The legendary Royal Enfield motorcycle is getting a makeover into a more delicious model, complete with a sidecar that fits a grill, luggage boxes, and the shiniest weapons of a chef, not to mention an umbrella stand.
Two brothers have stolen the thunder from Royal Enfield, India’s most-loved motorcycle, by fitting on a sidecar and converting it into a mobile barbeque grill for their street food idea, which is expected to take the country by storm.
After fabricating two bikes – a 500 cc Royal Enfield and a Royal Enfield Classic 350 cc Bullet - into mobile barbeque food stands, they settled for the 350 cc model, with lesser thump, for taking their business all over India.
“Our target is to fabricate 150 such new Bullet motorcycles in the next six months. BBQ Ride India is India’s first food bike chain company,” Arun Varma tells YourStory.
The 22-year-old already owns a food truck business along with his brother Krishna, a year younger. They operate three trucks and a Nano converted into an ice cream car, and can easily qualify as the youngest food truck owners in India with their large stable. The spark for the two-wheeler idea came up as they faced several issues parking their three Tempo Travellers every evening.
The food truck fad started in Bengaluru two years ago, and their numbers reached more than a hundred in a matter of months. But many soon faced several accompanying headaches, such as the lack of guaranteed parking spaces on the city’s roads and the trucks being branded in the mobile hawkers’ category. While they have a licence to run the business, issued by the civic body, there are always issues with the authorities.
“As space was at a premium on the city’s streets, Arun hit upon the idea of fabricating a two-wheeler with a sidecar that would have a grill and a tava. We saw the movie Sholay and realised that if a sidecar (in the movie) could carry a 90 kg person, it could easily be converted into a grill,” says Krishna.
So, what started as an idea to solve the space crunch resulted in a modified bike that could be ridden to the place of business and operated by a single rider-cum-chef. A month and a half ago, their first fabricated Bullet 500 cc hit the road. It not only grabbed eyeballs but also offers of investment and for the use of the vehicle as a film prop too.
In startup capital Bengaluru, venture capitalists and angel investors keep an eye out for the next big idea, and some of them got wind of this crazy bike doing the rounds and fell in love with it. That’s when the brothers, both final year degree students of Sindhi College in Hebbal-Kempapura fitted a second bullet with a sidecar, this time opting for a 350 cc motorcycle. They chose the Bullet as it is sturdy and stable when fitted with a sidecar.
The bikes are parked every evening at Coffee Board Layout, “Food Street” as the location is popularly called, and at Kammanahalli, an area that is emerging as the next Koramangala or Indiranagar as far as the gastro experience is concerned.
The brothers have grabbed the eyeballs of everyone from movie producers to investors. A third brand new Bullet is already parked in front of their modest accommodation in Amrut Nagar, ready for a retrofit. That’s when it hit home. “Don’t Bullet motorcycles have a six-month-plus waiting period?” I ask Krishna.
Apparently, Royal Enfield was so taken up with their fabrication that the company promised to deliver each of the 150 bikes that they promised to order the very next day. “The company has liked our idea very much, and has even promised to showcase some of the models that we fabricate at their showrooms,” he said.
Arun, a dropout from a medical school in China, started a food truck business along with Krishna 18 months ago. But they soon faced labour issues, apart from the other associated business problems.
Once parked, the chef can get the grill going in ten minutes. All he has to do is open the sidecar top and presto - a grill comes into view! Next to it is a tava attached to a five kg LPG cylinder. The chef reaches into the front of the sidecar for charcoal, which he spreads evenly on the grill to barbeque mouth-watering dishes. A counter, too, opens out to help serve customers.
Once fanned, he reaches into the back of the sidecar for the chef’s weapons – assorted skewers, knives and kitchen instruments to grill the meat and veggies on offer. In case it rains, the chef stands prepared; he reaches into the sidecar to pull out a garden umbrella.
At Food Street, the waft from the grill is unmistakable. As it travels down the road, it draws the curious and the hungry. Many of them, like Shankar Prasad, are left drooling – not for the chicken stewing on the BBQ, but at the sight of the modified bike.
“This is the first time I have seen a Bullet put to such a test. This is awesome,” he says as he bites into the food offered, which includes chicken legs, boneless chicken strips, wraps, burgers, rolls and pineapple veggies, all barbequed within minutes, on the spot. The brothers are looking to add more culinary flavours as their idea takes wing. One immediate addition will be nitrogen-dipped cookies. Once consumed, smoke comes out of the mouth, and these are safe for children too.
For an evening on the road, they can serve up to 200 customers, as the sidecar can carry that amount of marinated chicken, veggies, buns and wraps.
“As we offer only continental food, we cannot afford to have separate non-veg and veg bikes at the same spot. It’s like Anglo-Indian cuisine – all versions of it will come from the same BBQ spit and tava,” says Krishna, acutely aware of customers’ sensibilities for “strictly vegetarian food” grilled on veg-only BBQs and tavas.
The brothers want to take their model all over India, as they have been getting franchisee enquiries from as far as Pathankot, Gurgaon and Visakhapatnam, and investment calls even from Dubai.
They have started a company called BBQ Ride India, and have lined up investments. Each new 350 cc Bullet and its fabrication costs close to Rs 3.5 lakh. To reduce the burden on their brother-in-law’s unit, Arun is in talks with a company that manufactures sidecars. “Once we get a ready sidecar, we can fabricate it within a week.”
To help add marketing muscle, they have brought in Nijish Nair as a cofounder. He was formerly with Oyo and now operates a food truck. Once they get going, they plan to employ as many unemployed young hands as possible. Now, they are paying attention to the product line, quality of food, and standardisation; they use expensive Mexican red chilli oil, cinnamon paprika, and other quality foodstuffs available only in expensive supermarkets.
Arun has already signed up with a hotelier in Goa to station four Bullets on the fun state’s beaches. One can only say, “Keep Calm and Grill On!”