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New-age food formats and unconventional meal solutions

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From convenience foods to convenience foodservice – the entire practice of preparing and eating meals at home is undergoing a revolution. As families grow smaller and working professionals get more and more time-poor, convenience is increasingly the anchor of dining solutions.

New-age food formats and unconventional meal solutions
Technology and digital communication are the drivers of new-age, online foodservice formats in India

Technology and digital communication are the drivers of these new-age foodservice formats; some of the promoters of online foodservice start-ups are, in fact, professionals with IT/ technical backgrounds. But does sustaining an ‘Internet-only’ food startup require just a few chefs, a quirky name and a kitchen?

Here are two case studies on some path-breaking online meal solutions that offer a good understanding of the ‘What’ and ‘How’ of the online foodservice business in India.

brekkie.in-foundersThree friends – Nikhil Behl, Ashwin Chandrasekaran and Haripriya Raja (L-R in pic) – decided to set up a one-of-its-kind concept to encourage the culture of eating a wholesome breakfast daily, and thus was born brekkie.in. A Bengaluru-based outfit, Brekkie.in serves delicious, nutritious, but slightly quirky breakfasts straight to people’s homes and office desks.

Launched in April 2014, Brekkie offers breakfast packages ranging from weekly to monthly supplies; a week’s worth of breakfast costs Rs 400, an entire month’s about Rs 1500. Each Brekkie bag consists of three courses: a main course, for instance, a spinach paratha; a side, such as a honey yogurt fruit muesli, and a treat, like an oatmeal cookie.

Brekkie’s been growing in today’s mushrooming ‘internet-only’ food startup industry with their healthy breakfast solutions, which are prepared in-house. The company has tied up with vendors to source the best ingredients at good prices.

“We work on a fixed menu; it’s a different one every day and the menu doesn’t repeat more than once a month. Volumes are determined by the number of weekly and monthly subscribers that we have, plus we’ve got a decent feel to forecast on-demand orders for any given day, “ says Brekkie Founder, Ashwin Chandrasekaran.

brekkie.inOf late, the $3 billion Indian e-commerce industry has been characterised by market leaders acquiring startups. The acquisitions not only benefit the startups but also give e-commerce giants a reputation for innovation. However, for Brekkie the aim is to build a brand.

“We definitely want to scale, and build as much value as possible; an exit is the last thing on our minds. We’re not building an app, or a logistics network and we’re not just looking to feed a certain number of people.” “We’re building a brand that stands for awesome, affordable and wholesome food. The app and the logistics are enablers for us, but really we want our food to be recognised and Brekkie to be on top of the mind when anyone in India wakes up!,” he explains.

As opposed to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, an internet-only restaurant eliminates massive overheads such as real estate, service and air-conditioning. But building scalability entails investments for Brekkie, which has just closed a round of seed funding (unlike many other food satartups, Brekkie was completely bootstrapped by the founders). Unfazed by the rising numbers of online food startups, Brekkie feels competition gives them space to innovate constantly by keeping them on their toes. With deliveries currently limited to select Bengaluru neighbourhoods, including Indiranagar, Ulsoor Road and MG Road, Brekkie operates through a customised food cart parked opposite KFC at 100 feet Road in Indiranagar for delivering the orders.

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gourmetBnC-foundersAn online foodservice start-up which delivers 5-star rated signature recipes to its patrons, NOIDA-based GourmetBnC was launched in January 2015. Instead of a meal, the service delivers ingredients that are fresh, ready to cook (cleaned, cut, chopped, boiled, measured in right portions and packed) bundled with a whole lot of experience at customers’ doorsteps within 24 hours of order placement. Consumers simply need to follow the crisp cooking instructions in the package, cook within no time (30 minutes on average) and enjoy a signature dining experience in their private spaces.

Speaking about the uniqueness of the concept, former techie Anand Shenoy, who founded GourmetBnC along with his wife Shashikala Kamath, says, “What we are trying to do here is to create unusual experiences in foodservice. We take the hard work – identifying retailers, sourcing ingredients, learning the modus operandi – out of preparing a gourmet meal. With every box containing every single ingredient of the dish in exact quantities, accompanied by a simple instruction guide, there is nothing that a consumer needs to do, except actually enjoying the preparation process.”

gourmetBnCSpotting a gap in the category of meal solutions for children, in April, Shenoy launched a pilot project – christened ‘Yummy Tummy’ – to offer fast, nutritious and aesthetically packaged kids’ meal solutions in boxes, with deliveries currently being restricted to NOIDA. Modelled on Japanese cuisine Bento boxes, which feature a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal, Yummy Tummy is designed to help time-crunched parents address nutrition concerns for their children in an innovative, affordable manner.

GourmetBnC currently delivers across NCR, and is in the process of rolling out several menu innovations, along with expanding its delivery network.