It’s 2022 and we are being served up a big helping of nostalgia à la lockdown. So, as we put the brakes on going out and revert to ordering in, here is what I have found defines the successful delivery businesses.
First of all, have a USP; be it greasy pub crawl grub, a late night binge-r, or any regional cuisine, make sure you do it well. Kalakaari’s fusion fare, Tangra Project’s Sino-Calcuttan menu, Harajuku Tokyo Cafe’s Japanese or authentic Yauatcha dim sums, it’s great to have a vision and to see it through. Kalakaari’s food plays around with Indian classics, keeping them recognisable yet curiously different but always delicious and overall that’s a great reason to stick that phone number on your fridge. Asian Nomad does some fun Asian fusion all while ensuring a few authentic greatest hits on the menu too. Harajuku makes Japanese food feel easy and their fabled cheesecakes are always the best way to sign off on any meal. Tangra Project’s flavourful mashup was one of the most soul-satisfying meals (with absolutely the freshest of meats) I have had in recent times. Every city has a few good proponents of traditional fare and are finding a way to deliver it right, Bangalore Oota Company, Delhi6, Jai Hind Lunch home, Awadhi Andaaz Foods.
For others, another path to tread is of familiarity. The chicken wings from Burgrill are among the finest I have sampled and adding to that menu with some worthwhile burgers and wraps has only helped extend their appeal. The Woodside Burger shop and Americano’s pizzas do the familiar so exceedingly (and nostalgically) well that patrons find a reason to keep coming back.
Pricing is important too; what cloud kitchens save in prime seating space, they should invest in upping their delivery format. Asian Nomad and Kalakaari win this space hands down with the most premium packaging (glass jars for curries/soups and recyclable boxes for all else). Noshi sent sushi with ice packs and nobody minded that they charged extra for packaging. Another saving that Woodside managed was by skipping the middleman and allowing people to order directly with them, a win-win for both outlet and client. Jamun and Ping’s offer a similar service (with their own riders) and I recommend it versus going through an aggregator app. But I concede that 80% outlets are still heavily reliant on third party platforms for route to market and I would have thought that by the third time around, they would have learnt form that mistake.
Evolution during these times has been vital as established brands have shown us; everyone has to find a new (virtual) way to reach their consumer, even old timers who have heavy in-store demand. Khauwala from Pune is known for their fabulous laddoos and now the convenience of being able to order them without the need for travel is great. Karim’s is already serving their meaty menu in nearly a dozen cities and ensuring consistency of quality is what keeps them going from strength to strength.
Finally, know the limits, or more specifically, the distance to which the food can travel without losing its integral appeal. Indian cuisine is gifted in that respect (curries can travel far) but Japanese fare isn’t. Neither are wok-based dishes from the East, and most things deep fried definitely lose that crispness. So limit the distance or plan another outpost. Leo’s pizzas serves from two spaces to ensure that the pizzas arrive at nothing below optimal eating temperature. Burgers too can survive up to a point but dim sums and gyozas seem to require rehearing and at that point, promptly disintegrate. It helped that the Laksa Asian Nomad was to be compiled by me before service as that helped preserve its textures. Delhi6 will check with you and time their delivery so that it arrives piping hot and just in time to be served.
And while I still have some words left, I’d like to make a case for home delivery of alcohol. Sure some states have it but others remain in the Dark Ages. Independence Brewing has just launched some new brews (Mumbai and Pune). Mumbai has app and websites to order wine home, Bangalore has been allowing growler fills from microbreweries since quite some time. Tangra Project sent me some lovely cocktail pre-mixes, imagine how much nicer if they could have simply sent the finished product instead but alas, NCR administration still remains shut to all such delivery ideas.
As this third wave rages on, mild but widespread, gear up for some more home delivery stories to come your way. Stay safe, eat healthy and share the good ones so that we all can look forward to home-delivering a bit of cheer.
The writer is a sommelier