Friday, June 14, 2024

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Why worry when you can make it yourself! Eateries encourage consumers to go DIY

Prateek Thakker
We have survived 90+ days of being confined to our houses due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and everyone has adapted themselves to become Masterchefs in their bubbles. From baking to cooking the complex of the dishes, we have tried every trick in the trade to satiate our taste buds. Something in the BC (Before COVID) world we would do at least twice a week.
The restaurant industry across the country and even globally to a large extent has taken the biggest hit. With people refusing to go back even with the unlock 1.0- AC (After COVID) was never going to be easy. What made it worthwhile was the opening of our favourite eateries for delivery.
The caveat though was always the trust factor. How could we trust someone to handle our food when the fear was at its peak? Yes, there were multiple SOPs in place and everything was being taken care of to the highest level, however, the fear psychosis around us did nothing to calm it down.
Social media platforms and influencers played a major role in assuring everyone that it was safe to order and eat food from hotels, restaurants and cafes.
The Mango Pickle Kit from Conosh

Closer to home, Conosh, a hyper-local service that allows you to eat delicious food whether it is eating at home or at the restaurant, introduced the concept of DIY kits. The idea was to continue bringing people together over food. What they did was to bring home chefs to create such kits that were home delivered and at a pre-decided time, the cook would take the consumers through a step-by-step process of making that dish. 

From Pickles to Sourdough bread, Pizzas to Pie-tarts, Conosh had it all. When quizzed on the why and what of kick-starting DIY methods, Neha Malik, Co-Founder at Conosh says, As the lockdown happened, Instagram was taken by a storm of people who were cooking awe-inspiring dishes and on another hand, other sets of people who lamented they couldn’t access such food. Sometimes, ingredients were an issue and at others, someone to help them step by step.  We saw a gap in the market and went ahead to fill it.”

Mexican Tacos kit by Little Italy

This was also echoed by Amrut Mehta, Director at Little Italy Group of Restaurants as well, where he says that the introduction of DIY kits was something they came up with after multiple interactions with guests and learning how they were hesitant to order from outside because of safety concerns but at the same time they were very enthusiastic about cooking at home. 

Cooking throughout the lockdown has been a great activity that everyone was doing to pass time and keep negativity at bay. Cooking is such a great activity and we believe its an act of love and it is bigger and deeper when done together, we wanted to encourage people to come together in their homes and cook for their families”, he adds. 

Debolina Ray, an IT professional by the day and top Travel Blogger by the night felt that from the Covid perspective, cooked food is generally considered safe. However, a DIY adds more comfort to be able to see what exactly goes into your food, and minimize external contact.

Debolina Ray

While for hobby chefs, cooking has been a total stress buster, for eateries, it is still a very small part of the order when compared to ready-made dishes. Hence, not all eateries have rolled it out for all their dishes. Limiting it to dishes like Pasta, Pizza, Tacos, etc are the easy ones. 

Ensuring the freshness of these ingredients is the key. For a chocolate brand like Ether, making sure the ingredients are not contaminated is sacrosanct. Chef Prateek Bakhtiani of Ether adds that their DIY chocolate kits are designed in a way that they can be great gifting options too. A gift that brings one closer to with your family or kids while also trying your hand at baking, which everyone considers tougher than traditional cooking. 

He says, “Our first set of DIYs were very classic recipes: for example Banana Bread, where we added elements of complexity and seasonality to them. In this case, pairing the caramelization of the bananas with the freshness of summer passion fruit and layering it all with the roundedness of Ghanaian single-origin Chocolate Chip.”

I hope that what starts as a fun exercise in making classic banana bread, leaves our clients endowed, not only with a sense of accomplishment of having created something in this time of lethargic numbness, but also a respect for, say, chocolate chips as not just chocolate chips, but of having an origin, a deep-seated whisper to its terroir, an inheritance of the earth in Ghana and that of the people that tend to her,” adds Bakhtiani.
While DIY kits bring a sense of accomplishment among the ones who do not consider cooking as their mastery while bringing the family together, will we see them becoming permanent fixtures in takeaway or delivery menus? 
Rupa Balachandar
Rupa Balachandar, Food writer and critic feels that DIY kits give single people and working parents the opportunity to reduce time procuring ingredients. Hence, meal planning is made much easier, giving them more time to do other important things like spend time with family or catch up on hobbies, etc.

Agrees Mehta who says, “I think that it is going to be a trend that is here to stay. Even as restaurants open, we will not see many people flock to restaurants for the next few months as public sentiment is uncertain about the safety aspect. We will increasingly see more people get together at homes for parties and small events where guests are more likely to cook themselves using these DIY kits as it saves time and people are able to recreate restaurant-like, versatile dishes at home.”

While restaurants like Little Italy, Smoke House Deli, Pot-O-Noodles, Potful Biryani and many others have been first movers in offering these kits, many others are catching up.

For a dish as complex in tastes like the Biriyani, Lokesh Krishnan, founder of Potful Biryani feels that cooking Biriyani pots would dispel a lot of myths around the dish.

The hygiene factor when it comes to meat is something that everyone agrees is going to be tricky. While the earlier days of lockdowns and the pandemic saw people shunning meat altogether, it has been an uphill task for eateries to get people to look at meat again.

The orders have been moving, consumers have been accepting DIY kits, what does this mean for restaurants while pricing them? Do DIY kits cost higher because the restaurant has to ensure the raw food is not contaminated and hence take extra precautions, or is it much cheaper because it requires lesser effort and manpower?

The latter, says Mehta. “The DIY kits are priced much cheaper and rightfully so because while the food cost remains the same, the effort or human involvement behind every kit is marginal compared to a ready meal which requires a qualified chef to prepare your dish. The DIY kits are roughly 40% the price of a ready meal. For example, a pizza at Little Italy is roughly Rs. 550, however, a DIY kit gives 3 pizzas at Rs. 899.”

Adding to it, Bakthiani says, “Our plan with the Bake-alongs was to make people feel comfortable baking, so it was important that we made these boxes easily accessible. To do this, we started by pricing these boxes much more moderately than our other products (up to 35% lower), seeing as many people currently find themselves in situations of financial uncertainty”

For consumers like Debolina and Rupa, shelling out a little extra does not pinch the pocket solely because of the convenience factor. “Little Italy’s DIY Pizza Kit has three pizza bases with sauce and toppings for Rs. 899. Individually this will cost more while ordering in. However, if I can add custom toppings to this, and pay more – make a customised pizza that I can’t get directly at a restaurant, yes I could pay more for that.”, adds Debolina. 

Going the extra mile to satiate one’s cravings is not a sin, nor is NOT cooking a meal. Sometimes, we all agree, DIY lets you not worry!

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