Cafe Culture in Jammu

Jaskaran Singh Madaan
The restaurant era is at its peak and yet nobody tends to understand as why it’s getting so hard for restaurant owners to earn their fair share in the trade. I have been working in the restaurant industry from past 5 years now. As a proprietor and also as a restaurant consultant we understood the need for clients to know what this industry requires.
There has always been a noted trend in our beloved City of Temples, such as when entrepreneurs thought Billiards & Snooker parlours were the hep thing. All entrepreneurs suddenly wanted to open the same trade over and over in every nukkad. Similarly, entrepreneurship got hit with what I call the Salon wave and suddenly you could find a unisex salon in almost every corner of the city. So now, is the restaurant era and it has actually mushroomed itself to exile.
Understanding the trade requires three things for a Restaurant owner – the targeted customer segment, the cuisine he/she feels is what that locality requires and the business model to base the framework upon. Now where, a desiring restauranteur is going so terribly wrong is the flooded segment with homogeneity of products. An entrepreneur needs to understand that our state lacks the outstation student crowd and working class couples. We still have suburban setting with a very few enjoying the Apartment culture. The internet which proved to be a boon at one point and proved as a back bone revenue churner for the restaurants, dhabas and Cafés is also in turmoil. Zomato and Swiggy when introduced helped a lot of restaurants to grow with steady 10-15 orders in a day and charging 15-18% commission on the sale. Their delivery channels altogether changed the face of the food segment.
But it was short lived as internet based restriction were imposed on the new U.T and the food industry was again limited to the physical sale channels.
Some places like ChanniHimmat and Trikutanagar have suddenly, come up as an emerging food localities in Jammu City. Where almost approximate grand total of 60-70 small and medium sized restaurants/Cafés function. The population in these and the neighbouring areas is limited and will be in rotation when we talk about the average sale per restaurant holding. Now the fun part, a term which we qoute as the Honeymoon period is enjoyed by a new restaurant/Cafe for the first 4-5 Months where the customers will keep your spirits high, average basket size to be as targeted and business holding will enjoy their fair share of attention and Sale. But this comes to a decline when the honeymoon period ends. As this industry demands a decent share of investment and maintance, lack of basic average sale mostly leads establishments to shut down or leasing out.
The solution exists and it is actually quite simple. When we keep targeting a population of 10 people to eat at 10 restaurants in the same vicinity, we doom ourselves. There are still so many unexplored areas in Jammu. When we move towards such areas, we firstly enhance our chances to impress the customer who will value your existence in their locality, homogeneity of product will automatically be reduced and last but not the least is instead on bee hiving one location, we choose to churn out from another. Secondly, I have also noticed the decline in quality of food andservice after the business cycle reaches the maturity slab. A desiring restaurant entrepreneur should always keep in mind that the food industry is ever growing so is the price war market segment. Price skimming techniques don’t work in most of the times when dealing with B & C class cities.
Regular Competitor pricing updates is essential for a restauranteur to match the market speed and this practice needs to be followed religiously when opening a new project or running an existing one.
Thirdly, the staffing is one of the major problematic areas faced by almost every small and medium sized restaurants/Cafés. The staff practices more unity in their fraternity than we as owners do. We owners are so botched up in competition, that unity is the last thing we see between fellow Restauranteurs. This is where the staff takes undue advantage and the salaries go high. We actually analysed the trend of the past 4-5 years where we collected the average salaries data of the Indian/ Tandoor/ Chinese – 1st, 2nd & 3rd Commis chefs salary as per their experience has been exponentially increased by more than 40% in the past 5 years. A chef with no degree or qualification whatsoever and experience of 5-8 years working under a chef reaches straight to the 3rd commis level from the helper/UT level and demands a salary of INR 14 -16K.
There are some staffing firms in Jammu who will help you creating a recruitment pool and choosing the right candidate. I think associating one with such a firm is beneficial in the longer run.
We are still a long way to call us a developed UT and it will probably take time for the same. The competition is fierce and innovation is an essential ingredient to this recipe of success.