During my chat with Deb Mukerjee for our piece on ‘Food Lovers Who Quit Their Fancy Corporate Jobs’, he mentioned that his company started out with Mexiloko, a quick service restaurant, before moving on to the deliver-only format of their new venture ‘Pan of Asia’. “While running a retail chain, we realised that a lot of fixed costs (rentals, electricity) become a huge stress point, especially in a city like Mumbai – which ultimately affects the price of the final product and the profitability. Moving to a primarily delivery focused model ensures that the customer gets very high quality products at a reasonable price,” Mukherjee expliained.
Siddharth Somaiya agreed that overheads were a major concern for him too, as was the fact that The Bao Haus Co was starting out with mostly just baos, a slightly niche selection. “We did not want to fail at our first venture by starting off with a dine-in format for a cuisine that customers are not very familiar with, so we decided to launch as a delivery only establishment,” added Somaiya.
The irony being that while sale of property seems to have slowed down in Mumbai, rentals remain sky-high. Apart from the delivery format that eliminates this high cost, I’ve observed that food entrepreneurs come up with other ‘disruptive’ formats. Vishal Shah, Owner of Haute Chef, a meal kit delivery service, opted for a DIY method of putting together gourmet meals because he didn’t want to be “another fish in the ocean” by opening a restaurant. That, plus the fact that Mumbai is no longer a nascent market for food prompted Ayushi Shah, Owner and Head Chef of Icing on Top to opt for the distribution model after closing her store. “We stock our eggless baked goodies at Foodhall, Nature’s Basket, local grocery stores and have even expanded to other cities. Our cookies and crackers are unique, so we decided to let our products make us stand out rather than spending on a store,” says Ayushi Shah.
Expensive as it might be to invest in a restaurant or store in Mumbai, it’s impressive to see how these entrepreneurs have worked around the ever-escalating overheads in the city. Rather than spending on rent and décor, they’ve chosen to let their products set them apart and ensure better quality for their customers.