Herald: Goa emerging as culinary hot spot
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Goa emerging as culinary hot spot

09 Jun 2018 06:03am IST

Report by
AJIT JOHN

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09 Jun 2018 06:03am IST

Report by
AJIT JOHN

Leave a comment

The casual dining market in Goa is attracting players from all over the world but then, how big is the market and what are the challenges. AJIT JOHN spoke to players in the space to understand the reality on the ground

The landscape of Goa has been changing dramatically over the past few years. There are several elements that have been added to the Goan picture.  No, we are not talking about the concrete buildings that seem to just out from almost everywhere. Or the presence of global brands that are now present in the State. But rather of the emergence of several casual dining restaurants that seem to be opening at every corner. It is also a business that seems to attract people from all over the world. Is it a good business to be involved in and how big is the business in the State? 

Benpramar D Laitflang, Chef, Tierra Y Mar completed his culinary training in Buenos Aires, Argentina and came to Goa in his belief that it was the only place to set up operations.  Chef Benpramar said “I believe that Goa has become a culinary destination of sorts over the past few years which was definitely an attraction for me. The availability of a wide range of quality produce and ingredients in Goa was a large part of this decision. This allows us to play around with different techniques and flavours in the kitchen. I have also always wanted to live by the ocean, so the decision was an easy one for me.” 

Given the dynamics of the market which is so dependent on tourism it is important to target a segment of the population. To which he said they intended to set a standard that makes good quality food accessible to all and target people who are looking to try some interesting food. He says he would like cater to both the local and tourist population. Asked who his customers were, he said it was a good mix of local, expats as well as out of town visitor who like cuisine that is not the standard Goan fare. This trend will continue and in the next five years the state he believes the state will be more prevalent as a culinary destination.

The Goan market is quite an interesting market. A state that largely depends on tourism now that mining has been banned. Praveena D’Souza, partner, The Lazy Goose had some definite ideas on it. Mr D’Souza said “Goan market today is quite stable and not as volatile as it used to be; also it’s not as seasonal. It is allowing restaurateurs to keep businesses open throughout the year and maintain relatively stable PnL’s. Also, Goa attracts a diverse clientele as they aren’t too many locals as compared to tourists. Lots of Indians from up north and from across the world visit Goa; When exploring India, Goa is a must stop for them. Another important thing to remember and be grateful for is that when these tourists come in they aren’t that price sensitive and not at home, hence always looking to go out for meals and a good time without looking at bill amounts.”

With regards trends emerging in the casual dining market she felt the idea was to give the guests a great time and the vibe was one of a must have! This, she felt was an amalgamation of great food, prompt and polite service along with inviting interiors and music that complements. A lot of restaurateurs are now experimenting with new foods, newer concepts and international dishes, unlike earlier when places were more about local foods or comfort meals like fish and chips or just butter chicken and naan.

Another star chef who decided to throw in her hat by setting up the India award winning Italian gourmet restaurant, Diva, was Chef Ritu Dalmia. The 64 cover fine dining restaurant will offer a curated Italian menu and a variety of wines and is located at Andores Resort & Spa, Calangute.

She said “I really don’t know what to expect from this market but I am sure there is a market for good food.” She refused to reveal how much had been invested in the restaurant but she said she was confident it would work out fine.    

Speaking at launch of Diva Chef Ritu Dalmia said, “I’m delighted to launch Diva in Goa and very excited with the very good response it has received. Goa has always been my favourite destination and now I have a legit reason to come to Goa and experience its business with Diva. The support of the team is very encouraging and I would say so far so good. Our best is yet to come.”

Rishi Gossain, director F&B, Fisherman’s Wharf said the Goa market had definite characteristics which made it unique. Mr Gossain said “Casual dining works in Goa and specialty restaurants do not work. People are more casual and AC restaurant is a challenge in the State. There is an outer and inner seating area which is very important here in Goa.” 

There were he said several segments which comprised of the Russians, then the Europeans and the domestic segment which featured the corporate and holiday segment. When asked how big the market was in Goa, he was prepared to take a stab and it and said he would not be surprised if it was around Rs 100 crores ie the casual dining market.

The segment he said was growing at around 3% to 5% annually and it was tough market given that rentals were high and the cost of manpower was high too. The cost of sea food was also expensive and in the rains, it was always challenging.  

Pooja Ghotage of Habanero said growth was taking place every decade and the business was valued at around Rs 35 to 40 crore in the casual dining segment. The market she said was opening up with Goan, Indian and International cuisine doing very well and the average Goan was now open to variety.  Ms Ghotage said “There are more Goans now stepping out and that is certainly helping the business but it is I feel still a seasonal business so that restricts the growth of the market”

When asked how this market would evolve in the next five years  Ms D’Souza of the Lazy Goose said “The market seems to be growing at a steady pace and I sense it will continue to for the next 7-10 years. We may experience a slump in the middle at times, but all in all we can estimate an upward gradient in growth and newness of concepts. I hope we are able to experience a lot more interesting food and dining spaces.”  

That may sound very nice but the business is extremely tough to stay in given the challenges of licences, infrastructure and manpower. The reason Goa will continue to attract restaurateurs will simply be the growing attractiveness of the market. As more and more Indians travel and move up the value chain so to speak they will look to have even more interesting experiences and food  and its appreciation will play a larger role.

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