About a year and a half back Lolita Sarkar and Amitabh Sinha were travelling to Berlin and were relishing scrumptious and fresh hot dogs there. The thought struck Lolita that India is a place which has fresh produce and yet you don’t get such good hot dogs here. After returning to India, she started experimenting at home and did tasting tests with friends who loved the dogs! It was in October 2014 that they took a plunge and started a Desi Deli stall at a flea market. As, someone truly said, hard work never goes in vain... they did it at five others market and sold around 1700 hot dogs. “Amitabh and I got together and planned to start this. I worked on taking the menu further. Amitabh focused on making it a brand and expand further,” added excited Lolita who is running two successful cafes of Desi Deli today.
How it all got started?
Amitabh: The first thing that happened was that we got a small cafe space in Bandra, close to Lilavati Hospital and fortunately it had great footfall where we developed a reputation for Desi Deli’s great food! . We didn’t have to push a lot to promote it. While this was going on, we also explored corporate catering from our menu. We catered to PWC, Harley Rock Riders, Condenast India, and finally we got invited to the Mahindra Blues Festival 2016.
How is the response so far as you have opened another outlet?
Lolita: The first year has been fantastic as far as the food and expanding awareness is concerned. We are really enjoying the fact that there is huge customer loyalty- a lot of our guests return again and again. And, we hope that the Andheri café does the same for us.
What is the total investment you have put in to open the restaurants?
Amitabh: We have put in around Rs 50 lakh to start the business. .
We see that lots of restaurants come and fail within few months.
How are you trying to enter the long term race?
Amitabh: We come from an advertising background. The one thing we have decided is that we won’t put money on very high rents and expensive furniture. We created a design which is economical, easy to achieve, scalable and not very expensive.
Lolita: We spend our money on getting organic materials, high quality ingredients and our greens are organic. Even our coffee is from an individual plantation and we have great suppliers. We are poised between fine dine and QSR so for us whatever we do is focused on something which is scalable and profitable. We have brought good design and aesthetics to a zone where we believe it can be replicable across the country.
Tell us about your product category. What is the price range?
Lolita: We have nine gourmet hot dogs, seven different varieties of burgers. We have main courses - plated meals - a carb, a protein and a salad. We have desserts and shakes and drinks. And, we change a couple of things every now and then so that the menu is tweaked often. We keep an emphasis on regional food with an international touch. We offer familiar food like burgers and dogs with gourmet taste and give it a delicious desi twist.
Average price range is Rs 180-325
How often do you tweak your restaurant menu?
We change the menu roughly thrice a year.
Who is your target customer?
Amitabh: There is an emerging urban class with higher disposable incomes, who are aware of the international scene and like to travel. They want interesting new experiences, yet are essentially Indian, and want good value and something they can relate to. This audience is not only in the metros but extends further to other Indian cities. We are targeting people who are looking for interesting new experience.
What is your expansion plan?
Amitabh: Mumbai alone should be able to absorb and deserves 8-10 Desi Deli cafes, at least. Thereafter, we can explore other metros and Indian cities.