If there is one thing that goes really well with good food, it definitely has to be the ambience. Don't you think so? I don't know if I speak for everyone, but I am definitely one of those people who has a checklist when it comes to restaurant hunting. In the ever changing world of the food and beverage industry, the dining space too has seen a major shift in the manner they portray themselves to a customer. If I may say so, the crowd is no longer appeased by just good food, they need a fulfilling experience served on the side as well. Which brings us straight to the topic at hand: the rising popularity of theme-based restaurants. It goes without saying that we all love a good deal. And if, with good food comes an unforgettable experience, why would one refuse to participate? Not only has the scenario of the restaurant business changed and adapted to times, it has also gone the extra mile to innovate and create novelty. From a jail themed Kaidi Kitchen in Kolkata to a Cat Cafe Studio in Mumbai, a haven for cat and coffee lovers, we are looking out for places to eat where the ambience is just as top notch as its food (I mean, if the 'gram is satisfied, we've got no complaints).
But let's take a few steps back. How did this come to be? What was the inspiration that struck this innovative thought and thus started this trend? In a conversation with Prasuk Jain, Managing Director at Snow World Entertainment, he told us 'India had a vacuum of entertainment, it was very old school in my opinion. I wanted to create unique and different concepts that were not only entertaining but also novel. The vision is to enhance experiences with the addition of new verticals and diversity over a time period. Our projects always aim to add a new dimension to the amusement of the Indian audience.' Snow World Entertainment is a parent to quite a few well known theme-based restaurants in Mumbai, like The Game Palacio, Pink Wasabi, The Game Garden & Beer Garden, The Game Ranch and Amazonia.
While the aforementioned restaurants have been in the business for quite some time, we also got in touch with the co-founder of Nava, Anushka Pathak, an ingredient-driven restaurant in Bandra. Anushka felt that there was a need to bring these exciting affairs closer to the crowd, rather than populate one locale with such experiences, hence the choice of location. 'It started off as a childhood dream of mine, to have a restaurant of my own. And now that I do, I just had to make it special in my own way. I have done my fair share of travel and a lot of these adventures have helped me shape Nava to be what it is. A number of restaurants in the United States focus on their local ingredients or the exotic ingredients that they procure. Apart from this I also thought there was a certain credibility that came with a restaurant having space for an open-kitchen, where the consumer is not just served food, but can also be a part of the process vicariously if not physically. Nava also takes a lot of inspiration from renowned artists across the world, like Van Gogh or Banksy and the ideology here is to serve you "art on a plate". After all, preparing and plating a dish to appeal to the consumer is no less than creating a painting and some of these ideas are even birthed.'
Be it artsy, contemporary, naturalistic or even whimsical, with the emergence of social media the rules of dining have changed. 'With a new generation of diners looking for Instagrammable and fully immersive and curated experiences, theme restaurants are on an upswing. Plus, people nowadays try to avoid the hassle of cooking an elaborate platter at home. They want to explore more places and new cuisines. Over and above, eating out is becoming an avocation and a popular way of recreation. To explore something new and delicious is always what the taste buds demand. This is why the food and beverage industry keeps on evolving or rather needs to keep evolving with new trends. The concept of theme-based restaurants pushes the conventional boundaries,' said Mr. Jain. And Anushka Pathak was of a similar opinion as well. 'I wanted to move away from the idea that concept-based restaurants are too fancy, that's one of the main reasons I wanted to open in Bandra, a locale accessible to people from different walks of life. It's true that selling an experience is just as important as selling your product, but I don't want to cater to only a certain group of people, if I was going to do it my way, it had to be for all those people looking for a novel experience while dining at a restaurant that does not necessarily describe its food as a part of a particular cuisine. We like exploring rather than being stuck in a box, which is why we've chosen a very cuisine agnostic approach, in a way also ensuring that everyone who walks into Nava, can find something they'll like.'
Now that we think about it, the underlying psychology is fairly simple. We all are trying to fill our bucket of memories with unique adventures to talk about and with a world that is evolving constantly, it only makes sense that an activity as simple as having a meal with friends and family also evolves with the added quality of being new, fun and unique. And like I said before, if it's grammable, it most definitely is doable. But now that we have come a long way from dhabhas to fine-dining and now moving onto clubbed experiences and even AI automated restaurants, I feel the need to step back and ask myself and the reader as well: did we see this coming? And now that we have reached a stage where robots are employed to serve you your meal, is there a step further in this game of novelty. If there is, it most definitely will inspired enough to catch us all by surprise, don't you think?
Natasha Kittur is an aspiring writer. Her love for anything with cheese and spice is profound, but a white sauce pasta always tops her list. In her free time you will catch her reading or watching crime books and shows or go on and on about psychological experiments and theories. She aims to write a book in the fictional genre someday.