ist­ing li­censes that cost up­wards of a crore a pop in the mar­ket is a highly reg­u­lated busi­ness. Any­one about to open a restau­rant will think twice be­fore park­ing such a large sum into a li­cense above other ex­penses and yet the restau­rant boom con­tin­ues un­abated. From what I’ve heard of the new pric­ing pol­icy about to come into ef­fect soon in the state, the price of liquor is be­ing re­vised up­ward again, es­sen­tially mak­ing it the most ex­pen­sive city or state in which to buy liquor. Thus al­co­hol will be­come more ex­pen­sive in bars and restau­rants too.

Food­stuff too has been bat­tered by in­fla­tion­ary trends, from a sharp price spike in meats to onions and toma­toes. Fish comes from the coast by road, and one look at the price tags in the su­per mar­ket and it’s enough to make one un­com­fort­able. The edge that Ban­ga­lore once had over other cities in pro­duce has also been lost. Pune, Lon­avala, Ghar­wal and Ut­taran­chal are fast be­com­ing pro­duc­ers of qual­ity veg­eta­bles. Labour costs are higher here than they are in a Delhi or Mum­bai. There is al­ways the elec­tric­ity sit­u­a­tion, re­quir­ing gen­er­a­tors all the time. And most im­por­tantly the rental haven that Ban­ga­lore once was is all but a thing of the past. Re­cently some­one of­fered me a prime restau­rant prop­erty at al­most Rs 300 a square foot for rent per month.

One doesn’t get fair time to re­cover that kind of in­vest­ment. Yet, you see a large num­ber of en­thu­si­asti young­sters full of ideas, and in many cases risk cap­i­tal, don­ning the role of food en­trepreneurs. Clearly there is re­silience in the mar­ket that can­not be un­der­es­ti­mated. It’s a sim­i­lar lobby of young­sters who were able to fa­cil­i­tate the li­cense raj to al­low mi­cro brew­ing li­censes sprout­ing across the city. A young crop of chefs are open­ing small places with only wine; but do­ing some in­spired food none­the­less. Gas­tro pubs and fun South In­dian restau­rants with a bar have found their ge­n­e­sis in Ban­ga­lore. National brands now find it nec­es­sary to have a pres­ence in this city. The restau­rant busi­ness was never easy in this city. But its dy­namism and all em­brac­ing at­ti­tude of the peo­ple of Ban­ga­lore that makes it worth­while. You cre­ate it, and they come. If the prod­uct has ev­ery­thing go­ing for it, they stay. And so do the as­pi­ra­tions of restau­ra­teurs.


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