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With the growing nature of today’s world to be fast, efficient, and open to change, there is an increased demand for automation in restaurant kitchens, which makes the food-making process quicker and ensures a standard quality of food. This, however, is more of a ‘modern’ aspect as most of the automated equipment these days is used in cloud kitchens, catering to a highly tech-savvy customer base. The automation process is yet to reach Indian cuisine restaurants properly.
Referring to the same, Shakir Haq, owner of the Empire Group, a restaurant chain in Bangalore, says, “Automation in restaurant kitchens in India is a difficult process. Thus, one should focus on the nature of their target audience. If the food is prepared for consumers who are looking for quick meals, for example, in tech parks, it can work and they can get their ROI but otherwise, it is not very successful.”
This, however, is not the only thing holding back kitchen automation in Indian cuisine restaurants. Emotional appeal and the personal nature of Indians toward their food is also a major factor lending to the matter.
Veerendra Kamat, the owner of the Kamat Hotel, has this to say on this matter, “When it comes to Indian food items like sambar, which is made in a gradual process, automation machines cannot ensure the taste as well and thoroughly as a person can. When it comes to western food, it is simpler, but making Indian food is complex.”
He added, “Indian cuisine kitchens can advent to the level of semi-automation, for example, vegetable cutting machines, etc. This can help in cutting back on waste, but full automation when it comes to cooking is not a possibility, as of yet.”
Haq, regarding the same question, says, “Methods like Dosa batter, vegetable cutting, and everything can be automatized but in the larger picture, the Indian food industry works on hand-made food that is made with love and affection.”
One other major hurdle that restaurants are facing is the high cost of automated kitchen equipment. The high cost of these machines poses the uncertainty of their return on investment (ROI).
Subramanya Holla, the owner of Udupi Krishnabhavan, added, “Even small restaurants are using automated equipment for vegetable cutting and other processes in India, but when it comes to the next level, i.e, the cooking equipment and the cleaning equipment, the cost is very high, so there is little scope of ROI in that case.”
Mentioning the importance of manual labor, Holla said, “Manual Labor, right now, is the most cost-effective, and viable option for mid-range, traditional restaurants in India.”
Haq also added, “India as a country has always been late in accepting technology. Therefore, in the near future, when it comes to Indian Cuisine, manual labor is going nowhere.”
Restauranter in Favor of Automation
But all hope shall not be lost on the prospect of kitchen automation in Indian restaurants as there are some contenders in the market who are excited about adopting this technology.
Radhakrishna Adiga, the owner of Brahmin’s coffee bar, keen on learning more about and adopting automation, said, “Food items like idli dosa and vada can be automated. It will help in making newer varieties and will make the entire process quicker and more efficient. It will also ensure the consistency of the food items across different outlets and time periods.”
Speaking on the hurdles in this sector, he added, “Automation depends on the turnover of the restaurants so people equip it according to their needs. Automation is necessary as most of the restaurant staff is not as skilled and becomes a hurdle in the advancing process.”
Change in the minds of restaurant owners is needed
When talking about the high cost of these kitchen equipments and the prospect of their domestic production, Unnikrishnan Pilai of EG Equipments, said, “The cost of production of automated equipment will be high. The demand is high but it is not going to match the supply, and in the foreign market there is no brand name for Indian industries.”
Speaking further on the matter, he added, “The mentality of the hospitality industry needs to change, the client needs to examine the industry more closely and not rely on consultants. Customers look for the cheapest equipment, preventing the industries from getting tenders in the future.”
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