From salad to khichdi: How restaurants are making profits out of one 'single' dish

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To make higher profits, one can cut down the food costs marginally, only by pricing and designing the menu the right way.
  • Sakshi Singh
Food Menu

Opening a restaurant may come up pretty high on the list of the secret ambitions of many millennials. But opening a restaurant has always been complex while choosing what to offer. But these complexities may be fewer if one chooses not to open a restaurant but get into one of the offbeat food businesses. The opportunities are more, risks lower. And while one need to sweat it out, the rewards are many.

Many exciting innovations in food are not happening in restaurants, but in the offbeat cloud and QSR spaces. We are talking about the rise of single dish brands which are way more than pizzas, burgers, rolls and biryanis. The new food formats are the next big thing and taking the tech route has created a very smart model for many young foodpreneurs who are mastering the art of one, for instance, single dish as simple as salads.

Salad Days started by Varun Madan and Kunal Gangwani offers salads as a meal. Madan and Gangwani played for the same band at Xavier School of Management, Jamshedpur. They jammed well but little did they realise that they would also, one day, toss up vinaigrette and greens. According to the founders, there was a gap in the market for a product that offered salads as a complete meal.

Operations have been the toughest part. Sourcing ingredients, they largely use imported fruit and veggies to maintain consistency, get cheese and vinegar from Parma and Modena and pick herbs grown locally and maintaining supply chains are a task.

In Pune, Meghna, who also works with a real estate company, soon realised that she could win the world with her salad-making skills. She started selling salads through online messaging groups and what seems as her hobby and part-time work, soon helped her earn lakhs every month. She wrote a success story in no time. How could one earn lakhs just by selling salad, well! Meghna proved it that too from her home.

Meghna started with INR 3500 and now earns INR 1.25 lakhs per month. How did she get here? Meghna’s genuine love for making salads blossomed into a business, thanks to her patience and passion. Meghna started with selling chana chaat, mix corn, beetroot and pasta salad, and in no time the orders started pouring in. And that’s not all. With the increasing demand she has now given employment to 19 people, including who women do chopping and men do deliveries.

Planning and executing single dish operations is less bothering and people on the other side are not spoiled with options. When a customer is ordering from such brands, they know exactly what they want, in return for such brands creating loyal customers becomes easier.

Who would have known that the humble Indian dish Khichdi would have been hiding great potential in terms of business?  It was three years ago when the tech giant, Ola ventured into having a cloud kitchen business of its own, introducing its great Khichdi Experiment, which has the riding app delivering Khichdi to Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune, with plans to widen its network soon.

“For Khichdi Experiment (KE) specifically, we wanted to give a twist to India’s original comfort food to create a differentiator from the clutter in the market. Our aim was to offer one brand that gives various flavours to khichdi,” Pranay Jivrajka, CEO, Ola's food business has said in an interview.

From the classic Plain Dal Khichdi to the Palak Paneer and even Bengali Panch Phoran Khichdi and Mumbai Pav Bhaji Khichdi, each flavour is a play on a classic dish from states across the country, with an added twist.  The success of Khichdi Experiment has proven the fact that as simple as khichdi can create a wave, one need not to add up fancy gourmet dishes to make a brand work.

“Khichdi Experiment was a category creator that helped us create a playbook to build other brands. For instance, within khichdi, today you have more than 60 such brands competing,” Jivrajka added. Even though the company has been aggressive on the expansion front, online delivery has taken over the offline stores. Jivrajka, too, highlighted that the pandemic has halted the company’s plans to expand offline corporate kiosks, mall presences and food trucks. Ola Foods is now planning to launch eight to ten such brands with unique offerings.

Khichdi has surely shown wonders in the food business world, so much so that it has even attracted investments. In January this year, Curefoods announced a merger with Maverix which houses The Great Indian Khichdi brand.

Commenting on the success rate of such brands, Krishnakant Thakur, co-founder and COO Charcoal Eats stated, “Brand's single dishes do have a better advantage as customers are spoiled for choices and everyone wants to order from a specialist and this is the reason we are also going to have specific brands for different cuisines,” Charcoal Eats further plans to penetrate deeper in this market by offering unique dishes brands.

Understanding the unit economics, the net profit margin of any food service brand gives a clear picture of whether the restaurant is going to survive in the long run. Anything above 20 percent can be considered as a decent restaurant profit margin. To make higher profits, one can cut down the food costs marginally, only by pricing and designing the menu the right way. And what can be a better way to create a hassle-free business is by mastering in selling just that one dish.

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