While many restaurants shut during the pandemic, Priyank Sukhija opened new ones that not only spurred employment opportunities in the industry but also catered to the newly acquired taste buds and mindsets of post-pandemic diners. The restaurateur talks to our senior editor about his vision and strategies for the Indian F&B industry. By Chirag Mohanty Samal
Priyank Sukhija talks to T+L about the pandemic and expansion plans
How did the pandemic affect you?
The pandemic was hard for everyone involved with the F&B industry, be it owners, kitchen staff, managers, or even backend office staff. Even though we are recovering now, it’s going to be long before the industry covers up the losses.
While many restaurants shut in 2020, you widened your portfolio. How did you manage that?
I had no option but to emerge stronger post this pandemic. First Fiddle is a huge organisation, and hundreds of people rely on it. We made a conscious decision to open more restaurants for a two-fold purpose. On one hand, it allowed us to cater to the audiences with experiences pertaining to post-pandemic mindsets such as The Living Room at Miso Sexy [private dining area], while on the other hand, it allowed us to spur industry growth as we created more employment opportunities.
What innovations or strategies do you think will work for the food industry in the post-pandemic world?
I believe that there will be a higher focus on quality, experiences, and global affairs over price, mediocrity, and repetition. People now have a higher appreciation for exclusivity and out-of-the-box experiences. The food industry will also have to take digital communication more seriously.
Tell us about your expansion plans. Which cities do you plan to set up restaurants in and why?
We’re coming up with three new brands in Delhi soon, which are completely new concepts and will offer an immersive experience to our patrons. For our existing brands, we are now opening franchises in various tier 2 and tier 3 cities such as Hyderabad, Guwahati, Lucknow, and Kanpur.
What are your favourite culinary destinations?
In terms of pure authenticity of cuisine and the variety of food offered, I’ll have to say Spain, Japan, and Thailand. The flavours and dishes I’ve indulged in these countries have been a source of constant amazement. That aside, destinations like London and New York help me understand how different cities take authentic tastes and make them their own. For example, the sushi in Japan and the sushi in an Asian restaurant in London taste vastly different. One is authentic, while the other is created to cater to British tastes.
What’s your success mantra?
Only offer that which you love yourself. With every brand, I play a hands-on role in food tastings, menu curation, decor ideas, and theme selection. I create brands that I would love to visit, party, and eat at myself.