the food industry in the developing world and India is no exception. Many of the traditional dishes have been adapted to suit the emerging fast food outlets. For example, the typical meal which called for being served by an ever alert attendant is now offered as a Mini-Meal across the counter. In its traditional version, a plate or a banana leaf was first laid down on the floor or table. Several helpers then waited on the diner, doling out different dishes and refilling as they got over in the plate.
In the fast food version, a plate already arranged with a variety of cooked vegetables and curries along with a fixed quantity of rice and Indian flatbreads is handed out across the counter against a prepaid coupon. The curries and breads vary depending on the region and local preferences. The higher priced ones may add a sweet to the combination. Refills are generally not offered.
The diversity of Indian cuisine poses logistical problems when it comes to handling. Hence it is common to serve different cuisines at different counters within the same premises. Presence of a large vegetarian population, who eschew non-vegetarian food, has given rise to outlets which exclusively serve vegetarian fast food. Also, different variety of food may be served depending on the times of the day. Beverages such coffee, tea, soft drinks and fruit juices may also be served in such outlets. Some outlets may additionally have specially designed counters for ice-creams, chaats etc.
Popular formats of fast food business in India have the following features in common:
- Wide opening on the road side
- Easy to maintain and durable décor
- A cash counter where food coupons are sold
- A food delivery counter which invariably is granite topped
- Additional counters for Ice Creams, Chaats, Beverages etc
- A well fitted kitchen located so as to be visible to the customers
- Tall tables, usually of stainless steel, where one can eat while standing
- A drinking water fountain adorned with a water filter
- Rust-proof and non-breakable crockery
Most of the fast food outlets in India are stand alone establishment, few of them having more than one branch.
One of Bangalore’s restaurateurs, Mr Prabhakar, opened an outlet called Upahara Darshini in mid 1980’s. The novelty was that the food is cooked just behind the serving counter, visible to the customers, and one has to eat while standing by placing the food on tall tables. It is a self service place where one has to buy a coupon before eating. It offered typical south Indian snacks at highly affordable prices resulting in an instant hit with the office goers as well as students. The size and the enclosed design of the eating space and consequent spilling over of the eaters onto the footpath during the busy hours indicates that he did not anticipate the level of success. This issue is addressed by those who copied the module by keeping the entire face of the outlet open to the road. It will not wrong to say that this was a trend setter and its format, described earlier, is even to this day replicated by other across south India. The popularity of this business module can be gauged by the fact that many restaurants which adopt this format have “Darshini” as suffix in their names.
Another concept of fast food that is becoming popular is that of Food Courts. It is like putting together a number of Darshinis serving different cuisines under one roof. Here also one has to purchase coupons and collect the food from one of the several counters. Each one of these counters serves specific variety of food and may be owned by different individuals or caterers. Food Courts are normally located on much bigger premises and may provide seating facility in addition to the stand and eat arrangement. Typically one entrepreneur owns or takes on lease the entire premises and promotes the place under one name. He then lets out individual counters to different independent operators to offer different menu. Internal competition is avoided by not allowing more than one counter to offer similar food.
Several international fast food chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mc Donald’s and Barista Coffee have their outlets in major cities. Café Coffee Day, again a brainchild of Bangalore based businessman, is the only Indian chain which boasts of hundreds of outlets and is present across India. But then it is classified more as a coffee shop than a fast food place.
Varieties of Food Offered
The kind of fare they offer as of date could be just anything and everything. Basically preference of the local population and the location of the outlet decide the menu. Some of the popular dishes offered at Indian Fast Food outlets are:
- Idlis – Rice Idli, Rava Idli
- Vadas – Uddina Vada, Rava Vada, Masala Vada, Maddur Vada
- Dosas - Masala Dosas, Set Dosa, Rava Dosa
- Upma, Kesaribhath
- Bonda Soup
- Vegetable Bonda
- Bajjis – Banana Bajji, Green Chili Bajji
- Pakoras – Onion Pakora, Vegetable Pakora
- Roti and Sabzi
- Chana Bhatura
- Pav Bhaji
- Vada Pav
- Roti Rolls
- Dahi Vada
- Fried Rice
- Chicken Theeka
- Mini Meals
- Aerated Drinks
- Fresh Fruit Juice