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2017 onwards we noticed a trend in the consumers. The shift in demanding more healthier and fresher food items with a dash of creativity. The catering segment in India has grown up dramatically owing to a rising consumer base. Hotels, event management organizations, and private people are totally dependent on catering companies for food management. Adding another layer to the growth of the industry is services such as mobile catering, airline catering, and show catering. As we speak with a gamut of catering companies in Jaipur, they shed light on the changing preferences of consumers, challenges for the catering businesses, and future prospects for the industry.
The House of Gyanjee is a seven-generation-old business in the food & hospitality industry in Jaipur. They serve clients across the country promising unparalleled hospitality services and an array of cuisines. Vaibhav Jain is the third generation to join the family catering business. In conversation with Vaibhav, we find out that Gyanjee is known for “originality”. The authenticity that the company manages to bring in is what makes them pioneers in the sector.
Vaibhav says, “I strongly believe in creating new trends all the while balancing the tastes and presentation. I keep on innovating and working on fresh concepts. Like every other industry, there’s competition inside the catering business. However, we need to identify our USP as a company. For example, our USP is originality. We are known for exceptional food tastes and brilliant creativity. These both elements are important in the business.”
According to the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), 25% of catering businesses closed shop completely in FY21, resulting in over 2.3 million jobs lost. While normalcy has been noticed in the industry it will take time to come back in its full form.
Vaibhav elaborate, “The pandemic hit the catering industry hard undoubtedly but we all got out of that darkness as soon as the lockdown lifted. We have agreed that food is an emotion for us but even more than that it reflects our culture. When we attend a feast we expect not just great tastes but amazing hospitality too. Over the years we have evolved as humans and our needs have traversed several milestones. What lies ahead is unpredictable but enjoying the present is what people believe in. Hence, planning everything perfectly is what people do these days. In corporate events, we see how food fosters a professional bond and serves as a reason to gather. When we get together for food we definitely exchange not just our thoughts but the food language I would call it. So, I think the coming years will be extremely transforming for catering companies.”
M L Caterers is another name that is most trusted in the catering industry. They believe in creating fabulous experiences worth one’s memories. Catering to what is exactly the customers’ preferences are, ML caterers promise wonderful food table décor, unmatched services, scrumptious food, and the finest beverages. As we sat to jot down what exactly has changed after the pandemic, Rajesh Sharma, owner of the company says, “Pandemic definitely upended every business but I would say the worst hit industry was the food and business sector. Everything was paused but even when it resumed we observed that people’s preferences have drastically shifted to simpler things. For example, after the pandemic immediately when things were settling down weddings were not that grand affair. People continued to prefer inviting limited guests. Those who were not invited then in turn preferred not to invite those. This cycle continued up until the recent time. However, now we are observing that people are wanting a grand wedding or big celebration and the events are also happening at a much larger scale.”
Sharma is also working on software wherein the clients can modify or in a better way customise their choices. From customised menus to decor, everything will be taken care of. Sharma adds, “Rajasthan has become the go-to option for destination weddings. Celebrities and wealthy people of the country prefer Rajasthan to be the dream destination for their special occasions. Similarly, corporate events and parties are being hosted on a large scale in Rajasthan. I notice that the internet has drastically increased the number of options people want these days. Today, clients are so specific in terms of what they want that we sometimes scratch our heads. People are so informed and aware of the latest trends in the globe that they come with a to-do list. But we need to understand that expectations can be endless. However, we need to set boundaries for healthy output.”
Adding another layer of creativity to the catering segment is Sirvi Caterers. They go by a saying-We want to create that magical moment, when you look around, each element is working in harmony. Truly, they translate words into emotions. Naresh Choudhary, Pioneer of the company says, “Times have really changed. The pandemic totally transformed our perception of celebration. Today, I see that destination weddings have become a trend. Earlier we used to have wedding rituals and functions separately in the bride and groom’s respective houses. However, these days they plan it out differently. They cordially decide stuff and involve in the process completely. Earlier, the guests’ list would have some 1500 or 1800 names which have now shrunk to 250 something. We don’t say it is an intimate gathering but the definition of celebration has evolved from time to time. Right now, we have sort of prioritised what we want than what others would think. Both, the bride and groom’s family and relatives gather at a venue and spend the days under one roof. They have a common haldi, sangeet, and mehendi ceremony which wasn’t the norm earlier. Another thing that I have noted is the rise of fusion food. Now, people don’t like the simple aloo tikki that you and I have kind of grown up eating at every other wedding or party. Now, people look for innovation in the form of fusion food. They are attracted by those dishes the most when they see traditional cuisine but with a touch of innovation and new flavours dissolving in their mouth. I would say a lot has changed especially post-pandemic for the catering business across the country and in fact the world.”
Taking things one step closer is yet another catering company called Partywalaz. As the name says it all, they are known for pomp and grandeur. Everything is planned for the tea and the founder ensures that the clients pledge to come back. We have with us Deepak Sharma, the brain behind the company Partywalaz. He explains, “Technology is definitely redefining the hospitality industry. Artificial intelligence in catering services has been helping us in a lot of ways. For example, waste management. We know how much food is wasted at weddings and other parties. With the help of AI, we can minimize waste in the catering industry. We can literally predict things by analysing the report that AI would give. With time I strongly believe that the business will flourish under the guidance of AI.” Partywalaz caters to wedding galas mostly and pats itself for the cutting-edge style with which they drive the story. Sharma further comments, “If I talk about the upcoming wedding season then I am excited to see the grandeur back. I would like to explore new technologies and expand my client base.”