Rise of affluent middle class in India attracting upscale restaurants

Restaurateurs of upmarket and franchise chains are increasingly turning towards southeast Asia where the economy in India is growing at a breakneck pace.

And the brands that are eyeing the Indian market aren't just multinational corporations but trendy, fine dining establishments, points out a story in The Times of India .

With the rise of a burgeoning middle class and an affluent upper class, a string of restaurants like Le Cirque in Las Vegas, and fine dining restaurant Hakkasan in London see the southeast Asia market as the ideal place to expand their brand.

Le Cirque in the Bellagio Hotel is a Michelin-starred restaurant with a sister location in New York and serves gourmet French cuisine. Their next restaurant is slated to open this year in New Delhi.

Hakkasan serves modern, fine dining Chinese cuisine and has locations in London, Miami, and Abu Dhabi. Their Mumbai outpost is expected to open this year as well.

Trader Vic's, a Polynesian-themed restaurant with locations in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, also plans to open a location in India.

The latest additions to the gastronomic scene in India join other recent foreign imports like Le Pain Quotidien of Belgium, a breakfast and bakery chain, and California Pizza Kitchen, which opened its first location last summer and added another one last month.

Meanwhile, earlier this month 11 American foodservice companies that included representatives from Applebee's, burger chain Hardee's and Carl's Jr., and Wendy's/Arby's Group Inc. traveled to India on a trade mission in search of industry contacts and franchisees.

While growth in the Western world remains stagnant, India's economy is growing by eight percent a year. The food and beverage sector is worth $280 million and is also growing annually by about 30 percent, reported industry website Nation's Restaurant News which traveled with the trade mission to India.

The country has a middle class of more than 300 million people - or the size of the entire US population.

Success in India also depends on modifying menus to a beef-free clientele, where the cow is considered sacred.

The Maharajah Mac - the Indian equivalent of the Big Mac - for instance, uses ground chicken instead of ground beef and other local spices.

The McSpicy Paneer also uses the Indian cheese paneer as the meat patty substitute.

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