Sanjay Mukherjee opened Kolkata Callin‘ in March 2014 in Mumbai as a quick service format kiosk to test the market. As demand for Bengali dishes increased, he revamped the format to open a full-fledged restaurant.
Why did you choose Mumbai for a Bengali restaurant?
My base is in Mumbai, so operations would be easier for me to handle. Secondly, Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city, so we have a mix of 50 percent Bengali and 50 percent non Bengali customers. The city is a melting pot of cultures, and the people here love to try new things, visit new restaurants, and are not averse to spending on food. The idea of opening a Bengali restaurant was to provide an experience to the people residing in Andheri East in Mumbai, who otherwise travel to other areas in the city like Andheri West or Bandra. Currently, we are getting customers from not only the suburbs (Andheri West, Bandra, etc) but also from the town (Worli, Colaba, etc).
From operating a kiosk to running a restaurant, what were the challenges?
Mumbai offers entrepreneurs like me a lot of opportunities and an equal number of challenges! At the kiosk, the biggest challenge was having to contend with a limited number of dishes on my menu due to the space constraint; which meant less variety for the customers. Plus, the kiosk format is highly dependent on home/office deliveries and takeaways. My customers were always urging me to open an outlet with a dine-in space. So, one day, I did! Kolkata Callin’ is an ‘adda’ where people can sit and enjoy the food with friends and familiy, and I can proudly say that what has not changed is our food quality and service.
How authentic is your Bengali cuisine?
Kolkata Callin’ is the first Bengali restaurant in Andheri East, Mumbai, to offer authentic Bengali food. I believe that one must stick to the authenticity of any cuisine. For instance, puri and bhaaji in Kolkata is somewhat sweeter than that eaten in Mumbai as the people here prefer a bit more spice in their food. So, I offer a comparatively more spicy puri bhaaji in Mumbai. Again, to retain the authentic taste of Bengali food, we source our fish from Kolkata, besides which, we have two vendors who supply fish to us on a regular basis. Currently, we offer Padda, Ilish (Bangladesh Hilsa) and regular Ilish, Bhetki, Katla, Pabda, Tangra, Parshe, Koi, Chittol, and a variety of prawns. We have four chefs who cook up a variety of snacks and main courses. Our snacks start from Rs 80 and the main course dishes are priced Rs 360. A few items are served ‘as per size’. Snacks like chops, cutlets, rolls, etc, are popular in Mumbai, followed by biryani, fish and prawns. People in Mumbai also enjoy Tandoori and Indian dishes so they are on our menu. The average bill size is Rs 800 for two.
What investments did you make?
Kolkata Callin’ in Mumbai spreads over 850 sqft. Generally, for any start-up specialty restaurant, taking into account both fixed and variable investments, investment would be between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore. Our Mumbai outlet opened in March, and we are still in the process of evaluating our exact investment figures. In fact, investments are an ongoing process in a restaurant business. Based on the current market trends and response to our outlet, our expected turnover for this fiscal is approximately Rs 1.5 crore. We plan to build our brand and grow steadily before we begin considering expansion to other cities or regions.