08 Dec Guwahati-Current food and Dining Scenario, the Malls and Foodcourts
While I watched with gasped breath; the mesmerizing opening ceremony of the ISL(Indian Super League) at Guwahati , it left me stunned. Stumped by its impeccable hosting of the event by the organizers, the facilities and all its splendor .Such grandeur and style that held the event strongly, coupled with the throng of celebs who performed. I could only conjecture it as the first signs of progress having anointed Guwahati as one of the top 25 Smart Cities to be developed by the Modi Government. The celebs and players were hosted by the newly opened Taj Vivanta which is one of the most beautiful 5 stars that covers the landscape of the city now, with its picturesque view of the mountains .As I see more and more number of tourists, businessmen and corporate executives/biggies travelling to this beautiful city backed by a rich and diverse heritage and cultural traditions, I can safely proclaim that Guwahati; the land of the great Brahmaputra so to say, has come of age today, or in simpler terms for brevity, its slowly making its way to rub shoulders with the bigger cities of the country. Be it the retail scenario, the real estate , the hospitality Industry or the food and Restaurant chains, all have their eyes firm on this city, with many main brands already spreading out branches ,while many more possibly still in the pipeline. If you look at the hospitality industry, while the Taj(Vivanta) and Radisson are already a motivation for tourists to visit this beautiful city of Assam, a gateway to the North East, a few more like the Novotel, and Le Meridian are in the pipeline. So is the case with the Retail brands and Malls. While mall shopping is progressively picking up with an array of brands now available for consumers ; food and dining , which is one of the essential elements of the progression journey of a city is only slowly managing to find a new found glory . With an amalgamation of food joints (local and national chains), the city now sparkles in the beauty of this development and evokes a demeanor that exudes vibrancy and flamboyance only to be bolstered by the burgeoning new class of tourists that so are willing to travel to the north east to soak in its natural flora and fauna, the beauty of its hills, mountains, forests and terrains that Assam is so famous for. Or business men and corporate executives who are thriving to this city for work. Guwahati therefore is a city that screams an identity of class and attitude, with its heritage, it is a perfect place now for either business or as tourist destination
As perennial partners in Industry , while the retail scene is growing, so is the f&B industy. An amalgamation of chains evoke variety of cuisines, as brands like KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Mainland China, Moti Mahal, Yellow Chilli ,Baskin Robbins, CCD have already made headway in this amazing city that boasts of an astounding mix of scenic beauty and indigenous food culture. For a food aficionado, the city offers a dining experience now with a blend of heritage indigenous Assamese restaurants as well as the modern chain of restaurants with indulgent options of flamboyant flavors. A formidable mix of explosive culinary options. A morphing of local traditional cuisines with diverse dining trends that co -exist in harmony. Gams Delicacy, Paradise,Kings Chilly, Bhoot Jolokia, Maan Dhoniya, Majuli Ekhaj, Akou Juti Logai Khau, Khorikaa, are a few of the Assamese(and North eastern) specialty restaurants that manages to entice your taste buds to a great local meal. For me, Gams delicacy tops the list followed by Paradise if you desire to relish an authentic Assamese meal
While the street food and restaurants generally focused on a typical style of food, with the proliferation of the malls, the food courts( only one as of now) have brought in an amalgamation of national brands that offer the customer the delight of a brand and different culinary experience. They offer the customer an unwinding session over food and drinks .This is what I observed at Temptations food court at Central mall. Although small in girth as a food court, yet it seeks to offer a decent mix of brands that signifies the first foodcourt in a mall perhaps for the city
A slow progress and absence of strong restaurant and retail brands: However, striking a pose of glory with its new found path of development in the F&B industry, there is something amiss here. The progress although visible is slow and yet needs a template design perhaps for an amazing dining scenario which the residents can warm upto and embrace, for there are still many a popular national brands missing from either the F&B or retail Industry. The ones which are present are scattered all over .While we talk of KFC , there is not a single Mcdonalds outlet in the entire city, which is quite disheartening for the city. Mcdonalds has now lapped up to the Indian citizen’s dining habits and almost a common feature as part of the F&B experience of a middle class person even in lesser known cities of the country. Similarly, while CCD makes a strong presence , yet we don’t see any Starbucks in the city. Same is the case with other popular brands; maybe a copper chimney/Zaffran/Delhi Darbar/or any other Resto bar like an Irish House perhaps, it still seems like a far away dream as not many brands have shown an affinity towards this city perhaps. Inspite of producing the biggest industries of Tea and Handloom(Assam Silk),a growing tourism industry(North East by far is one of the most beautiful regions to be explored for its beauty, picturesque landscape, the hills and terrain s), of the country yet the city is in a state that seems be obliterated and left out when it comes to economic progression due to the absence of a strong retail and f &B industry. But this could also be due to the political unrest posing serious problems during the last few decades which is slowing easing up now. Beyond vaunted claims, it can be attested that the tea and handloom industry apart, the citizens of Guwahati are rooted to a very high value education system(Gauhati University posing a very strong influence for education in the entire state) coupled with a strong sense of art and culture . This clan that rules the city definitely needs better amenities,better technology and better dining and shopping experience. The handful of restaurants covering the city are KFC/Pizza Hut/Mainland China/Yo China/ Barbeque nation/CCD/Dominos/Baskin Robbins/Yellow Chilli. Most of the restaurants are standalone, since there are hardly any premium malls, that brings alongwith a list of national chain of restaurants perhaps and the restro bars and pubs are very localized ,as the city doesn’t own a bigger pub or a restro bar in the real sense .
Which means; opportunities are galore for companies that wish to expand branches to this beautiful city of North East, and bring in a dynamic change in the food and dining scenario and act as an impetus to effectuate the progress of the city to becoming a smart city with its infrastructure , amenities and facilities and adopt a congenial environment that adorns the bigger cities . Pubs, restaurants, malls ,events are elements can only bolster the trajectory of a city’s progression
The elusive food court :Right now, while malls are a new phenomenon to strike and storm the city, yet a mall in real terms still eludes this beauty of a city as smaller malls with lesser known brands and fewer stores conjure up to an experience of mall shopping with hardly any food court, apart from the solitary CCD or a couple of joints like Domino’s and a Restaurant or a Pub perhaps.This also means that there is a dearth in variety of cuisines that comes along with a influx of new brands. There isn’t really much to offer in international cuisines as a category except if you dine at the 5 stars perhaps. So also a plethora of brands are missing . Which signifies as a great opportunity to be tapped for national brands and real estate developers. As with the ease of expansion now, the opening up of the city to business and travelers, with Priyanka Chopra appointed as the brand ambassador, the city only awaits for all things that will soon symbolize a modern city that screams an attitude of pride, of joy ,signifying a great experience for a consumer who visits Guwahati. There is sea of opportunity for a retail brand or a real estate developer or a restaurant chain to enter Guwahati. The best would be the emergence of a renowned mall perhaps, since with it; comes an eclectic array of brands aided by a food court that screams ecstasy and a divine experience, at par with the Inorbit, Infinti’s of the country perhaps. This; till date is missing and perhaps can be anointed as an untapped opportunity.
Solitary food court at central Mall(Temptations): While the plethora of food joints that manage to enthrall you with an exhilarating experience of diverse cuisines, thus opening the culinary world to the customers of Guwahati, yet the mall culture is still at its nascent stage.The food courts to call as is just one at the central mall, named as Temptations. A decently done up food court, it offers 8 brands as of now , with provision for maybe 2 more joints which are still unoccupied. For this city, this is a great way of attracting consumers, enriching them of cultural food habits and diversified cuisines by way of popular restaurant brands that seek your attention. Dosa Plaza, Vaah India, jiffys , CCD, Baskin Robbins, Dominos,Naga Konspiracy, DH’S Food Express all working laboriously behind their kitchens to offer you an experience that calls for a feast of flavors, more so a culinary dining experience of varied cuisines. It ,to an extent is a confluence of cuisines ;however, a mini version of a food court that compliments a bigger mall perhaps and cannot be compared to the grandeur , largeness and variety of cuisines of a food court attached to a Premium mall in a metro. Amongst the brands, Naga Food Konspiracy stands tall promoting delicacies from Nagaland, the ever popular pork dishes prepared with bamboo shoots and indigenous herbs.
But, beyond this mall, the city does not have a food court so to say in any of the other malls, beyond individual restaurants that accompany the malls, mostly CCD and Dominos perhaps.
So the mall experience of a person still limits to a shopping spree minus the overall dining and movie experience. There is just one mall, Dona Planet that houses PVR, with a few stand alone restaurants but no food court and lesser known retail brands to hail or adjudicate as a shopping destination perhaps. Unlike the bigger malls in other cities, where the experience of a mall is an overall holistic sum up of shopping plus dining and sometimes aided by a movie also, here the overall shopping and dining experience of a mall is slightly missing and is scattered. Either there are no restaurants or food court in the mall or the shopping experience is not really great for the dearth of retail brands.
These restaurants and pubs located at the malls are a probable dine-out option of celebrating occasions, hence is not probably linked to a customer’s shopping habits at the mall during one’s visit. There isn’t a clear bonhomie between the dining and shopping experience in a mall. Therefore , the overall mall experience of shopping with dining and perhaps a movie is what still evades the ecosystem of this city.But with a bigger food court comprising national brands, this could change.
The malls in Guwahati-The malls, that call for attention are HUB, Soham, Central Mall, Silver Square,Dona Planet .They seek to offer pleasure with its various of retail brands and food chains. But none except Central mall owns a food court. The malls generally have a couple of stand alone restaurants as dining options.The upcoming Citi Centre mall is supposedly the biggest mall in the city with a sprawling food court to be named as Aromas
HUB mall– Has stand alone outlets of CCD /Brown Creams( pastries and confectionaries)/ Domino’s and Yellow Chilli. No Food court
Soham– No stand alone outlet nor food court
Central mall-Temptations food court( the only food court of a mall in the city)- Vaah India/Naga Food Konspiracy/Dominos/Baskin Robbins/Jiffy’s/dosa Plaza/DH’S food express/CCD
Dona Planet– PVR cinemas/ Woking Mama(oriental cuisine)/night cap(bar)/Sweet and sour(soon to be opened)/ baskin robbins/mother’s food/Pizza Hut.No food court
Silver Square– Mandarin court (stand in alone chinese restaurant). No food court
Pantaloons that occupies a huge building has an in house CCD.
Food villa– Stand alone food court( Panbazaar)
Hub mall boasts of two stand alone restaurants , Dominos and CCD but no food court, while Silver Square which is famous for housing Westside, has a Chinese restaurant called Mandarin Court, but no food court
Dona Planet which boasts of the only PVR of the city, takes pride in hosting few individual restaurants ,(most popular being Woking Mama ) and night clubs but no food court.
Food Villa, the stand alone food court at Panbazaar-This apart, the only food court that is actually most popular due to its strategic location is a stand alone food court right in the heart of the city ,namely Food villa. Designed more like huge restaurant setting, it has a total of four different brands and a separate section called high street food that serves the street snacks like Samosas and a range of Chats at Rs 50.
This is quite noteworthy for this city.An astounding open food court right in the busy area of Panbazar, opposite to Cotton College(the best college of North East), it is a place that is packed to the brim at all times. Located at the most busiest area of the city with college students, the high court and other corporate offices , apart from being a commercial hub , frequented by shoppers, it offers a vibrant ambiance and a sprawling space that seeks to offer you the best of food on the go. Nothing of this sort ever existed earlier. Also due its strategic location, the food court seems to be crowded at all times. While the food court in a mall attracts you only if shopping is a part of your agenda, here at food villa, the walk -ins are high due to its buzzing activity in the area on a daily basis. The college students, the frequent shopper, the office goers and the high court lawyers, everyone finds it the best solution for a quick grub. Located right at the judge’s field opposite cotton college, it’s is absolutely on the main road, hence easy to locate and park as well.
With a huge open place outside and indoor seating capacity as well,complimented by greenery all around, it offers you varied ambiance of peace and serenity, while the indoor seating evokes the ever so noisy atmosphere of a food court, but with a certain vibrancy of the atmosphere, the efficient staff always on their toes to assist you. The back side also has a banquet hall for parties that can be hosted and a mini park for kids too. With such a wide sprawling space this is one of its kind for the city and very neatly done up .I haven’t seen a gorgeous well laid ,and beautiful food court anywhere else .Very well conceived and planned and needs an applause .Be it for you quick lunch during work hours, or a cup of tea or even for a sweet college date, it has the capacity to attract one and all. But beyond this, the city does not own any other noteworthy food court .
Summing Up :Overall,while Guwahati is all ready to gain the status of a smart city with an increasing number of people being aware of Guwahati as a city , fuelled with astounding heritage and natural flora and fauna, the river Brahmaputra with all its glory that give sit a scenic beauty, it’s hills and mountains giving plenty to call for a tourist destination, yet the city asks for more .It asks for an identity that makes it in par with other cities and seeks for an eclectic selection of elements that completes the food and dining scene. It seeks a morphing of modernity and traditions with amenities,it asks for an enriching shopping and dining experience that still evades the city .A very culturally rich laded educated system that hold the roots of Assamese culture, the citizens are aware of the world and awaits the day when Guwahati adorns itself with an environment that houses and engulfs all the ecosystem that beholds a metro. For that, not just brands, but the behavioral culture , the dining scene, the shopping experience needs to be accentuated with elements that imbues a push to being no closer to a metro city. With the 5 stars coming in, the scene is already changing. Business is growing, .The exemplary opening ceremony of football league 2016 is a proof to the fact that Guwahati as a city can stand tall in all its glory and attitude. The food and dining scene is progressing as well with few brands warming up to the embrace of the citizens. However, that’s not enough. The city asks for more.
The food courts , a decent number of the bigger brands and malls is what the city eagerly awaits in anticipation. An opportunity that lays untapped so far. With a mall that beholds a fancy food court like that ones that compliments the bigger malls like Phoenix, Inorbit , Infinity, the city will perhaps be ready to walk at par with the bigger cities.A need for that food court is definetely a must .
With the absence of a typical large mall, the food court attached alongwith; that opens up to a great dining and shopping experience is missing today ;so are a number of bigger restaurant chains that form the crux of the dining experience of a city. And this, in my belief is an opportunity. A ,mall with a great food court brings in with itself an experience that the customer seeks and feels complete, that rules his way of life, that becomes a part of his weekend plans and soon becomes a template for the city culture. This change has come through in many cities with the opening of malls and food courts . Guwahati needs it badly for a significant change towards being proclaimed a Smart City and a possible metro in future perhaps. Inspite of many stand- alone restaurants and food villa that works to a great extent to create some kind of an experience, the city needs a food court , a premium mall and bigger restaurant chains that which will complete the f& b experience for a consumer.
And ‘Aromas food court’ at the soon to be opened mall , ‘Citi Centre’ can choose to fill this gap and create a dynamic change in the F&B scenario of the city and provide the citizens an enriching experience that brings it at par with contemporary, versatile food courts in bigger malls of other cities. It is an opportunity to conjure up a diverse mix of brands and represent a food court that embodies all the elements of a luxury mall. This is not just about a food court but will bring in a significant change in the food culture of the city is my belief. Till then , we await in anguish and eagerness for a significant ,change and wish for that elusive food court and bigger chains of restaurant brands that will leave inedible footprints in the mall shopping and dining experience of this city. Unparalleled and unique for a customer’s F&B experience