Ankit Gupta and Chirag Chhajer of Burma Burma on the future of experience-led dining
There are plenty of reasons why one should step out for a meal at the biggest-ever Burma Burma outpost at Park Street, but the indoor detailing, steeped in cultural expressiveness, is perhaps its biggest aesthetic currency. The tea room’s woven chattai paneling, murals of the old city of Bagan, British colonial pendant lights are a specimen in how far experience-led dining has come in the country.
Though the pandemic has dealt a rather cruel hand to the experience-led dine-in culture (that was just finding footing in Tier-1 cities) , it's not that people have stopped stepping out. Broadly speaking, the fine dining scene is in recovery mode. Ankit Gupta and Chirag Chhajer of Burma Burma reveal that the Park Street outlet is currently one of the highest grossing outposts of the chain. The diner has managed to draw people out to taste their famed Taro Moringa soup and freshly-made thokes. But curating authentic DIY experiences, be it with well-designed packaging, home kits (their packaged lotus stem chips and Make it Yourself Bubble Tea kits are already a rage), or exclusive retail products is the next big thing for eateries like Burma Burma, reveal Gupta and Chhajer:
Tell us why you decided to bring Burma Burma to Kolkata
Kolkata and Burma share a historic connection, with erstwhile Calcutta and Rangoon (Yangon) being twin cities during the colonial era. Even today there is a community of Indian repatriates who after their return from Burma had made Kolkata their home. We want our restaurant to be a place where one can relive the era gone by through food and art.
Do you see a change in dining patterns?
Yes, we were predominantly a brand known for our dine-in experiences, but ever since the pandemic our consumers are now actively ordering online. This has made it important for us to focus on our packaging. But the response we have received is highly encouraging. Kolkata happens to be one of our top grossing restaurants, the people have loved our food, and this has given us the much needed confidence!
What are some of the functional changes you’ve had to introduce?
Within the restaurant we have tech integration at various levels, guests can now order by simply scanning a QR code, they can also pay through the same method. The attention and importance to safety and hygiene was always there but it has now become our second nature to extensively sanitise at every step, install hi-tech sanitisation machines across our restaurants and be extremely mindful of the health and safety of our staff.
The biggest challenge in running a fine diner amid a health crisis?
Our biggest challenge so far is the low footfalls in typically crowded places like malls. We have Burma Burma restaurants in two different malls across India and there has been a drop in the footfall in both these restaurants. The imposition of night curfews in certain cities also has had an adverse effect on the number of guests who come in for dinner slots.
Do you think Kolkata's dining culture is different from Mumbai, Delhi or Bengaluru?
Yes, the people of Kolkata love their sweets! Our desserts are always in demand, and the diners naturally love the live dessert bar. Plus, a New International Desserts menu designed by Pastry Chef Vinesh Johnny is slated to be out January onwards.
Are you planning something new?
Yes, we plan on introducing our small plates menu consisting 7-8 dishes from Burma by next month. We will also be retailing products from Burma that have been unavailable in India. Our diners who want to cook Burmese food at home have been particularly waiting for this vertical which will be live soon!