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India bigger market than China for Le Cirque

The Economic Times:  January 10, 2014

Mumbai: For New York's legendary restaurant chain, Le Cirque, India, and not China, is the largest Asian market. With the country's old and nouveau rich warming up to luxe fine dining, Le Cirque's scion Mario Maccioni has set his eyes on the Indian shores and has brought the culinary experience from Manhattan to Mumbai. As part of the chain's fresh expansion push, Maccioni plans to make open more outlets in this part of the region.

"India is culturally stronger than other nations and is financially growing. The rising income of people here demands that we bring up the nation's dining experience," says the restaurateur, who after testing waters in New Delhi, has opened Le Cirque in Mumbai and is set to open in Chennai and Bangalore. "We are not looking at China at the moment. We first want to get a footing in India, which is our entry into the Asian market." The Indian presence will up the chain's global presence from the current 12.

Though the chain entered India with Le Cirque, it has chosen the Le Cirque Signature brand, which is a little easier on the pocket, for Mumbai , Chennai and Bangalore. "The crowd in these three cities is casual unlike Delhi where it is formal," says Maccioni . A meal at Le Cirque Signature will cost Rs 6,000-Rs 7,000 per person.

Le Cirque has stepped up its operations at a time when several other luxury fine dining chains are jostling for space in India. However,the 48-year-old seems unfazed. "When there are 10 ice-cream shops on a street, you should go ahead and open the 11th one. The more the merrier." Several other storied restaurants like London's San Lorenzo , Spainsh-themed Arola and Japan's Akira Back too have marked their presence at the country's top five-star hotels like Taj and JW Marriott.

The journey began in 1974, when Maccioni's father Sirio Maccioni opened Le Cirque in New York, which went on to become a landmark. The success of Le Cirque gave birth to Circo and Sirio Restaurante. The Sirio restaurant, for instance , is housed at the Taj Pierre hotel in New York. Sirio's sons Mario, Marco and Mauro followed in his steps, taking over the reins of the family-owned business.

"There came a point when we decided that we should look beyond US. At that time, we had our ears and eyes open and an opportunity came knocking in the form of The Leela's . We met Leela hotels president Rajeev Kaul and materialized the restaurant in New Delhi," Maccioni says. Le Cirque has an exclusive arrangement with the Leela group of hotels.

The owner of the illustrious brand, however, maintains that he does not want to go over the board by opening a number of restaurants across the world. "We do not want to be a large chain. We want to run a handful of restaurants where we can control quality and focus better," he says. Well, that's how most legendary chains want to be.

Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.

x IBEF : India Brand Equity Foundation