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Jeetesh Kaprani, VP – Operations, KA Hospitality that owns Otto Infinito, attributes the casual dining trend to the changing lifestyle of people. "So many people in the city are single. Working couples also find it tough to cook everyday. These people often walk into these eateries alone at various hours of the day for a meal or coffee while reading a book or browsing the internet," he explains.
Casual dining options, therefore, give people space, allowing them to put their feet up, relax and also provide an experience which, Abhishek Honawar, co-owner, The Pantry, refers to as "second home". Facilities such as free wi-fi, a bar and the freedom to sit for as long as one desires, aid this. "It is about building a one-on-one and long-term relationship with customers," says Honawar.
Tarini Mohindar of Cafe Zoe recounts how she and co-owners Jeremie Horowitz and Viraf Patel felt a dearth of places that offered more than good food. "We were looking for a place that could be a hangout — casual and easy yet focussing on experience, and at a pricing that is affordable," explains Mohindar, adding that reasonable pricing plays a huge part in a casual dining space.
Since the focus is on experience, setting plays a huge role too. Ayaz Basrai of The Bus Ride design studio, which has designed the interiors for Jam Jar Diner and Salt Water Cafe in Bandra, explains that in such spaces, food takes a backseat. "The spaces are designed to facilitate interactions between tables, which are not placed too far from one another, as in a fine-dining eatery. Also, very often such spaces provide space for live acts," he explains.
It is this package of giving a complete experience that appeals to Mumbai's casual diners. "It offers scope for experimentation too," adds Kaprani. At Otto Infonito, the aim is to provide a varied experience every time a customer walks in. "We have on menu items from across the Mediterranean cuisine, also sandwiches, burgers and other daily specials," he says. The Pantry is aiming to promote local produce with nothing save the ketchup that is imported. "The scene has evolved in a way that customers of any age group can walk in at any hour of the day to have a good time," Honawar says.
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