India's Delhi region has the most number of burger eateries in the country at 31%, survey says; region's consumers generally pick fast food over healthier options, restaurant owners say

June 18, 2014 () – A survey ranks Delhi as having the biggest bite of India's burger pie; capital's eateries say it's because Delhiites love their meat and masala, and would eat a salad only if it's complimentary!

A recent survey by Foodpanda, an online food delivery service, reveals that Delhi has the maximum number of burger eaters in the country. The survey, based on the dinner orders of the portal over the past three months, shows that 31% of the burger eaters in the country are in Delhi. Restaurant owners in the capital are not surprised by the findings, as they say that the Delhiite isn't that much into healthy eating anyway, and generally does pick fast food over healthier options.

In the same survey, neighbour Gurgaon, surprisingly, had only 5% of the country's burger eaters - an indication that Delhi's love for junk food might not spill across the border. Rohit Chaddha, CEO of Foodpanda says, "Demographically, while Delhi has a large student population, Gurgaon has, mostly, young professionals living there.

Although, the average age of people living in Delhi would be much higher than those in Gurgaon, there is a more condensed form of health-conscious young professionals in Gurgaon." Talking about the eating-out options available to the residents of these two cities, he adds, "The density of fast food outlets in Gurgaon is lower than that in Delhi, I'd say. When it comes to health foods outlets, the choice available to a Gurgaon resident is much higher. McDonald's is an indicator - it is more popular in Delhi. In Delhi, the trend is different, but in Gurgaon, restaurants expand into Lebanese, Mexican and other international cuisines."

Some of the popular restaurants which have outlets in both the cities give us their versions of the fast food consumption habits of their customers in the two cities. While some of them agree with the survey, there are others that see Delhi and Gurgaon as brothers in taste. Prasoon Gupta, founder-director of Sattviko says, "The people who can afford to live in Gurgaon are those who are on executive positions; the beginner-level employees are mostly living on the outskirts of Gurgaon because they simply can't afford to live in Gurgaon. So it's the highly educated, executive class population that makes up families where both the partners are working professionals. And they are conscious about their eating habits; these are the people who can have salads for lunch. In Gurgaon, you have a salad trend, but in Delhi, people eat salad only if it's complimentary - you would rarely see a customer in Delhi consciously ordering salad. That is why Subway in Gurgaon works much better than in Delhi."

Sanjiv Pandey, marketing manager, Subway Systems India Private Limited, says, "Our observation of the consumption patterns at Subway restaurants in Delhi and Gurgaon is that in Delhi, the focus of the consumers is on indulgence, while in Gurgaon, the consumers are more conscious towards choosing healthier options. A major reason behind the difference is the fact that Gurgaon caters to an upwardly mobile and working population for whom convenience plays an important role."

Maintaining the idea of the overlapping status of the cities' cultures, other restaurant owners and chefs disagree with the idea of Gurgaon being more health-conscious than Delhi as a city. Using the 'Punjabi' bond of the cities and a growing culture of casual dining as his arguments for the similarity between Delhi and Gurgaon, Shiv Karan Singh, owner of Smokey's BBQ and Grill says, "Burgers are basically comfort food; they are not a part of fine dining. If the number of burger eaters in Gurgaon is less than that in Delhi, I think the only reason is that there are not enough burger places in the city. Because I think, Delhi and Gurgaon have a shared Punjabi culture - they all want their meat and masala.

Delhi used to have a five star culture, but that has gone down. And across the border, the customers are very similar in their demand for casual dining, I feel."

Dheeraj Gupta, MD of Jumbo King, adds, "Our sales are actually much better in Gurgaon as compared to Delhi. And that's probably because of the advantageous location of our stores in Gurgaon - outside the Metro stations. In Delhi, we just have one store in Laxmi Nagar. So in my experience, people are the same all over; they all want to indulge themselves at least once or twice a week. If other sellers can't find enough customers in Gurgaon, I'd blame it on the location of their stores." Chef Bakshish Dean, Johnny Rockets, argues, "I think that especially during dinner hours, the demand for food in these two cities is exactly the same. During lunch hours, maybe because of the large number of working professionals and the shopping mall culture in Gurgaon, the functioning of the two cities is different. But at dinner time, it's just the same as Delhi."

McDonald's and KFC remained unavailable for comment till the time of going to press.

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