Fulfilling the demands of food lovers, the restaurant business in Chattogram has become a lucrative sector for entrepreneurs in recent years.
Industry insiders said over 500 restaurants started operating in different parts of the port city during the last decade, with investments of around Tk250 crore.
Serving a variety of local and foreign dishes, the business of these restaurants, built in different architectural styles, are expanding day by day.
Manjurul Haque, a young entrepreneur, established Barcode Cafe in Chattogram in 2013, with the aim of presenting the food culture of the city in an aesthetic way.
In seven years, the entrepreneur has successfully expanded his business, setting up 12 more restaurants, including Mejjan Haile Aiyun, Bir Chattala, Barguich Town, Barcode GEC, Barcode Marina Capella and Barcodian in different parts of the city.
Starting his journey as a restaurant entrepreneur with only four employees, Manjurul now has more than 300 employees working in these restaurants.
Syed Rumman Ahmed, owner of Wind of Change - Rooftop Music Lounge & Multi Cuisine Restaurant, told The Business Standard, "The restaurants are now not only serving food but also presenting the tradition of Chattogram aesthetically. In order to attract customers, the restaurants have been constructed in gorgeous architectural styles."
He said the number of restaurants is constantly increasing because the eateries have succeeded in meeting the demand and interest of buyers.
Sources concerned said a large part of the customers of these restaurants are the young generation. At present, restaurant meals have become part of family entertainment during leisure. Besides, with the change of the times, the restaurants have replaced residential houses as venues for celebrations of birthdays and weddings. Various social events, including seminars, academic motivational and promotional programmes of different corporate organisations, electoral campaigns or other programmes of different political parties and business meetings are now organised at these restaurants. The expansion of the restaurant business has been further boosted by the creation of home delivery opportunities through various online-based delivery companies.
Among the well-known restaurants of the port city are Segafredo Espresso Chittagong, Handi Idhafar, Thai & Pie, Taba Ndhadh, Capsicum, Haldi Arabian, Bonjore, Chittagong Lounge, Meridian, Bell Paper, Little Asia, Afghan, Cafe Milano, Food Avenue, Saheb Babur Bothokkhana, Dawat, Domfuk, Rodela Bikel, Terracotta, Sub Zero, Royal Hut, Kath Koyla, Karai, Pavillion, Joke Restaurant, The Aristotle, Impala, La Aristocracy, Eat & Treat, Chatrometro, Regalo, Delhi Darbar, Kai Restaurant, The Laymond Grass, The Village, Kashban, Zaman Restaurant, and many others.
In the last 10 years, most of the restaurants have been established at GEC More, MA Aziz Stadium, Chawkbazar, Shilpakala Academy, Jamalkhan, New Market, Agrabad, Bahaddarhat, Muradpur and Gate No. 2 area of the city. There are also food courts in different shopping malls.
Raisul Uddin Saikat, owner of the Italian franchise restaurant Segafredo Espresso Chittagong and chairman of Albion Group, said about 20,000 to 22,000 workers are engaged in 500 restaurants of Chattogram.
Like other businesses, the sector had stagnated with the onset of the Covid pandemic, but now the restaurant business is back on track, he added.
Ashraful Ahsan Rakib, Managing Director of Kutumbari restaurant, told TBS: "In 2013, we launched Kutumbari restaurant at AK Khan Intersection of the city. After getting a positive response from customers, Kutumbari's branch at Alangkar was inaugurated in 2016, while the Chawkbazar and WASA intersection branches opened in 2019. Our capital in each branch is about Tk5 crore. We have plans to open four more branches in Chattogram.
Notably, in addition to these 500-plus restaurants, there are at least 400 more restaurants in the city. They are also selling delicious food.
Syed Abdul Hannan Babu, general secretary of Chattogram Metropolitan unit of Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association, told TBS that over the past 10 years, besides the general food hotels, the number mini-Chinese restaurants in Chattogram city has started to increase. There is a huge demand for the port city's traditional beef cuisine at those restaurants.
"There are 261 food hotels and restaurants that are members of our organisation in the city. There are at least 150 more non-member hotel-restaurants outside the membership", he added.
According to Chattogram district administration sources, 264 restaurants have been licensed in Chattogram metropolis and various upazilas. Most of these restaurants are in the Chittagong metropolitan area.
Nusrat Jahan, a student of Chittagong University, said space for sitting down and have a chat with friends has shrunk. The young generation has turned to restaurants as they have the opportunity to chat at restaurants as well as eat at low cost. ***