In Conversation: Dinesh Arora, Restaurateur
Everybody loves to dine at a place which promises quality ambiance along with serving lip-smacking delicacies. Dinesh Arora, who credits his love for food to his foodie family, understands this need of the consumers all too well. The brain behind introducing innovating and invigorating concepts in the restaurant industry, Arora has a deep understanding of the hospitality business – both in terms of operations as well as processes.
Arora, who is the Managing Director of DNJ Hospitality, has changed the way people dine and drink in the Capital with his establishments like The Unplugged Courtyard, Light Camera Action – Airbar, Elf Cafe & Bar, Hadippa, The Common Room and Kooper Kadhai.
In an interview, Arora spills the beans on five new restaurants that he’s planning on launching this year.
How do you view the changing trends in F&B and which trends will rule restaurants and bars in India this year?
It is all about introducing innovative concepts in food and ambiance right now, and the best part is the consumers of today love these innovations. Fusion cuisine is a big hit these days. Any dish prepared and served in a unique style is becoming the fastest moving delicacy on the menu.
At Unplugged Courtyard, we have introduced the Braai Grills, it’s a South African delicacy. We have maintained the integrall authenticity of the dish but a few tweaks here and there, and voila, the dish is ready for the Indian palate. There is a touch of modernity too to the traditional dish.
The trend that is going to rule in the near future is casual dining and lounging, but in a modern style.
In the last two years, what has been the most interesting development that you have observed in F&B in India?
Some of the major developments in the F&B sector in India are:
-Introduction of the Molecular Gastronomy, which has changed the way food is presented. However, the I feel the Indian foodies will still take at least five years to accept this innovation.
-Fusion dishes have become all time favourites – Butter Chicken Tacos or Butter Chicken Pasta have replaced the traditional Butter Chicken.
-Lesser-known meat and seafood have both carved a niche for themselves in the restaurant menu.
-Gluten-free dishes have started occupying a large space on the menu.
-Old world dishes have made a comeback.
What steps are you taking to match the pace of the evolving foodservice industry?
We believe in providing an unforgettable experience. All our restaurants try to weave a memorable story by serving good food in an impeccable ambiance.
What makes your restaurants different from other concept eateries in Delhi?
We believe in offering something unique at all of our restaurants. The food, drinks and ambiance, everything is completely different from one another.
Light Camera Action – Airbar, in Rajouri Garden is a Bollywood themed restaurant and everything from the décor to the music to even the menu pays homage to some of the most iconic phrases from Bollywood.
Hadippa in Rajouri Garden serves North India cuisine. Each and every corner of the restaurant brings alive the spirit of Punjab.
The Common Room is an ideal combination of good food and great music. The one of the kind musical pub, promotes talent and gives a perfect platform to soothing voices to sing live and live up the dream of being a performer.
Unplugged Courtyard is one of the biggest ventures of DNJ Hospitality and has changed the way people dine in. Braai Grills and an open courtyard are a few of the USPs of this restaurant.
Elf Cafe is a lounge whereas Kooper Kadhai serves Indian delicacies.
What are the new concepts and innovations that you have introduced at your restaurants?
In this age of consumerism, we prefer looking at looking at things from the consumer’s angle. New concepts and innovations are always welcomed with open arms. Keeping that in mind each and every item on our menu has a story to tell. For example: Aam Aadmi Chicken is served in a potli by stewards ringing the bell. Paying a tribute to the Aam Aadmi Party, this dish is a common man ‘dabba’ that is served to the guests. Another dish that defines our boundaries of innovation is Ganna Chicken. Chicken is rolled on a sugarcane stick and guests can chew the sugarcane while enjoying the chicken with sweet-n-spicy dip. It is served in a bamboo tray so as to give a feel of the harvest.
What role does the location of a restaurant play in its success? On what basis do you narrow in on a location?
Location can make or break a restaurant. We prefer opening our restaurants at places which are food and foodie hubs like Hauz Khas Village, Connaught Place and Rajouri Garden.
Take us through the challenges of operating a restaurant business in India.
The biggest challenge that I have faced in running a restaurant is the unavailability of trained manpower.
Some foodservice experts believe that the cafe/ casual-dining format is likely to be the most viable model for India, given their ‘all-day’ positioning as opposed to meal-specific fine-dine formats. What is your opinion?
Every eatery has its own charm. Families prefer a fine dine experience, whereas on the other hand, a group of friends love to visit a cafe or a casual-dining place where they can just chill out and hang around.
Considering that the youth still doesn’t pack that much of a punch when it comes to spending power, what is your pricing strategy?
We make sure that everyone gets an amazing experience for every penny that they spend at our all restaurants.
Elaborate on your future plans.
We have recently opened an Indian restaurant called Kooper Kadhai in Bangalore. Apart from that there are other big projects in the pipeline:-
Drama Cafe at Rajouri Garden – As the name suggests, this place has lots of drama in terms of food, presentation and interiors. The theme of this place is upside down. Everything from flower pots to lamps to clocks are upside down. Patrons will be able to enjoy modern, Indian, multi as well as fusion cuisines at the Drama Cafe.
Tourist at Janpath, Connaught Place – Global street food will be served at Tourist. People who have traveled around the globe will be able to connect to this place. It will depict the life of a traveler and will aim to entice patrons to travel and explore the world.
Office Canteen Bar at Connaught Place – The theme of this restaurant revolves around restrictions at the office. Here, unlike in office, you can let down your hair and do whatever you are stopped from doing at your office – sitting on the table, shouting, drinking and enjoying with your friends and colleagues. We will be introducing DIY cocktails as well at this outlet.
My next biggest project is ITRA – a fine-dine Indian cuisine restaurant. We are still giving it a shape. Also there are plans to open more franchises of Unpluggged Courtyard in Delhi and other parts of the country.
Note: The article first appeared on indiaretailing.com