Walking through the sprawling, newly-opened IKEA store here needs energy and the company is making sure that customers get to recharge at its trademark restaurant. The 1,000-seater restaurant is the biggest among the Swedish home furnishings retailer's global network in 50 countries.The thousands of customers who flocked IKEA's first India store that opened on August 9 had a massive range of 7,500 world-class products to choose from. With 1,000 products priced below Rs 200, the affordability and the quality of the international brand was the talk of the town.So also was the restaurant, with half its menu offering Indian and the other half Swedish food -- in line with the company's global practice."We cater to the local taste wherever we have our operations and half of our food here is Swedish," Henrik Osterstrom, Country Food Manager, IKEA Food, told IANS at the restaurant, teeming with hundreds of customers.At the India store, chicken meat balls have replaced beef meat balls, a popular dish on IKEA's menu globally. It has also dropped pork from the menu for India."Since many people in India don't eat beef, we are not selling it. As there are many Muslims, we are respecting their sentiments as well by not selling pork," Osterstrom said.The menu includes vegetable biryani, salmon fillet, dal makhni, cakes, green salad, fruit salad, cinnamon buns and and variety of beverages.
Osterstrom is happy with the customers' response so far. "It's fantastic to see so many people coming here. We are selling a lot of biryani, chicken meat balls, veggie balls and dal makhani as well," he said.Like its home furnishing products, IKEA is also offering a menu to suit all sizes of wallets. Vegetable biryani is priced at Rs 99, chicken meat balls at Rs 149 and veggie balls at Rs 129."We have ensured that the food is affordable, of high quality and of good taste. We call it Swedish-feel Indian-appeal," said Osterstrom.The Swedish dishes include chicken meat balls, salmon fillet, lingonberry juice and cinnamon buns.Customers have to serve themselves -- right from picking up trays and trolleys to collecting food and later leaving the trays and trolleys at designated points. The service is quick as customers collect their orders in a couple of minutes while moving in the queue along the food counters and the billing is done while heading towards their tables.Why choose India for the company's biggest restaurant globally? "It became like that. I think food is starting point in India. We have large restaurants in other countries, especially in Asia, where food is vital. We wanted to give a nice atmosphere and make sure that it is not crowded," he said.
Globally, restaurants contribute 10 percent of IKEA's sales but Osterstrom hopes it will be higher in India as big footfalls are expected. "People in India llove food. It's just the beginning and we will see more customers."Over 40,000 customers visited IKEA store on the first day. The company expects at least 60 lakh footfalls annually at the store, which has come up with an investment of Rs 1,000 crore in the heart of HITEC City, the information technology hub.IKEA plans to open 25 stores across India by 2025. The next store will open in Mumbai next year followed by Bengaluru and Delhi.The concept of a store is integral to IKEA, founded by Ingvar Kamprad in 1943."Our founder, from day one, had this idea. As our showrooms are huge and it takes time for customers to go around the entire store, they feel hungry. We also have a play area for kids. It should be fun day for the whole family," Osterstrom explained.The restaurant is located such that if customers feel hungry, after walking through one home furnishings section of the store, they should get new energy to enter the next phase of shopping, that is, the market hall.And, after another long walk through the market hall and checkout, customers find in front of them a cafe for refreshments. Here they get a wide range of cookies, chocolates and other delicacies. A samosa costs just Rs 10 while frozen yogurt, which tastes like soft serve ice cream, is also available at the same price.