-K Vasudevan (email@example.com)
Thiruvananthapuram, April 20–A surprising, yet encouraging trend is slowly but steadily emerging in the dining tables and the food outlets across Kerala where youngsters, middle-aged and elderly people seen shifting in large numbers towards vegetarian cuisines. As per sources from the hotel industry, there has been a 15 to 20 percent increase in the footfalls in the vegetarian cuisines in the state post Covid pandemic.
In vegetarian hotels where there used to be a daily footfall between 1000 to 1200 customers are currently witnessing more than 2000 customers daily. One of the main reasons cited for this shift is ‘moving towards a healthy life diet practise’. Notably, North Indian dishes, millets, organic foods are the commonly opted choices by the youngsters in the state which has one of the highest meat consumptions in the country.
However, those associated with the hotel industry revealed that among teenage population, the meat consumption has not dipped as more smaller eateries with variety of options are been set up across the state in the past two years.
“We are witnessing a surge in the number of people visiting vegetarian outlets in the past one and a half year. This has been very visible in the footfalls we see on a daily basis. One reason we understand for this change is that youngsters and middle-aged people have become more aware of their health. Customers are also opting for more north Indian dishes like Phulka and roti rather than Porotta which used to be sold regularly in large numbers earlier”, said Visweswaran, owner of ‘Aryas’ group of hotels.
Another interesting change that is widely witnessed is the dip in Chinese vegetarian cuisines in the restaurants post Covid pandemic. Owners of five vegetarian outlets from different parts of the state who was contacted revealed that sales of cuisines such as ‘Veg Hakka noodles’, ‘Veg Manchurian’, ‘Honey chilli potatoes’, Veg spring roles’ have dipped and instead the sales of ‘Butter Nan with chole masala’, ‘Khulcha with Bhindi’ are the ones that are witnessing a surge.
Health experts cite that the change is attributed mainly to the growing awareness among middle-aged and elderly population who have been influenced by the videos on health awareness tips that focuses largely on avoiding oily foods and rather advocate to consume vegetarian food with less carbohydrates and fats and avoid deep-fried cuisines.
“Earlier youngsters are seen hanging around only around non-vegetarian food joints in the city whereas now I myself can witness young crowds as well as elderly coming to vegetarian outlets and hanging around till evening. Since we have seen an increase in such numbers, we have now facilitated our dining spaces in such a way that the crowds can spend time here in the evening”, said Radhakrishnan, owner of Gowri Nivas hotels that operate in Thiruvananthapuram.
Meanwhile, a section of hotel owners is of the view that the footfalls of customers arriving at the vegetarian outlets in big cities of Kerala have come to the pre-pandemic levels and the demand for North Indian cuisines have seen a rise following the arrival of Dhaba’s that offer a variety of ‘Rotis’, ‘Phulka’s’ etc.
Evening ‘Road-side sit-outs’ which mostly serve non-vegetarian dishes have always been an attraction for foodies. However, many parts of central and north Kerala have witnessed such vegetarian sit-outs flourishing off-late.Small outlets like ‘Dosa-kada’ (Serving Dosa with coconut chutney, sambar and rasa vada) have a huge demand in south and central Kerala.
Entry of North Indian Foods:
“Keralites has always a culture of accepting other cuisines and that becomes part of their dining tables over a span of time. Off late north Indian vegetarian dishes have wide acceptance in kerala. Roti, khulcha, paneer varities, cauliflower varities are now seen in most houses. I have myself observed this change where even foreigners who come to our homestays are opting for such dishes. This is a very positive trend”, said Ranjini Menon, Culinary expert and tourism promoter, ‘Turmerica resorts’, Wayanad.
Days ahead, the demand for vegetarian food is increasing not just in the pure-veg hotel types, but also in the multi-cuisine restaurant as well. “In my opinion, even if there is a group of guests who are predominantly consumers of non-veg food, they would defenitely have one vegetarian option in their meal. Even in buffets, salads are never missed”, says Naidugari Thejeswara Rao, who heads the culinary operations in Novotel kochi Infopark. He also adds that health-conciousness post COVID is making people prefer vegetarian food.
“If we look at the latest trend, there is indeed a demand for vegetarian cuisines. It’s not just the health benefits and awareness, but youths who earlier were into non vegetarian are now opting for vegetarian cuisines and also millet consumption has increased. This is a very interesting change”.Thomas pookunnel, Head Chef, Paragon group of hotels.
The biggest challenge however all the ‘Road-side’ eateries face is to ensure that cleanliness is maintained and to make sure the clean and healthy food at affordable prices are served to the people.