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Chain restaurants and cafes on the way to the temple: places of worship attract the most large food service companies

Ayodhya, the Golden Temple, Vaishno Devi, Tirupati and Shirdi have become major attractions for multinational and Indian restaurant and cafe chains such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Domino’s, Burger Singh, Subway and ChaiPoint. They are setting up stores in such pilgrimage complexes that offer large captive markets and a first-mover advantage as they seek to expand physical stores after two years, while respecting religious dictates.

“Most of these chains plan to grow by segmenting the market, to tap into niches such as pilgrimages, highways, places of historical significance and tourist spots, as consumers return to dining, travel and out-of-home shopping,” Pankaj said. Renjhen, co-CEO of real estate consultancy Anarock Retail.

Rajeev Varman, General Manager of Burger King, which opened its first store in Katra, where the Vaishno Devi temple is located, said: “Our new restaurant in Katra is the world’s first 100% vegetarian Burger King outlet, without onion or garlic. Burger King, backed by Everstone Capital, which operates 325 outlets, said the food served at this restaurant “meets the expectations of patrons”.

The Indian unit of another US chain, McDonald’s North and East, has been allocated two sites by the Vaishno Devi Shrine Board on Yatra Road, which are expected to be operational by the end of September.

First-mover advantage

The company plans to open outlets in the Ayodhya, Kamakhya Temple and Katra resorts in the coming months, said Anant Agarwal, promoter of McDonald’s North and East. “We will offer purely vegetarian products, without onion or garlic, at affordable prices,” Agarwal said. McDonald’s North and East has two all-vegetarian outlets at Golden Temple in Amritsar and Kurukshetra in Haryana, which according to Agrawal have average sales of over Rs 1.5 lakh per day per store.

Executives said places of worship are proving to be major draws for large foodservice companies because it gives them a first-mover advantage.

Kabir Jeet Singh, co-founder of Burger Singh backed by Negen Capital and LetsVenture, said the chain is in the process of setting up its store in Ayodhya near the Ram mandir complex.

“Fitouts are underway and we expect to open the store in a few weeks,” Singh said. “There is a large captive market and a lack of competition in shrines. Worshipers want hygienic, quality food that is lacking in many busy places of worship.”

Although rentals are competitive, executives said the operations of large-scale companies have reached critical mass in their supply chains, so they are able to better serve smaller markets now, compared to to just a few years ago.

Chai Point tea-café this week announced its first store in the town hall complex near the Golden Temple, to add to its existing network of 180 stores. Chai Point’s general manager, Amuleek Singh Bijral, said the chain held a “chai langar” at the Golden Temple on the morning of August 15 “as a tribute to entering the holy city”.

The challenges of setting up outlets in smaller but high-traffic sites are similar to those in any small town, property managers said.

“Rentals in these locations are entirely market driven,” said Renjhen of Anarock Retail. “The challenges are getting property with facilities and amenities, and complying with local regulations.”

dominoes,

and Pizza Hut and KFC, operated by Sapphire Foods, as well as McDonald’s, said in their quarterly results that offline expansion was back on the table, after two years of a pandemic-induced focus on deliveries. Domino’s Pizza, operated by FoodWorks, which has more than 1,500 outlets in India, counts its Tirupati store as one of its best performers. Vaishno Devi recorded an annual yatra attendance of 5.59 million visitors in 2021, according to the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board website. The Golden Temple is known to attract more than 100,000 visitors a day on weekdays and 150,000 to 200,000 on weekends, according to an earlier report by the UK-based World Book of Records.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement