Airplanes to Pods: Delhi’s food scene takes off in distinct ways

- March 17, 2024
| By : Tanisha Saxena |

Innovative concepts are being introduced by food entrepreneurs and restaurants to attract the young and wealthy in the Capital

UNIQUE: The Runway 1 stands out globally as the first airplane restaurant to extend its dining area to the wings

Innovation is thriving in Delhi’s culinary scene with a surge in unconventional eateries reshaping the city’s dining landscape. 

From creatively repurposed aircraft to buses transformed into unique diners, these out of the box ventures showcase Delhi’s penchant for pushing boundaries to offer patrons an extraordinary experience. 

Runway 1: Buckle Up for a Grounded Adventure!

Runway 1, situated within Delhi’s Adventure Island at Metro Walk in Rohini, is for those wanting to experience air travel. This 100-seater restaurant distinguishes itself by offering a grounded aircraft ambiance, complete with in-flight announcements, cabin crew attire, and sensors on each seat to summon waiters. Guests receive a boarding pass upon arrival. 

Notably, Runway 1 stands out globally as the first airplane restaurant to extend its dining area to the wings, al fresco, set against the backdrop of a lush green lawn surrounded by an illuminated water body. Owner Kshitiz Kakkar takes pride in setting Runway 1 apart from similar restaurants in London and various Chinese cities that confine their dining experiences to the fuselage.

The restaurateur shares, “My wife, Shruti, a former Jet Airways air hostess, and I conceived this idea. Setting up our unique restaurant was a year-long endeavour.” 

Acquiring the decommissioned plane from Air India, deemed unfit for flight, involved meticulous coordination with an agent. The transformation from an aircraft to a functional restaurant demanded substantial effort, taking almost eight months to disassemble, remove internal components, and reconfigure it with seating. 

Presently, the restaurant accommodates over 100 guests on average during weekends, attracting diverse groups such as corporate teams and schoolchildren. 

Manager Manoj Bhandari, 30, states, “Our packages range from Rs 1500 to Rs 5000, appealing to a broad clientele. Families often choose our establishment for quality weekend moments while individuals celebrate birthdays and anniversaries here.”

Bhandari acknowledges that the recent farmer protests have impacted business, and weekdays tend to be less bustling.

Priyanka Jaykar, a 25-year-old student at the University of Delhi, recently marked her birthday with friends at Runway 1. 

“What captivated us was the ambiance. The allure of celebration images posted by Runway 1 on social media drew us in.”

Maplepods: Pods, Lights, Action!

Maplepods, which can be booked in Delhi, Noida and Gurugram besides other cities like Pune and Mumbai, promise guests an experience in the innovative pod concept. 

Each Maplepod is equipped with high-speed internet, mood lights, privacy curtains and an entertainment screen featuring all major OTT platforms. In a post-Covid-19 landscape, Maplepods take safety to new heights with self-sanitising sensors and a sprinkler system, becoming among the safest havens for socialising. Guests can select from a range of packages with a personalised touch. 

Nestled in South Delhi’s Champa Gali, a meticulously refurbished car awaits with a vibrant yellow and red exterior, complemented by an LCD TV, red curtains, and cosy lighting. 

FACILITIES: The pod includes all amenities like an LCD TV, red curtains, and cozy lightings

Sumit Sejwal, the proprietor of this establishment in Delhi, explains, “This concept has been around for five years now. Our clientele is diverse, and preferences vary. Families tend to steer clear of our space; it’s a definite no for them. However, the younger generation is drawn to the concept, primarily because of the privacy and cosy atmosphere that these pods provide. It allows them to enjoy quality time with good food in a comfortable setting.”

Mohit Nanda, a 29-year-old corporate employee in Gurugram, saw this first during a business gathering in Champa Gali. 

“It’s quite unconventional. Having experienced a variety of eateries worldwide, this concept was a bit of a surprise for me. I find it hard to believe that any respectable person would choose to spend quality time here. The setup with a car parked outside the basement seems peculiar. The LED lighting, rather than being comforting, adds to the discomfort. Just the idea of dining in a car parked on a random city street while watching Netflix feels a bit shady. However, I did notice individuals in their mid-twenties, both girls and boys, patronising the place,” he says. 

Sonu, 33, the caretaker at the pod, is tasked with the cleaning of the car and assisting customers. He shares, “Three days ago, a family strolling nearby inquired about it. They explicitly mentioned that this isn’t suitable for families. So, honestly, the footfall is low, and we are facing challenges. Youngsters do visit in the evening due to the trend of creating reels and taking pictures.”

Food Bus: Flavours on Wheels!

The Food Bus of India offers a unique dining experience in vibrant red double-decker buses reminiscent of London. Founded by Sukhraj Singh and his father, this innovative eatery blends European and Asian flavours with Indian street food favourites. 

The quick-service restaurant concept, inspired by Singh’s visit to the United Kingdom, provides a hop-on, hop-off experience for Delhiites, serving comfort food in the nostalgic setting of a double-decker bus. With a diverse menu, including handcrafted barbecue chicken pizzas and inventive mocktails, the eatery caters to the youth, constantly introducing fresh and novel dishes to keep the experience exciting.

FOOD ON WHEELS: The Food Bus of India offers a unique dining experience in vibrant red double-decker buses such as those found in London

Rohit, a 28-year-old employee at the Food Bus stationed in Lajpat Nagar, emphasises, “The charm of our flaming red double-decker buses, reminiscent of London’s iconic scene, becomes a magnetic draw for passersby. The vibrant interiors, reminiscent of American diners, create an inviting space that beckons individuals to step inside. Our strategic locations across New Delhi make the Food Bus a focal point for those seeking not only reasonably priced meals but also an immersive dining environment.”

Influencers’ Inside Scoop: Beyond the Filter

Anker Talwaar, event curator and influencer, explains, “In the fiercely competitive hospitality industry, establishments strive to capture customer attention through innovative marketing and presentation. While extravagant theatrics and themed experiences abound, it’s crucial to remember that the true hero remains the food. Ambiance and Instagram-worthy corners may attract crowds, but the ultimate success hinges on the quality of the food.”

Many venues invest significantly in securing talented chefs, recognising that the quality of the cuisine is important. While creative plating and ingredient presentations add flair, they are secondary to the core element – the taste of the food.

He further adds, “Even amid the allure of dramatic settings, the essence lies in delivering exceptional gastronomic experiences. Restaurants and hotels understand the importance of maintaining a high culinary standard, realising that good food speaks for itself.”

CAR SETTING: Located in South Delhi’s Champa Gali, a meticulously refurbished car called ‘Pod’ offers cozy set-up attracting the youngsters

Zubair Ahmad, a digital creator, observes, “The craze for theme-based restaurants in India is a blast from the past, dating back to 18th and early 19th-century France. This trend has gathered steam lately, driven by our innate love for trying something new and the desire for unforgettable dining experiences.

Why the hype? Well, it’s not just about good food. The rise of the middle class, booming tourism, and our collective fascination with pop culture have all played a part. Millennials and Gen Z are at the forefront of this culinary revolution, seeking more than just a meal—they crave an entire experience.”

In cities where the daily grind is real, weekends are a precious escape for folks. Unique spots with great food and vibes have become the go-to for those looking to unwind with friends and family.

“And, of course, social media is the invisible guest at every table. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat—you name it. People are showcasing their lives, including their dining choices,” concludes Ahmed. 

Trends vs Taste

Chef Prem Ram, a hotel management expert with PhD in Tourism and Hospitality services, says, “The younger generation, Gen Z, is captivated by innovative and elusive concepts. The allure of a venue or concept is crucial in attracting not just regular customers but also those curious to witness unique offerings. However, the primary focus on food and ambiance proves instrumental in cultivating a consistent customer base. In this dynamic landscape, factors like location, menu, and marketing emerge as trendy elements.”

VARIETY IN MENU: The food bus offers handcrafted barbecue chicken pizzas and inventive mocktails

The chef, however, believes that the cornerstone of a successful food business lies in the quality of the menu. Developing dishes attuned to diverse palates serves as the foundation, with other elements serving as valuable bonus. The chef underscores the importance of stringent food quality checks, frequent inspections by food safety officers, and the significant role of genuine customer reviews. 

“To endure in the industry, it is imperative to grasp the mindset of your clientele. The selection of food is not solely at the discretion of customers; rather, it is a profound responsibility of owners and chefs to ensure that patrons experience the authentic taste of the cuisine. There should be no compromise on the flavour profile of the dishes, and meticulous attention must be paid to serving temperatures. It is emphasised that hot dishes should be presented piping hot,” he adds.