In a telephonic conversation with restaurant India, Suren Joshi of I Think Fitness Cafe talks about healthy food trend.
Born and bred in Mumbai Suren is a force to reckon with. He started his venture with Pali Village Café, which has easily become one of the ultimate bastions of culinary hipness, Pali Bhavan, which has given a new surreal dining experience to city’s foodies and I Think Fitness, the trendy and spacious gymnasium where the crème de le crème (Kareena Kapoor, Jackqueline Fernandez, Malaika Arora khan and Aditya Roy Kapoor) works out. Joshi has recently come up with an uber cool café I think Fitness Café serving healthy treats to the city. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
How it all began?
I have opened restaurants with the necessity of wanting to eat that particular cuisine that I’d like to eat. Every place is different from each other to point where I can entertain myself and I believe that it’s my liking and everybody will like it or if I love it everybody else will love it and that’s how it’s been so far.
Is it difficult to manage different categories or do you find it interesting?
It is diificult, if you think it is difficult, so I don’t think it’s difficult. It depends on where you stand. I personally don’t take stress about these things. And Pali Village Café and Pali Bhavan are mainly maintained by my partner Vaishali as she is the one who has done the interior and has taken care of the food outlet. All the work is very well divided. And we got a strong team so it’s pretty easy.
Talking about I think fitness café, is it for the fitness freaks only or is it capturing the complete masses?
It’s actually clean food, it is fat free food. Helathy food is also termed as clean food but we do the food with some moderation breaking the myth that healthy is boring. Like the food has fat, sugar in it, but it is all done in moderation.
Healthy food has just started to grow and the market is very niche. How do you see it?
Nobody ever tried it; the first people who tried it were the Bombay Salad Company and a couple of more maybe. And, they are doing really great today with a daily sale of over a lakh rupees.
Who is your target audience?
We are not catering to the majority as we believe that it is very important to understand who the clientele is. If you are going into the whole majority segment the connotations completely changes. It is not the same old India where you wake up in the morning and drink a glass of milk or butter. People today look for healthier alternatives as they want to look good. We restaurateurs have also capitalized on this as everybody is posing for healthy food and fitness. We are basically catering to the middle, upper middle, and upper class because the masses are very difficult to please.
Many fitness chains are opening fitness cafes. What is the reason? Do they need to eventually convince their customers to eat healthy?
This is happening because the awareness is very high around this; think of it as human psychology, it’s literally that simple. There was a time when there were no cell phones but everything is changing; now facebook and instagram are there and people are seeing fitness posts with beautiful people, looking great. Everybody wants to be like them and look great and they are aware about fitness and food. Times have changed and now foods also have to change. Plus they are smaller models, you can start a fitness café in 800 sq. feet space, but for a normal restaurant you need 2000-2500 sq. feet space.
What is your reason for entering this segment?
It is to capture the fitness clients but there are many people who do not go to the gym but come to the café to have a cup of coffee and salad. They don’t want to go to the gym but you still eat the salad as you don’t want to put on weight.
How is the menu designing done?
I have proper team on board. I have a proper nutritionist in the restaurant curating the menu; we have a new menu every week so that the food does not get boring.
In terms of sourcing the raw material do you localize it or import?
We get few foods sourced locally and few which are not available in the market we import it. We get Blue Berries, Avocado imported from different countries.
What is your expansion plan?
I have no plans I usually see a nice property and then I decide what I will do with it. So right now I’m not planning on anything new. If someone comes and say that they want to open a branch of any of my restaurants, I’d be very happy to franchise.
Do you see any competition in the market?
Yes there is always competition in the segment. There are new restaurants opening up every day but I don’t look at it in that way, I see it very differently. I understand that if I’m not doing well there is something I’m not focusing on and need improvement.