Eating out alone for a woman was well beyond the cultural norm till a few decades back in India. But things are changing now and eateries today are witnessing an increased number of women consumers opting to eating out, alone. Industry veterans chalk out the reasons, trends and preferences of the modern foodie women.
It would have been seen as a taboo in the yesteryears for a woman to suggest eating out often and by often, we mean eating out more than twice a week. Today, eating out is a norm. A culture. A necessity. What makes women eat out? Thirst for good food? Thirst to experiment with different cuisines? Paucity of time? More economic independence? To take a break from the routine? Or a combination of all?
Although this phenomenon is generally attributed to the growth in the number of working women in India, they have been working since a long time now. The only difference is that unlike in the yesterteryears, the generation today has an active social life too. Being always home bound after work is a passé. Even if indoors, majority of the time is spent catching up on social media and with friends. This leaves little time to get into cooking and chores. And eventually, this makes us conclude that the culture of eating out has grown amongst women.
Amit Chawla, Food & Beverage Manager, Renaissance Lucknow Hotel, shares an interesting insight when he says that the orthodox dynamics of society vis-a-vis woman is fast changing. He shares, “This is apparent in the way women are eating out on their own and enjoying themselves, not just in the metros, but even in tier -I cities like Lucknow. Earlier, they would step out only with their families for dinners or for weekday kitty parties. Today, with more education and growing disposal incomes, women, both young and not so young, are seeking enjoyment and dining out with their friends. It’s a healthy trend.”
Based on what he observes at Renaissance, he shares how they are even frequented by elderly women having kitty parties as well. He adds, “It is gratifying to see their grandchildren helping them organize it or escorting them to the do. There are housewives meeting at restaurants for Sunday brunches without families. Ladies’ theme parties, especially during festivities, is very in these days in cities. Even young girls are opting for women’s day outs on Fridays and Saturdays.”
At Renaissance, they make it a point to have ladies special events and initiatives. On the initiatives at Renaissance Lucknow, Chawla shares, “We frequently organize ladies’ nights like Stelletto night, Glam-Up night and Salsa night, and even offer 20 percent discount on kitty party buffet, complimentary mocktails and designer cakes for the host to take away. There are also special brunches on Mother’s Day, Bhai Dooj, Rakhi, Women’s Day and Karwa Chauth.”
A walk in any of the shopping centres and malls will bring before us the number of women present therein vs men. And no shopping/outing is ever complete without grabbing a bite or sitting for a cup of coffee. This, again, has led to the culture of having more women opting out to eat as against men. Mahesh M, Chief Executive Officer, Ishanya, is quick to highlight that though this trend of having ladies frequenting restaurants and having their group gatherings over lunch menus has been seen from yesteryears, the last couple of years have witnessed an interesting addition where ladies spend afternoons or evenings in solo or smaller groups at restaurants and seek personalized menus. He shares, “Thanks to extensive travel and lots of social networking, many restaurants have understood the expectations of ladies and tailored their offerings. Be it a cocktail or an evening snack, there are subtle variants that they offer based on the changing preferences. Promotions and offers are also now exclusively carved out.” He cites this as a positive trend as this would lead to an emergence of an entirely new segment, which according to him, will only help in bringing more vibrancy and excitement in the dining business.
- In the last two years, we have noticed a strong upsurge across instances of more women going out in groups of 2-3.
- The preferred meal is generally lunch and early evenings.
- Independent rooftop bars and cafes are more frequented
- Women are reserving more tables as opposed to men – almost 65 percent of dineout consumers are women – clearly stating that women are more planned, do not want to wait outside a restaurant and are more tech friendly.
- The age group of 22-35 years is going out more often with rising incomes and stronger metro friendly family structures.
- Sunday brunches are a massive hit amongst the female user base.
- Instance of Ladies Special Nights are on the rise.
– Ankit Mehrotra, Co-Founder, Dineout
Chef Kunal Arolkar of Foodybreaks.com, a Patisserie Consulting Collective based in Mumbai and Goa, shares his perspective based on his years of experience across various 5-star hotels/restaurants of the country. According to him, the food industry has always focused on women and children, as they are the actual decision makers when a family dines out; men and elders just pay the bill. He makes an interesting point that is centred around ‘loyalty’ of women customers. He shares, “Restaurants and bars always have women on their mind, as they are more likely to remember promotions and are generally more brand-loyal. Many outlets have healthy food options, ladies’ nights, BOGO offers and kitty party deals, amongst others, all to entice women to dine out more frequently.”
According to Arolkar, women today are seen to be more adventurous as compared to men in trying out different options and experimenting with world cuisine. On a lighter note, he shares, “I’m no master of women’s eating preferences, but I daresay, apart from patisserie and chocolates being a constant, women are more adventurous than men in terms of trying different food.”
Rajendra Kalkar, President (West), The Phoenix Mills Limited, revealed that women are an important target audience for their property as according to him, women play a very strong role when it comes to retail consumption. He stated that with the trend of growing independence and working women who have a larger proportion of disposable income, they not only run the house but also spend on a sizeable sum pampering themselves. He shares, “There are restaurants in our mall who do offer deals and discounts on certain days while there are certain pubs that offer the ladies night with an emphasis on creating unique experiences for our women customers.” The tram at The High Street Phoenix undertakes initiatives to host multiple cooking and gourmet food sessions in association with Foodhall for women inviting celebrity chefs. Citing another women centric initiative, he shares, “At California Pizza Kitchen too, we have hosted women with their kids for pizza making workshops among other activities.”
Another popular trend apart from eating out is of opting for tiffin services. The morning rush has increased thanks to the growing popularity of the nuclear family concept and a lot many women opt for tiffin services if they aren’t too comfortable with the canteen food available at their workplace or ordering from a nearby restaurant on a daily basis. Says Smitha Shah, a lady who provides tiffin services in Mumbai, “Our business is growing multifold. In Mumbai, we have a lot of crowd that lives here for work. A lot many single women from across the country work here and they prefer having home cooked food instead of ordering restaurant food everyday. If I have to look at the dynamics, earlier we had mostly men as part of our client list but today, I have an equal number of women subscribers.”
Vinu Sundaresan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, vMobo Inc., shares that the overall spend by women in the luxury segment has been higher than men (60-40 percent) in general. This was primarily driven by spend in the personal care and fashion segments – over 70 percent of the spend. Looking at the trends over the last 2 years, the overall percentage of spend ratio between women and men are the same, but the spend in the restaurant space by women has gone up from 15 to 25 percent. He shares, “Looking at the data, two reasons come up — One, more professional women spending during the day and secondly, the kitty parties crowd.”
Just as a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, we can now safely say that a way to a women’s heart is through providing and introducing her with good dining options outside her home! And with the burgeoning options available in this segment now, it is safe to assume that the number of women opting to eat out will only increase in the years to come.