Society

What's Your Take?

Now it's food at your doorstep, as takeaway tycoons proliferate

What's Your Take?
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IN the beginning was the tandoor. Take it or leave it: that was the original take-away. Nowadays they go by fancier names: Yum Yum, Mother's Kitchen, Goodies Galore, Slice of Italy, Shobha's Samovar, Al Kauser in Delhi; Smokin' Joe, RTI and Candy's, Mama Mia in Bombay; Fanoos, namurthy and Brahmin's Coffee Bangalore. Not these city slickers the tandoor has to compete with country cousin too: the Afghani Roti joint. People are taking and away-ing More than ever before.

Eight course meals and sit down dinners belong to more spacious times. Accounting for both the rash of and the rush at takeaways. Restau rant dining is fast becoming passe "In major metros caterers lack the money or space to open one, clients lack the time to go to one," says S.M Shetty, secretary, Association of Hoteliers and Restaurateurs, Bombay.

The Less Time Much Money constituency has made Takeaway Tycoons of yesterday's Can Do caterers. Like Krish-namoorthy Bhelpuriwala of Bangalore. Five hundred customers spending an average of Rs 10 a day on his five-point programme of bhel, tomato, cucumber, pineapple, raw mango masala. Venue: Push cart in a lane off National College. Average monthly turnover: Rs 1.5 lakh. Among the Moorthy Masala Mesmerised: filmstars Vishnu and Kokila, cricketers Prasanna and Chandrashekhar. In the same city, business is booming for Gopalkrishna Adige of Brahmin's Coffee Bar: hordes of foodies swearing fealty to his idlies with butter, vadas, khara and kesari bhaath line up in front of his 10 by 18 ft takeaway. No figures on monthly turnovers are forthcoming from Adige but the personal Contessa Classic, Tata Sierra, the host of two wheelers outside Brahmin's says it all. Carnivorous Pick-Packets of Bangalore make a beeline for Aijaz Hussain's Fanoos kebab joint on Richmond Road that opened in 1977. Recipe for success: Frontier and Mughlai dishes, beef kebabs christened as chello, barak, kubide and seekh. Each priced at a uniform Rs 15 or below. "I get 300 customers a day," he gurgles happily, "each of whom spends about Rs 15 to 20." Adding to a daily turnover of Rs 4,500 to Rs 6,000 a day.

Another Pick-Packet fortune is Allan Pereira, 42, of Bombay. Crowds throng daily to his Candy's outlet at Andheri and Bandra. "We get about 900 customers a day; of all types," Pereira reveals. To whom he caters food of all types: hamrolls, biryani, grilled chicken. "We keep profits low, turnovers high." An arrangement that keeps both buyer and seller happy. Average food prices: Rs 8 to Rs 32. Multiply an average customer spend of Rs 15 by 900 to get his estimated daily turnover figure: Rs 13,500. The Candy's success story is being replicated all over the city. Take Smokin Joe's of Plaza Foods who have opened no less than five outlets in three years in suburbs like Bandra, Versova, Carmichael Road and Colaba, apart from one at Pune. Their Dial a Pizza home delivery service has been a great hit with customers who can't get enough of their quiche, pasta, spinach and paneer or chicken tikka masala pizza!

Italy, China, Thailand: no place is too far for the Bombay-wala. Outlets a la Ratan Tata Institute, PAC, the Oberoi Delicatessen, Mama Mia will give you gourmet cuisine from across the continents in your condominium. Jeevan Sunar of China Gate will supply Chinese food to your doorstep and charge you 10 per cent less to do so. Peg the average order at Rs 60, multiply by 350 to calculate his daily haul: a happy Rs 21,000. In the mood for an orchids and white wine high? Well the food must be Thai. Which Anwar Ali of Sogkarran will send across for anything between Rs 80 and Rs 350. And no more than 100 orders a day. "More than that," he says, "I cannot cope with." What he finds easier to cope with are his daily earnings: an estimated Rs 10,000 if you calculate 100 orders for an average Rs 100 each.

Pick-Packets have made unwitting tycoons of many housewives. Kanta Doshi of Bombay started Pizza Express four years ago. Her headoffice used to be at home those days: these days she has a central kitchen at Lower Parel that caters to nine outlets at locations like Colaba, Bandra and Juhu. Each outlet is manned by a manager and six delivery boys. No turnover figures given but delivery boys, space for nine outlets in Bombay don't come cheap. That she continues to invest means there's pesos in them pizzas.

And in patra nee macchi for that matter. As Farida Chopra, 37, proprietor, Delhi's Yum Yum takeaway discovered to her delight. The onetime catering college graduate-turned-affluent upper crust doctor's wife had time and space. Six months ago she converted her Jor Bagh space into kitchen, her time into money. Monthly takings from sales of her hot selling boti soti and le gigot d' agneau roti, Mexican pasta and meat fiesta, brandy snaps and walnut chocolate pies: an estimated Rs 1 lakh. "I'm shocked," she declares. "I wanted a pastime, this is big time. I'm in business."

Like ex-modelling coordinator Rajiv Makhani, 26. Seven months ago he got himself a site near Delhi's IIT gate, a food and beverage consultant in Mansoor Abdullah, and a booming business in pizzas and assorted Italian food which he delivers to clients' doorsteps in South Delhi. Daily takings in the very first month of operation: Rs 5,000. Monthly earning: Rs 1.5 lakh. And at last count close to double that figure. He's opening Asia's first drive-in pizzeria in Delhi's pricey Vasant Vihar suburb next month. Perhaps the most interesting story is that of affluent Kashmiri housewife Shobha Bhatt of Shobha's Samovar. A year ago, friends including filmmaker Vinod Chopra and socialite Sadia Dehlvi, unabashed admirers of her culinary skills, prevailed upon her to start catering. Which she does, profitably. Monthly turnover: Rs 25,000.

What space they have—their respective kitchens—seems to suffice for Bhatt's neighbours and fellow housewives Neeti Sarin and Rati Gadhok of Goodies Galore. These enterprising ladies deliver mouthwatering Continental fare to clients who range from neighbourhood families to MNC offices in town. Head office: Rati's kitchen. Estimated monthly turnover: Rs 50,000.

A housewife whose takeaway is part of the food folklore of the city is Zeenat Kauser. Come evening and the Marutis and Mercedes clientele lines up at her Al Kauser takeaway in the exclusive Chanakyapuri diplomaticenclave in Delhi. Celebrity clients: the two Salmans, Khurshid and Khan, Shahnaz Hussain, assorted diplomats and bureaucrats. All diehard fans of her fresh, fragrant wrapper kebabs and biryanis. Estimated daily turnover: Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000. And that is a conservative estimate. Entrepreneurial honchos have been quick to follow the housewives' example. Like Delhi-based brothers Sunil Gujral, 42, and Manoj Gujral, 37, travel agents both, who diversified into the takeaway business two years ago. Mother's Kitchen, does business worth Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,000 a day. They employ two chefs, four delivery boys, cater Indian food and hope to expand enough to rake in Rs 10,000 a day in the next year. Why food? "Because it's the fastest growing business," says Sunil. "Defence Colony has at least 15 eateries in the same market and all doing exceedingly well."

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Like the takeaways. Chopra explains the reason for their runaway success: "Working housewives are spared the pain of cooking, the panic of preparing for the mandatory get ahead card exchanging dinners which are about impressing her boss AND his." Regular housewives find it a useful aid in confirming THEIR culinary credentials. "It is homemade food which they can conveniently pass off as their own," says Chopra.

 For singles and Double Income No Kids families takeaways spell salvation from the drudgery of daal-subzi-roti meals. Delhi businessman's wife and mother of two, Manhar Singh, explains: "Going out with two kids is a major decision. Take his diapers, her pram, dress up yourselves, lock the house, miss his calls...Why not dress up and have a roses and candlelight dinner at home? That way we don't have to worry about abandoned babies and missed business."

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 Clients don't have to worry about businesses and babies, takeaway tycoons don't have to worry about expense on vital overheads. Small wonder then that the takeaways trend has caught on in a major way. "Outlets have proliferated and turnovers have gone up by at least 60 per cent in Bombay alone in the last three years," reveals Sunar.

Clearly, the Takeaway Tycoon, like the takeaway trend, is here to stay. 

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