Koushika Vishwanath, the head brewer of The Grid, was not inclined towards the F&B industry, but since childhood, he had this hobby of preparing drinks for his family. The preparation techniques always excited him which made him take this up as a profession. He started learning all the intricacies of spirit and alcohol which pushed him to join The Grid as there his passion finally got its way as a profession.
The Grid is Kolkata’s first gastro-brew up and gained a lot of popularity in the market in a very short span of time. The look is pretty industrial, and the 10,000-sq ft space looks like a place where you can sit for hours and have a glass of beer, or ten!
The microbrewery is one of a kind and offers different elements. From mouth-watering global cuisine, foot-tapping music, microbrewery or awe-inspiring interiors, there are plenty of options to keep you hooked for long.
In Conversation with Koushika Vishwanath, Head Brewer Of The Grid
In an exclusive interview with The Restaurant Times, Koushika Vishwanath spills the beans on the growing brewery culture, the operational challenges involved, marketing ideas and a lot more.
The Growing Brewery Culture And The Rise Of Craft Beer In India
At the moment the brewery space is at a very nascent stage. India’s first craft brewery, Doolally, opened its doors to beer lovers in 2009 in Pune. Since then, craft breweries have come up in Mumbai, Gurgaon, and Mangalore, among other cities. But Kolkata got its first microbrewery only a few months ago, and now the town suddenly has three of them. Now in 2015, there were around 55 breweries in India, so with time, the country has seen breweries growing. The beverage sector in India is booming at the moment, says Vishwanath.
According to Vishwanath, craft beer and microbreweries are niche concepts in India which have been growing for the past few years and are beginning to take shape now. The emerging trend is attracting middle-class Indians, particularly in urban areas. Beer continues to be accepted, especially amongst the youth. In addition, continuous periods of hot weather have a positive effect on the performance of beer, both on-trade and off-trade.
Choosing The Right Location For Breweries
For breweries, the leading business is the sale of bottled beer.
One thing to take into consideration is the influence of the location cost on the final product because your brew will compete with other bottled beer products.
‘Look for a location that is not only suitable for brewery operations but one that is also reasonably priced to keep your investment and operating expenses as low as possible, says Vishwanath.
In Kolkata, The Grid is strategically placed in a not so very prominent space, which made people sceptical, as the outlet was set in an unknown location in the middle of nowhere. According to Vishwanath, creating an identity of the brand is of great importance. Hence location is critical, but it is just a part of building the brand value. If the product is good, the location won’t make much of a difference.
The Difference Between Craft Beer Business And The Mass-Market Breweries
Craft beer is slowly expanding in India, whereas market breweries are at the macro level. In the craft space the product is based on the type of ingredients used and how can it be presented.
According to Vishwanath, the brewery’s model is built on sustainability in a rapidly changing craft beer market necessitating a scaled-down approach as new breweries threaten to crowd the market. The small brewers feel the need to remodel their product to compete with the existing brands.
Bar Promotion Ideas
Marketing should solely be based on the product rather than the brand. According to Vishwanath, providing discounts and deals is a good way to promote a bar. It isn’t necessary to hold a free cocktail contest or a “2 + 1” promotion every week. It is better to offer something more interesting; for example, give guests the opportunity to create a cocktail together with your best bartender. Or ask people to invent names for new cocktails in the comments and the best get three cocktails for free. Embrace the competition and create a midweek bar crawl. Since you came up with the idea, the crawl starts at your place for dinner. Sweeten the deal with bar promotions focused on food for big groups.
‘To identify the market, it is important to consider the attributes of the local population, and the foot traffic near your location. This involves creating an ideal customer profile based on analytical and psychographic data, and shaping your bar marketing strategy around their preferences’, says Vishwanath.
Designing A Bar Menu
The bar menu today should be based on the Indian palette as living up to the taste of customers is essential. Before working on the list, it is imperative to understand the market and the type of crowd along with their taste.
Ever since the word “mixology” entered the bar and restaurant lexicon, beverages have started to move from sideshow to centre stage. This trend shows no sign of slowing, with more restaurants adding show-stopping drinks, and more beverage-centric concepts emerging on the scene.
Let flavours and critical ingredients guide your menu descriptions, but be descriptive enough to get that extra space in there. Make smart choice while including drinks in your menu. Don’t overwhelm the customers with too many options, but also don’t limit their choices.
Although there’s no set number of drinks to include, it’s generally good to have at least eight to twelve different wine, beer, and cocktail options. This number can vary depending on some factors, such as which alcohol category the bar choose to focus on’, says Vishwanath.
The best thing about beer is that the moderate consumption of this lowers risk of heart diseases, hypertension, cholesterol, and cancer. The carbon footprint of craft breweries is also lower than the regular ones,’ says Vishwanath.
Vishwanath concludes by sharing his future plans, and his goal of opening a brewery of his own one day.