Kolkata loves its biryani. Phuchka, egg roll, kosha mangsho and others will give a close fight and can win at pockets. However, if it’s a General Election of most loved food, then biryani will rule. Albeit, with the aloo or potato of Kolkata Biryani, being the most popular candidate. The origin of aloo, the passage of biryani and the authenticity has been questioned time and again by the rest of the country. The supremacy has also got questioned. Like a cult, Kolkata Biryani in particular and biryani in general, has got a lot of followers in Kolkata as well as across the world. Things changed, the pandemic happened and the restaurant industry was the worst affected.
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The lockdown and change in the dynamics
Soon home delivery business took over and the restaurants, who had considered delivery as only an alternate channel of business, held on to it as the life saving straw. In one of his recent interviews, well known Chef Prateek Sadhu of Masque, claimed that the first menu that they started serving as a delivery option was comfort food. It was burger, ramen and rogan josh and he was doing delivery for the first time.
In Kolkata, the scene was no different. It was an abrupt shutdown and then slowly towards the Bengali New Year, one after the other, the delivery services started. It took time for everyone to realise and get accustomed to the new normal. The trend changed as all members from the same family started working from home. After a long period of time, families were having their lunch together. It was like an unfulfilled dream coming true. Having said that, everyday had become a weekday and every day was a weekend too. The foodpreneurs felt the difference. Additional safety measures, intermittent panic with hygiene issues of the delivery boys, brought in a temporary jolt. However, the delivery continued.
The new age Biryani in Kolkata getting delivered
Kabuliwala was one of the first places to give birth to the first biryani cloud kitchen in New Town. The idea came to Santanu Shikdar, the founder’s mind, when he, as a bachelor ran out of options to order food. Today Kabuliwala has 9 outlets and one of the first places to introduce bespoke packaging and earthen pots for delivery. They serve Kolkata Biryani and during the last 3 months, a lot has changed. Office orders have become zero yet the average order value has gone up. Lunch orders have increased but it’s a long way to go, as the sales for most are still down. Also, with unlock phases in progress, the difference in weekday and weekend orders are now slowly getting back to normal.
A family recipe and the low fat Biryani
Indrajit De Sarkar started Haan D Biryani around 2014 from his home with a secret recipe, passed on by his father. Indrajit’s father used to cook Biryani for guests at home. With passage of time, Indrajit got into a new kitchen and his Kolkata Biryani is now talk of the town. The recipe, which was started by his father, as his grandparents were diabetic, is now tested and vetted by nutritionists as the lowest fat containing biryani. Indrajit believes, he could survive the Pandemic downturn because it was Biryani. Even though party orders are less now, comfort food tag makes it an easy recall order for Kolkatans.
Elahi the luxury dining
It was only 6 months that Asif had opened Elahi, which specialised in Kolkata Biryani. He had his place shut down till 6th June and slowly started with delivery. With the whims and fancies of delivery aggregators and high margins, it was tough. Located in the same neighborhood as some of the biggies of biryani, Asif can now feel the loyalties shifting. Many customers are trusting more with the new age biryani brewers. As Asif rightly points out, Biryani is Kolkata fast food. Yes, it may not be fast to cook but it’s an easy to have meal on the go. To encourage sales, they had introduced combo offers and for Asif, deliveries now remain the mainstay and no more an alternate option.
Chachha Jaan and good days to come
Aakarsh Bhargava quit his FnB and corporate career and started Chaccha Jaan . It is a cloud kitchen which sells chicken, mutton and Hazratganj biryani. When Aakarsh started Chaccha Jan, his first venture Big Fat Belly was already 4 years old. He was bold enough to think beyond just Kolkata biryani. So he sells chicken tikka makhanwala biryani, boti kebab biryani, mushroom biryani and more. Though the outlet sells kebabs too but Biryani makes up for around 60 percent of the total revenue. However, an increase in home cooking and lack of awareness that cooked food doesn’t spread the virus affected the sales. Add on the miseries from the delivery aggregators, which is faced by most restaurateurs now, selling food doesn’t get any easy. The plans of opening an outlet in Keshtopur is shelved for the time being. Aakarsh is hopeful, things will change for the better soon.
Biryanis and Botis by Ambuja Neotia Hospitality
It’s not only stand alone restaurateurs who are opting for cloud kitchens. Ambuja Neotia Hospitality are one of the large hospitality brands in Kolkata and Eastern India. They recently opened a host of cloud kitchens, out of which Biryanis and Botis is definitely noteworthy. They serve rolls, tikka rolls, kebabs too. Again, the motive to shift to Cloud kitchen has been to cater to online sales and what else but biryani, to wow your clientele.
New Strategy for Aminia Kolkata
Truly, biryani is in cloud now for Kolkata. A survey report by Dineout for April – May clearly throws up the preferences. While rest of India feasted on pizza as a lockdown delicacy – it was biryani for Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. So, a topic of debate which cities in India love Biryani most? Aminia, the 91 year old biryani joint with 9 branches have seen an upward trend in Biryani sales, in the last few months and biryani and chaap form the 70 percent of their revenue. Kabir Azhar, the Director of Aminia, confirms opening of their cloud kitchen in EM Bypass to cater to increase of online sales as the latest trend.
Next time you if you are one of the Biryani Pilgrims visiting Kolkata, then you may a pass to visit to your favourite biryani joint and order from some of cloud kitchens who are doing a great job.
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