“Dynamism of Bangalore makes everything worthwhile,” says Chef Manu Chandra
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.
FRESH CONCEPTS LIKE SOUTH INDIAN RESTAURANTS WITH A BAR HAVE FOUND THEIR GENESIS HERE