A food startup in the foodtech crowd -- Café Jade, the Chinese chatkhara


There are so many companies in the foodtech space providing you ways to find delicious food in your city and innovating ways in doorstep food delivery.

I came across a small restaurant in my city Chandigarh that is innovating on quality of food. Located in a neglected part of the city, tiny Chinese food parlour Café Jade has become a favorite with foodies owing to its quality adherence, tasty food and its use of technology.

At first sight, a casual observer can be fooled by its miniscule size as Café Jade operates on a "delco" model. ’Delco’ is the term used in the food industry to describe a restaurant that operates on a ‘delivery and takeaway’ model. On the contrary, Café Jade is quite popular with not only Chandigarh residents, but also food lovers from city outskirts like Panchkula, Mohali, Zirakpur, and Kalka, who drive up to enjoy its special sauces and salads served with its Chinese and Thai style food.

There is a large chunk of people that love Chinese and Thai food, but are forced to stay away from it as they are allergic to various food items. Located in Sector-38 in the city, Café Jade is probably the first Chinese food joint in India that offers gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, nut-free Chinese and Thai dishes. It also has low-calorie Chinese and Thai food for those who are eating light.

Customers residing in Chandigarh and Mohali order food from the comfort of their home and get doorstep delivery of the choicest Chinese and Thai food items. They have the option of paying online through partner food-tech companies or making payment in cash at the time of delivery.

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PK Khurana

Café Jade has been started by PK Khurana, a former director of marketing at a newspaper group, is a passionate entrepreneur with vast experience in the public relations domain. He left his job in 1999 to start his PR consultancy and accumulated experience and courage for a risky venture.

Khurana's love for Chinese and Thai food brought him to the concept of healthy Chinese food. He wanted to offer similar taste to everyone and the chance to sit at home and order it.

Our mantra has always been to focus on quality, quantity, taste and hygiene. Café Jade is cleaned every single day in a manner akin to worship. We religiously follow strict standards of cleanliness and hygiene. This has made our customers come back again and again. Jade's food has always been delicious; we just had to scale up the operations to include all sectors of Chandigarh and Mohali for delivery. Simultaneously, we added the required workforce, arranged training sessions for the staff, did some online and offline marketing and the business became profitable.

Small sessions of counseling coupled with relevant training to the staff members brought the business on the auto mode and there was no more requirement of Khurana’s physical presence at the cafe. He has introduced many new ideas to cater to a larger pool of customers, besides catering to customers with special requirements and has been instrumental in innovating food processes and keeping the team and the customers happy.

“I get a kick when customers tell our people that they love our food and service,” said Khurana.

He shared one interesting incident:

One of our regular customers, living in the neighborhood, always insisted that the delivery boy should not come wearing Café Jade T-Shirt on a Café Jade branded bike. He made large orders but insisted that the delivery be made by a person who comes by foot (and not Café Jade bike) and with no other Café Jade branding. When we probed, he turned out to be the banquet manager of a local five-star hotel!

Café Jade has the requisite number of people to serve the patrons efficiently. Tiny company it may be, but it is tech-enabled and profitable and has plans of setting up an e-commerce website and an app soon to serve customers through online orders and payments.

Café Jade is in the mode of scaling up operations but is not seeking funding immediately. It is, however, offering franchise opportunity to those who are geared up to offer support services to the potential franchisees.Khurana explained his plans to scale up the business,

Most of the big businesses run on auto mode, and the money makes money for the owners. I wanted to replicate this with a small set up and have been successful. Now my money gets me money without the requirement of my physical presence at the cafe. Despite being a brick-and-mortar kind of business, the systems enable me to open and run any number of outlets without requiring my physical presence at any of the outlets.

He is a tech-savvy man, if not a technology person. He knows how to use system, processes and manpower. He belongs to the old school but is open to new ideas of modern technology & businesses.

He shared his views on the exit plan,

People start businesses or invest in startups with an aim to make money and exit. I belong to the other category. I believe in milking the cow, and not just feeding it and then butchering it. Why eat the chicken that can lay eggs on a daily basis? Most of the startups are bleeding profusely. They grow not on profits, but on funding. Initial investors make money but others follow to be butchered. This is not a healthy trend as this category of startups will leave an overall negative imprint on the domain and drive away future investors. Ignoring the profitability will bring the bust closer than it might happen otherwise. I request investors and startup entrepreneurs to be careful about the bottom line.

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