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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Indian Restaurants in Europe with odd opening hours

During past 2 months, I have visited several European cities and in each city managed to find some Indian restaurant. While I was delighted to find homely food, the surprising bit for me was the very odd opening hours of many of these restaurants.

In India restaurants open early in the morning for breakfast- like 7 AM and continue to operate till night say 10 PM serving breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner without shutting down during day time. Of course some upmarket restaurants do not open for breakfast- they open at 10.30/11 Am and serve lunch to dinner. I was expecting a similar timing for Indian restaurants for Indian restaurants that operate in European cities, but what I found out is different.

In the city of Bern, Switzerland, I walked up to Maharaja Restaurant at about 12.20 pm hoping to find some lunch. It was a Sunday and I was treated to a locked door with a sticker which said on weekends they open only at 5.30 PM till 11PM. Essentially don't expect any food all day till sunset.


In the city of Bergen, Norway, Indian restaurant Lille Taste of  India opens only at 1PM, while another Indian restaurant, Arti opens only at 2 PM


In Geneva, Switzerland, this Indian restaurant opens at 11 AM but closes at 3PM, reopens at 5.30 to close again at night. Spotted few other restaurants later, they also had different timings.

In Brussels, Belgium, this Indian restaurant opens from 11.30- 2.30PM and again from 6PM to 11PM

I can understand opening late. I am not expecting any of these restaurants to open early for breakfast time. Most tourists will have free breakfast at hotel and or will be getting up late. So if you open a restaurant at 7AM you may not really get much customers. But opening too late in the afternoon, closing for few hours in the afternoon etc causes lots of inconvenience to customers- particularly tourists. Tourists may have a train to catch or things to do. If the restaurant they were counting on is closed, it may not always be possible to wait till restaurant opens. Tourists will be forced to manage with some non-Indian food and move on. It is worse on weekends. Weekends is when most tourists will be coming, so restaurants could use these days to open for additional hours and make some extra money. But they have even less working hours on Saturday and Sunday.

I checked and found that different restaurants will have different timings- there is no legal obligation or a uniform code as to when a restaurant should be open or closed. It is decided by the owners.

I am wondering why do they need to close completely in the afternoon? Why not stay open with probably less staff and reduced number of items on offer. Rent and salary and other such fixed expense will have to paid anyway so why not try earn some extra money?

Local families who are familiar with opening hours can plan well or cook at home as a backup option. It is the tourists who will feel betrayed seeing closed doors of a restaurant. If they open only at 5PM on Sunday, then tourists will have to go elsewhere for lunch. Coming back later could mean precious time and extra money on transportation.

I spoke to a staff in the Arti restaurant in Bergen- she said “People here usually do not take heavy breakfast as we do in India and they will have lunch early at 11-12 AM. We get most of our business in the evening hours”. Another staff in Geneva said “During Ramadan month we open extra hours. If we have customers we have no problem staying open extra”. This restaurant had closing hours marked as 3PM. When I went in at 3.20 PM it was still open, but when I wanted to order, I was offered only take away stating they are about to close.

Of course I am only sharing my observations. Each business owner has full authority to decide when he wants to do business and when to remain closed. I can’t guarantee them more business if they extend their business hours. But I feel staying open with skeleton staff/reduced number of items might be better than complete closure.

Many customers of Indian restaurants abroad where I visited were non-Indians. Just like how Indians go out to try Italian or Mexican or Thai food, others venture into Indian restaurants once a while. So the timing is probably very much fine for them, who form decent percentage of customer base for these restaurants.

Also may be I am a minority here. Being vegetarian and not very comfortable with non-Indian food, I rely heavily on Indian restaurants in a city to feed me something sensible I can fill my stomach with. My next option is to walk into outlets like Subway and ask them to make me a burger/sub without meat or buy some fruits and snacks from a supermarket and survive on it till better alternative is found. But other Indians who eat meat aren’t really dependent on Indian food when abroad. They may happily enjoy local cuisine or manage with any non-veg food they can find. Thus the closed doors may not impact them much. Just for once a bluemoon customers like me, they may not want to keep it open for several hours.

Another point to be noted that not all Indian restaurants are owned by Indians. Many are owned by Pakistani or Bangladeshi nationals. So may be the opening hours are influenced by their own culture back home.

Indian Restaurants in Copenhagen are good in this aspect. They don’t close in middle of the day. A Nepalese cuisine restaurant in Helsinki Finland called Everest also seemed to be fine- open from 11 AM till 11 (on Sundays 12 noon to 11 PM)

What are your thoughts? Have you faced similar scenarios?

2 comments :

prasun said...

Don't most similar (fine dining?) restaurants in Bangalore also open just for lunch and dinner?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Prasun:
Many upmarket restaurants do. But most medium priced outlets are open almost all through the day. Something or the other will be available if you are very hungry.