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After a lacklustre March quarter, IPL offers some relief to restaurant operators.

 The ongoing Indian Premier League season has helped cloud kitchen as well as restaurant owners to do brisk business following a dull March quarter, with consumers thronging pubs and eateries to watch the live screenings of the T20 matches, besides a surge in online orders.

Many restaurant chain owners have also planned activities around the sporting extravaganza, as it has always contributed to a rise in consumption. However, some said as the IPL matches are being aired across platforms, live screenings have taken a beating, with consumers preferring to either watch the matches from within the comforts of their homes or in stadiums.

With the cash-rich league returning to a home-and-away format for the first time since 2019, the industry is witnessing a rise in footfall and online orders. In 2020, IPL was postponed and then hosted in the Middle East. Last year, it was hosted in only a few venues in Maharashtra while the playoffs were in Ahmedabad and in Kolkata.

The broadcasters have also taken expensive bets on getting the media rights for the sporting league with Viacom18 the Reliance Industries-controlled broadcasting network, outbidding rival Disney Star to bag the five-year digital rights for ₹23,757 crore. Disney Star however has retained the TV rights for ₹23,575 crore.

Executives in the food services business said during the March quarter consumers had turned cautious. “Q4 has not been great owing to a slight dip in revenge spending and overall high inflation. April seems to show early signs of a turnaround,” said Murali Krishnan, co-founder and chief marketing officer Wow! Momo Foods. The Tiger Global-backed food services chain operates 500 Wow! Momo, Wow! China and Wow! Chicken outlets.

Muralikrishnan said in the last few years, IPL had been losing its charm but the frenzy has returned with matches resuming without any covid restriction. After the chain launched a campaign offering value meals, it has seen an 18% jump in transactions in just a week. It also has food stalls at stadiums.

“Our large orders and deliveries have picked up after a dip post-December, especially for the delivery business. A lot of our delivery orders coincide with match timings. Even outlets, where we are streaming matches, we have seen a lot of dine-in visitors,” he added.

Community viewing experience is also bringing in youngsters to bars and lounges. “We can see footfalls to watch the games. The way we see it, sports is turning into a community viewing occasion. We do a lot of screenings (soccer, Formula-1) and see an increasing number of sports fan clubs. With IPL, we saw a good initial momentum to the month, and hope it continues,” Alexander Valladares, chief marketing officer, Impresario Handmade Restaurants, said. The food services firm runs over 40 social restaurants, among other dining formats, and has invested in sports in a “big way”, including sponsorship for cricketers in this IPL. “We are far more invested in sports this year. From our own social listening tool that we use, a lot of consumers are showing interest in IPL,” said Valladares.

IPL 2023 is being hosted from 31 March to 28 May.

Vikrant Batra, the founder of Batra Bros Food and Beverages Pvt. Ltd, which runs Cafe Delhi Heights restaurants, said in the first two IPL weekends , business has been swift, both from office-goers, and friends and family patrons. “The IPL has been a feature at our outlets from its first season. It fills the March-April lull when restaurants don’t perform as well. Although it is difficult to put a percentage to its contribution to overall business, we do see a pickup due to it,” he said.

In Gurugram, local restaurant and cafe owners said corporate crowds are returning to watch match screenings.

“We are seeing traction since it’s more corporate office-driven business. We have never been very heavy on screenings but for us it’s a stable business and we do get groups who want to watch IPL matches post office,” said Minakshi Singh co-founder of Thirsty Three Restaurants Private Limited which runs outlets like Cocktails & Dreams, Speakeasy, Cafe Lungta and Sidecar.

A few, meanwhile, said they have completely halted match screenings at their outlets as consumers prefer to dine in and have conversations. “So, we don’t play IPL at any other place, last year too we did not screen. Now the game is so accessible across mediums—on mobile phones, streaming apps, and on TV screens everywhere, not everybody will come out just for the game. Now we see when people come out, they come out to chill, to have good conversations etc.,” said Dhaval Udeshi, co-founder, Chrome Hospitality which runs multiple restaurants in Mumbai.

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