Travel + Leisure - India & South Asia

RESTAURATE­UR OF THE YEAR

Priyank Sukhija CEO, FIRST FIDDLE RESTAURANT­S

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WHILE MANY RESTAURANT­S shut during the pandemic, Priyank Sukhija opened new ones that not only spurred employment opportunit­ies in the industry but also catered to the newly acquired taste buds and mindsets of post-pandemic diners. The restaurate­ur talks to CHIRAG MOHANTY SAMAL about his vision and strategies for the Indian F&B industry. How did the pandemic affect you?

The pandemic was hard for everyone involved with the F&B industry, be it owners, kitchen staff, managers, or even backend office staff. Even though we are recovering now, it’s going to be long before the industry covers up the losses.

While many restaurant­s shut in 2020, you widened your portfolio. How did you manage that?

I had no option but to emerge stronger post this pandemic. First Fiddle is a huge organisati­on, and hundreds of people rely on it. We made a conscious decision to open more restaurant­s for a two-fold purpose. On one hand, it allowed us to cater to the audiences with experience­s pertaining to post-pandemic mindsets such as The Living Room at Miso Sexy [private dining area], while on the other hand, it allowed us to spur industry growth as we created more employment opportunit­ies.

What innovation­s or strategies do you think will work for the food industry in the post-pandemic world?

I believe that there will be a higher focus on quality, experience­s, and global affairs over price, mediocrity, and repetition. People now have a higher appreciati­on for exclusivit­y and out-of-the-box experience­s. The food industry will also have to take digital communicat­ion more seriously.

Tell us about your expansion plans. Which cities do you plan to set up restaurant­s in and why?

We’re coming up with three new brands in Delhi soon, which are completely new concepts and will offer an immersive experience to our patrons. For our existing brands, we are now opening franchises in various tier 2 and tier 3 cities such as Hyderabad, Guwahati, Lucknow, and Kanpur.

What are your favourite culinary destinatio­ns?

In terms of pure authentici­ty of cuisine and the variety of food offered, I’ll have to say Spain, Japan, and Thailand. The flavours and dishes I’ve indulged in these countries have been a source of constant amazement.

That aside, destinatio­ns like London and New

York help me understand how different cities take authentic tastes and make them their own.

For example, the sushi in Japan and the sushi in an Asian restaurant in London taste vastly different. One is authentic, while the other is created to cater to British tastes.

What’s your success mantra?

Only offer that which you love yourself. With every brand, I play a hands-on role in food tastings, menu curation, decor ideas, and theme selection. I create brands that I would love to visit, party, and eat at myself.

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