|Dude Food at Satya Niketan, across the road|
from Delhi University's South Campus, presents
a model for other aspiring restaurant operators
to follow: quality food, low rental and
uncomplicated yet warm decor.
By Sourish Bhattacharyya
WHERE in Delhi do you get a lamb burger with 300gm of minced lamb in the form of two plump patties, smoked bacon strips and fried eggs included, for the princely sum of Rs 185? Or a Chicago-style, 9-inch deep pan pizza with a crust of meaty bolognaise for the equally royal sum of Rs 275?
Dude Food is re-writing the rules of the restaurant business in Delhi-NCR. Yes, you can now eat quality food without leaving behind an arm and a leg at the establishment serving it. And the owner of the restaurant, Food and Nightlife magazine's founder-editor Sumit Goyal, unabashedly promises you "high fat and high calories", and an experience that'll make you say at the end of it: "Loot liya restaurant ko!"
You'll definitely get that feeling when you have Dude Food's Fried Mars, batter-fried Mars bars inspired by Scottish street food, with ice-cream for Rs 145, or Candied Bacon Ice-Cream for Rs 195, or piping-hot Churros with ice-cream and a generous helping of chocolate sauce for Rs 95. Here you have great-tasting and somewhat unusual food served at unbelievable prices.
This restaurant, the newest big hit in the city, is on a road named after a five-term, 19th-century Mexican president and liberal reformer, Benito Juarez, who fought French occupation and overthrew monarchy in his country to establish a republic that has held together all these years. It's an unusual name for a road separating Delhi University's South Campus and Springdales School, Dhaula Kuan, from the residential colonies of Shanti Niketan, Anand Niketan and Satya Niketan.
Dude Food is at Satya Niketan, the former jhuggi-jhompri, or 'JJ', colony that has gentrified over the years, thanks to rental income provided by students from other states. Its bustling market, dominated by the imposing facade of the Chanakya IAS Academy, studded with little restaurants and takeaways, is a telling tribute of this transformation. This unpretentious neighbourhood on the city's southern fringes has been nurturing the aspirations of Young India; now, it's feeding it!
It is this market that sustains Dude Food, which, between 11 and 5:30, transforms magically into a college dorm with students sitting all over, yelling to each other to be heard above the din, breaking into an impromptu song when a guy starts strumming his guitar. Like Kurt Cobain, the smell of "teen spirit" is all over at Dude Food -- not the cheap deodorant that got Nirvana's front man to write those memorable lines, but the unbridled spirit of Youngistan.
|The Dude Pizza memorably recreates a Chicago|
deep-pan pizza with generous layers of cheese
and a meaty bolognaise sauce
Once the classes get over, grown-ups drive in from all over to have the restaurant's unusual delicacies, such as Pigs in the Blanket (smoked bacon-wrapped sausages, a favourite of expats who drop in on Sundays; Rs 195), Drunken Chicken (16 wings marinated and finished in Old Monk; Rs 295), classic French fries or fried chicken chunks served with six different kinds of dips and toppings (Rs 125 to Rs 175), and the Garbage Plate consisting of macaroni with tomato and cream sauce, shredded chicken, sausage strips and lamb bolognaise, French fries, fried egg and chicken burger, all for Rs 345. You can have this meal fit for a giant in your night clothes, after giving your week's laundry at the laundromat next door, which charges Rs 20 a kilo.
Goyal is working to a plan, along with his consultants Arun Trikha and Ramindar Bakshi, who have mastered the science of rolling out low-cost, high-return restaurants. Central to Goyal's plan is a high success rate in locating low-rental locations and a minimal investment on decor (but he plans to change the graffiti on his wall, the most striking aspect of Dude Food's look, every three months, so that the restaurant looks new at the start of each quarter). He's paying Rs 1 lakh per month for his 712-sq-foot restaurant, which has 40 covers and a kitchen that services 200 KOTs on average a day.
Unsuprisingly, Goyal has earmarked Rs 40 lakh (capital and operational expenditure included) per restaurant and he's confident that after he opens five, the profits generated by them will "enable us to start a new restaurant every six months". With the APC being Rs 200-250, the restaurant makes Rs 40,000-50,000 a day, which means Goyal can recover his rental payout in two to three days. And he expects to shore up his earnings by Rs 20,000 a day by tapping into the takeaway market.
Goyal says it makes eminent sense to "open a business model and not a restaurant". Without doubt, he's passionate about food -- he got Bakshi to do 135 trial runs before finalising Dude Food's menu of 20-25 pizzas -- but he doesn't let it come in the way of letting his business sense dictate his commercial decisions.