For the longest time, the stand-alone business has been hitting hotels where it hurts most. While most five-star hotels have boasted of hosting an array of restaurants for their erudite well-heeled clientele, it has always come at a premium. So much so that certain restaurants were even considered almost too intimidating for the average Joe to even walk in to, let alone make a reservation.
This aloofness worked to feed the prestige of the business which worked to the hotels’ advantage. But all this changed with the rise and rise of restaurants in the stand-alone space. Suddenly fine dining wasn’t limited to the confines of these edifices of luxury. One could just step out of their car and be transported to an entirely different lair: from the back alleys of Bangkok to the wine-soaked trattorias of Italy or to a traditional sushi shop right out of Shibuya (Japan).
And it wasn’t just the location or setting which was inviting; even the prices were a lot more conceivably amenable. All in all, the dining-out business changed almost overnight and the last few years have been, to put it mildly, not the easiest for hoteliers.
Mind you, not all outlets felt the hit. Bastions of the Delhi brigade, from Bukhara and Dum Pukht (ITC Maurya) to La Piazza (Hyatt Regency) and Sorrento (Shangri-La), the iconic Indian Accent (The Lodhi) to the somewhat somber Wasabi (The Taj Mahal Hotel) and Megu (The Leela Palace), these have not just retained their steady stream of clients but even grown their business: Their USP has ensured their singularity and leadership in a field of imitations. But many others have fallen by the roadside and been left hurting in the spate of this stand-alone bubble.
Finally, the hotels have found a way to strike back, and they have done this by adopting the same strategy that has worked for stand-alone properties. Instead of opening extensive edifices of gastronomy, hotels are now focusing on smaller quasi or QSR (quick service restaurants) style formats which are efficient, sincere and rapidly replicable. The food comes with the same pedigree but the dishes are now a lot less elaborate. The drinks are simpler and more aggressively-priced, the service a lot less ceremonial. But it delivers with the same DNA as defines the mother property.
The China Kitchen (TCK) at The Hyatt Regency, Delhi has always maintained a stronghold in the Oriental food market and now they have launched TCK in the standalone format as well, starting with Cyber Hub in Gurgaon, a place where in the middle, restaurants went to languish and die but has seen a revival of sorts in recent times.
This is not just a franchise venture where the hotel is mongering its brand value to garner followers but is actively investing and entering into the standalone space, one which will allow them to be ubiquitously present without the burden of running room operations alongside. The F&B (food and beverages) possibilities henceforth are truly endless.
Mind you, they aren’t the first. Park Hotels did this long ago with their Italian brand. The Claridges chain, more recently, franchised their Dhaba fare. Sadly, the former is not around anymore while the standalone Dhaba is a poor reflection of the original restaurant in Lutyens’ Delhi. But with Hyatt, an international hospitality behemoth that has a strong F&B muscle, it will be exciting to see how things unfurl. So, if you happen to be in Cyber Hub, do give this place a go. I, for one, loathe making the journey to anywhere that is beyond 5-km radius from my place of abode but my curiosity about this new product will
take me there soon enough.The writer is a sommelier. firstname.lastname@example.org