Large is lucrative, and restaurateurs around town are in a mad rush to sink their teeth into as big a piece of the pie as possible. Following the recipe of gargantuan oldies Amber and Bar-B-Q, Mainland China had pioneered the big-format revolution south of Park Street with 140 covers on Gurusaday Road. Now, every new place that fires its chullah, is planning big.
'The moment you think on a wider canvas, the investments are high. So you must have the confidence to offer quality food and service consistently,' points out Anjan Chatterjee, director, Speciality Restaurants Pvt Ltd, which owns the Mainland China and Oh Calcutta! brands.
And it's not just about number of covers but also nature of cuisine. With restauranting no longer meaning just laid-back lunches, the spectrum is automatically widened ' steaks and souffl's and single malts take up more square feet.
'The Calcutta cognoscenti now looks for multiple entertainment solutions ' dining, lounging, pubbing ' under a single roof. The focus thus is on multifarious F&B outlets that have all the hospitality features,' says Arvind Bhatnagar, head of operations, Grain of Salt.
The Calcutta diner today is well travelled and knowledgeable, seeking service and ambience that match international - or at least national standards. 'I've seen at Kurry Klub that it's tough to get good clients into a small place. People want five-star comfort and ambience at lower prices, and it's also important who sits at the next table. The classy atmosphere can only be created if you have the space,' observes Pradip Rozario, chef-owner of the 95-seater KK's Fusion.
Catching the headwind, Cinnamon Restaurant & Lounge, the latest entrant on Park Street with a Mediterranean menu, has announced its arrival with a bang, offering 132 covers in the restaurant and 70 more at the forthcoming lounge.
The fast-food caravan that's rolled into town is also buoyed by the big bite. If Pizza Hut at 22 Camac Street opened with a whopping 156 covers in June 2002, KFC, from the same stable, has come in with an expansive 75-seater restaurant to City Centre, generating similar euphoria.
'Calcutta today has a significant population of young Indians who have an aspirational lifestyle and are on the lookout for variety. We get footfalls of about 2,000 a day, going up over the weekends, which vindicates our choice of scale,' says Sharanita Keswani, director marketing, KFC, Yum! Restaurants International.
Metro on Sunday breezes through a few eateries for whom size does matter.
Where: Gurusaday Road
How big: With the latest extension of the basement, this extremely popular Chinese haunt now boasts 210 covers
Platter picks: Speciality cuisine from the popular regions of China like Cantonese, Sichuan, Hunan, Peking and Shanghai
Weekend high: 600-plus
Restaurantspeak: 'Not only can we take large bookings because of the size, we have also ensured proper backend support infrastructure to take that load' ' Rajesh Dubey, chief corporate chef
Where: Park Street
How big: The 'multiplex' eatery has 350 covers spread across One-Day (24-hour coffee shop), Over Boundary (cross-country cuisine), Maharaj (vegetarian restaurant) and Prince of Cal (lounge)
Platter picks: Stir-fry specialities to Lebanese kebabs, royal vegetarian gourmet to north and south Indian delicacies'
Weekend high: More than 1,000 diners
Restaurantspeak: 'The availability of so much variety under one roof, our principal USP, would not be possible in a smaller place' ' Saikat Sarkar, general manager
Cinnamon Restaurant & Lounge
Where: Park Street
How big: The newest entrant on food street is also one of the largest, with 132 covers in the restaurant, and another 70 lined up in the lounge set to open by Pujas
Platter picks: Mediterranean spanning Italian, Turkish and Lebanese and Indian offering tandoori and curries
Weekend high: Though just opened, the restaurant is doing near-capacity covers during weekends
Restaurantspeak: 'The space has enabled us to lay the tables in an uncluttered format, which is often the criterion for a repeat visit' ' Asish Chakraborty, director
Grain of Salt
Where: 22 Camac Street
How big: The Sanjeev Kapoor signature F&B house seats 209 at the restaurant, Shisha (the hookah bar) and The Platinum Lounge; also, two banquets can hold another 500 diners
Platter picks: Indian to world cuisine to Oriental
Weekend high: 400-plus covers
Restaurantspeak: 'We were the first fine-dining restaurant with allied services in the form of bar, lounge and banquets in India' ' Arvind Bhatnagar, head of operations
Where: 22 Camac Street and City Centre
How big: 156 covers at Camac Street and 80 covers in Salt Lake
Platter picks: The trademark Pan Pizzas to the latest Freshizza crusts, Indian toppings like Chicken Tikka and Spicy Korma and mouth-watering salads'
Weekend high: Around 3,000 at Camac Street and 2,500 in City Centre
Restaurantspeak: 'Pizza Hut is committed to growing the market and Calcutta is important for us' ' Pankaj Batra, director, marketing, Indian Subcontinent, Yum! Restaurants International
Where: Next to 89 Cinemas, Swabhumi
How big: Close to 100 covers, including the first-floor lounge
Platter picks: A cross-culinary global trek spanning Indian, Italian, Greek, Mexican, Chinese, Thai and fusion food'
Weekend high: Close to capacity for dinners
Restaurantspeak: 'Today, guests dining out want a five-star ambience in standalone places at a lower price. That can be provided only if the property is large' ' Pradip Rozario, chef-owner
Where: Waterloo Street
How big: The golden oldie in the heart of the central business district boasts 425 covers spread across three floors, including the newly-opened resto-bar, Essence
Platter picks: Indian (kebabs') and continental (baked fish')
Weekend high: 1,500-2,000
Restaurantspeak: 'A restaurant of less than 100 covers is unlikely to stay viable for long, since the kitchen expenses are more or less the same even for a smaller place' ' Sanjay Khullar, director
Where: Park Street
How big: Easily the most popular dining destination on Park Street, it has 400 covers across Bar-B-Q, Flavours of China and Hideout, the cosy lounge
Platter picks: Indian and Chinese
Weekend high: 1,600-1,800
Restaurantspeak: 'The fact that we can accommodate so many people at one time means less wait' ' Rajiv Kothari, partner.