Tiffin services: A remedy to the homesickness

In this fast-paced city, amid the work schedules and deadlines, healthy food is something that always takes the backseat. Cooking after work hours is too hectic a task, and finding a good cook can be a hassle — and this is where tiffin services come in. Patriot takes a look at the growing business of tiffin services that often provide cost-efficient, homely food three times a day

Macro closeup of orange curry healthy coconut squash dal Indian yellow split peas sauce food meal with white basmati rice on plate and vegetables as dinner

FRESH FROM HOME: A lunch thali full of nutritious and home-cooked food Photo: Getty

Aarti Gupta wakes up around 5:30 am to start the preparations for her tiffin service. From chopping to cooking and packing the tiffins, she does all these single-handedly. 

Gupta started Saraswati Tiffin Service in 2018 while working as a merchandiser to follow her passion for cooking. “Providing healthy and homely food is the motto of Saraswati Tiffins”, says Gupta – and she adds that the quality of her tiffins validate it.

Gupta’s first customers were an old couple in her neighbourhood, and now she has around 15 regular customers, including students and working professionals. Gupta’s tiffin service provides breakfast, lunch and dinner based on the requirement. 

“They are like my extended family”, she says as she chats with one of her customers. Although Gupta stays at Dwarka with her family, her services are not limited to the place.

The breakfast menu ranges from aloo paratha, paneer paratha, pasta, macaroni, sandwiches while the lunch includes roti, rice, dal or any other gravy along with a dry vegetable depending upon the seasonal availability.

She started the business with humble means – delivering tiffins by herself –  and switched to a delivery boy and Swiggy genie when the business boomed. 

She provides the service at two different price ranges — one at Rs 90 and the other at Rs 150. The first set of lunch boxes is delivered by 6:30 am as most of them leave for the office around 7:30 am. 

“On weekends I try to pack something special that gives them a homely vibe, as most of them stay in PGs or rented apartments. I want them to enjoy ghar ka khana (homemade food) just like I feed my daughters”, says Gupta. 

Ashmit has been using tiffin service for one year now. He enjoys the food and the fact that he doesn’t have to prepare lunch in a rush before office hours. “Since the food is prepared at home there is no need to worry about my health”, he says. 

Corporate Dhaba started as a small kitchen space at home and grew to 800 sq. ft. kitchen area within nine years.  Pallavi Priti, her husband and their friend’s mother Munni Devi started this service with 15-20 customers at Mayur Vihar Phase 1. 

Corporate Dhaba employees
ALMOST RECESS: Corporate Dhaba employees preparing food

Starting with 50 tiffins daily, the service gained attention within the first week. “Our customers are mainly students and corporate employees and we realised over the years that the retail market has a great potential”, says Priti. 

After capturing the East Delhi area, the services are now available in the Noida market as well. “The hygiene and quality of the food attracted more clients from the corporate section to avail our services”, she adds. 

Corporate Dhaba delivers around 1,000 meals everyday at present. Apart from the tiffin service, they also provide corporate catering services and have signed a contract with a pharmaceutical company.

They have their own delivery boys along with auto-rickshaws linked to channel the delivery of food on time. To avoid the hike in price, they did not opt for any food delivery app. “Our customers are mainly students and working professionals. Increasing prices is not an option since it is not a one-time deal like restaurants”, says Noopur, Head of Marketing.

She explains that they do take single-time orders for lunch till 10:30 am and for dinner till 7 pm and deliver them within an hour.

The service has an online website where the customer can subscribe to the lunch and dinner plans. The menu is designed in such a way that the dish included in lunch is not repeated for dinner. As they are focusing more on corporate dinings, subscriptions and order can be placed through the number provided in the website.

“We try to include other cuisines like South Indian and Chinese in between because the customer also needs a change. Eating chawal and roti everyday gets mundane, so we try to maintain that variety”, she elaborates.

Over the years, the workforce has increased from 2-25. Accommodation is provided to most of the employees to increase the efficiency of services and timely delivery. A major challenge of the business remains the management of manpower. 

The kitchen at Corporate Dhaba starts at 6:30 am and the work is divided into two shifts: the morning shift starts from 6 am and the evening shift from 4:30 pm to ensure the quality of work.

With experience of nine years, Corporate Dhaba ensures quantity, quality and efficiency. “We provide enough portions that can be shared between two people. For the Rs 135 thali we include rice, four rotis, two vegetable dishes, raita and sweet”, adds Priti.

Gayathri S has been ordering tiffin from Corporate Dhaba since 2016. She started it during the renovation of her house and continued for one month which gradually became a mandatory service. “Recently I was out of town for four weeks and I subscribed to the lunch plan for my husband and my son”, she says.

Anu Mathew from Lajpat Nagar, who has recently started availing tiffin services, finds the idea most reasonable. She works at an MNC in Noida and has been using the services for two months now. She says, “I personally prefer these options because it is tiring to cook food after coming from the office, — especially chapatis.” 

Anjali started the tiffin service during the second wave of Covid-19. She delivers food around Lodhi Colony, BK Dutt Colony and Defence Colony. “You cannot eat food from restaurants regularly. Since most of my customers eat everyday, my intention is to provide good and healthy food”, she adds.

Anjali preparing food
MORNING HUSTLE: Anjali cooking lunch to be delivered by 8 am

She provides lunch and dinner and has around 18-20  customers. She also includes non-veg recipes as per the request of the customers.

Her menu includes South Indian dishes as well as North Indian dishes. Most of her clientele are students studying near the Lodhi area and working professionals away from home. 

She doesn’t have any website or name for her service; her business mostly runs through people’s reference. Apart from providing home-cooked meals, Anjali is a cyclist. 

“I know the feeling of being away from home and the craving for home cooked food. Now that I have the opportunity, I am doing my best to make them feel like home”, Anjali remarks.

 

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