Launched nearly nine years ago, Barcode Restaurant Group (BRG), which is hailed to have pioneered café culture in the port city, continues to be a crowd favourite in Chattogram. Rightfully so, given how it brings together scrumptious platters from different cuisines at reasonable prices and an ambience and culture unique to each restaurant.
As one of the Barcode's diners, this writer from The Financial Express talked to the Barcode Restaurant Group owner Monjurul Hoque. He shared how its diverse offerings and the intrinsic details make up the Barcode dining experience that keeps foodies coming back.
Speaking about what he attributes to Barcode's success in its early days, Monjurul Hoque mentioned, "We made sure we maintained good customer service and consistent food quality, with surely a good value for money."
Today, it has expanded from a small cafe offering coffee and continental cuisine to a group of restaurants offering diverse cuisines, including authentic Bengali food housed by Bir Chattala and Teheriwala, the quintessential Chatgaiyya Mezban through Mezzan Haile Aiyun, hygienic Fuchka platters through Burgwich Town, Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisines through Omerta and traditional Bengali sweets and desserts through Barcode Sweets.
There's something at BRG for everyone, regardless of which cuisine is one's favourite. No matter what one is craving, they are likely to find their pick at Barcode.
Barcode Food Junction
"Being a foodie myself, I experienced the gaps in the Chittagong food space firsthand," said Mr Hoque sharing how he came to identify the gaps.
In fact, for tourists visiting Chittagong, Barcode is a go-to restaurant; its local spin-offs like Bir Chattala and Mezzan Haile Aiyun have attracted food bloggers and influencers such as 'Rafsan the ChotoBhai' and Raba Khan.
Mezbani food is a popular Chittagonian delicacy. For anyone visiting Chittagong, this is a must-try, but earlier, you would only get to have it if someone was hosting a Mezban. However, no restaurant sold Mezbani beef all day, every day. That's how Mezzan Haile Aiyun came about. The food is cooked professionally in the traditional Mezbani style, keeping the authentic taste intact.
What sets it apart
One thing that sets Barcode apart is how it has something on its menu for people of all ages and tastes. For instance, when visiting restaurants, older folks often look for tea on the menu but are left with coffee as their only option. Barcode is one of the very few eateries in the port city that sells 'cha' (milk tea), an average Bengali's daily-consumed hot beverage.
Besides the usual milk tea, its milk tea comes in 10+ delectable flavours, including vanilla and hazelnut. Affordably priced, Bir Chattala takes it up another notch by serving it in its signature style - with Bela biscuits and the traditional steel utensil covering.
Barcode strives to keep its menu from becoming stagnant by catering to trends and introducing new dishes and cuisines to its offerings, as evidenced by its various restaurant wings.
Its active presence across social media channels further attracts foodies, especially the youth. Whether it's for a new item on the menu, the launch of a new restaurant arm, or showcasing its weekend breakfast buffet, Mojurul Hoque, always smiling, often interacts with Barcode's audience through Facebook lives from the page to make sure they are well-informed of current and future offerings.
In addition, be it feedback related to the food experience at his restaurant or a suggestion to introduce a new dish, guests don't shy away from sharing their feedback with the owner, given his generous nature.
One cannot speak about Barcode without mentioning its unique ambience. Barcode Cafe's walls are adorned with fascinating quotes and info that keep people engaged as their food is prepared.
Last year, BRG added Barcode Food Junction to its army of food ventures. It brings together all its cuisines under a single roof. Everything from fuchka to fast food and Kacchi, Kebabs and Mezbani dishes are available, including a unique weekend breakfast buffet, a novelty in Chittagong.
The decor at the food junction is also eye-catching. The spacious outdoor sitting area is adorned with fairy lights, high tea chairs, and tables, creating a cosy ambience for guests.
"For each restaurant, we try to strategise the decor as per the cuisine," added Monjurul Hoque. For instance, Mezzan Haile Aiyun gives off '80s vibes, with retro-style furniture and pictures of the traditional mezbani food cooking process on the wall.
Bir Chattala's decor perfectly parallels its theme of Bengali food. It features antique objects such as cassettes of old Bengali songs, radios, typewriters and windows and double doors that remind Bengali houses.
"Since youngsters form the majority of our customers, many of them may have missed out on actually seeing these antique items firsthand. This helps give them a feel and taste of how our culture has changed over the years while enjoying authentic Bengali cuisine," Mr Hoque remarked.
Consistency, quality of food, maintaining hygiene, and reasonable prices have been key to Barcode's success thus far - summarised Mr Hoque.
"We strive to uphold these principles and are continuously looking for ways to improve our operations and give our customers a taste of new cuisines and dishes to keep them coming back," he adds.
"We have a team dedicated to quality assurance and improvement. Our goal for the coming years is to provide budget-friendly, five-star quality food in Chittagong," he concluded with a smile.