By bringing master chefs into your home, Hopping Chef eyes a slice of the fine-dining pie
With 60 chefs, Mumbai-based bespoke dining startup serves 2,000 meals every day in the B2B space and organises 12 events every month in the B2C space.
Dining out may be on top of everyone’s to-do list, but ex-banker Shaival Chandra aims to change that.
Shaival, 39, became an entrepreneur for the love of food and founded Hopping Chef in January 2015. Run under Gritty Foods LLP, his idea was born out of a desire to offer the world’s best cuisine created by chefs in your homes.
As his startup’s name suggests, it lets chefs – from Michelin star and 5-star hotel restaurants to those from Master Chef India – hop on the bandwagon, work with them and grow recipe banks for the venture.
Hopping Chef currently operates only in Mumbai and Bengaluru. From Oriental and Italian to South American and Japanese, the startup has the bandwidth to customise a meal for two or curate a large menu for a party of 15,000 people by award-winning chefs who are specialists across 10 cuisines. All you need to do is log on to the website and choose the cuisine and chef you want.
Hopping Chef is funded by friends and family, including Gaurav Goenka of Mirah Hospitality. It currently serves 2,000 meals every day in the B2B space through its central kitchens in Mumbai and Bengaluru. In the B2C space, where food is cooked in a consumer’s house with customisation, it does over 12 events every month.
No love is truer than love for food
A graduate in economics and management from Ohio Wesleyan University, US, Shaival was vice president at Merrill Lynch, New York, from 2000 to 2008. Having worked at Wall Street, Shaival’s experiences with food had inspired him to create food with the strong understanding that system and processes govern all businesses.
After returning to India, he worked with his family business in pharma and power. “A desire to do something unique and challenging drove me to starting Gritty Foods,” he says.
Entrepreneurship runs in his family – Shaival’s great grandfather had started the business of manufacturing glass with Lokmanya Tilak. His father and brother diversified into alternate energy (solar energy).
“My family has played a critical role in helping me achieve my dreams of starting of a food business; their love and support is what drives us to strive to be the best at what we do,” he says.
Bringing master chefs on board
A team of 200 people now, Hopping Chef is a chef-led brand. They started with 10 chefs and two years down the line have 60 chefs, including veterans like Ajay Chopra, Pankaj Raut, Shantanu Gupte and Michael Swamy.
Shaival says chefs are attracted to Hopping Chef as they have the freedom to express their creativity with bespoke menus.
“Every chef likes creating unique menus that allow him or her to keep evolving their cooking styles and technique,” he adds.
After a client signs up, the chef plans a meeting, takes note of the requirements and designs customised menus. “We take care of all requirements such as utensils, crockery, cutlery, bartender team, servers and cleaners. At the end of an event, the kitchen and house is cleaned and handed back to the client,” Shaival says.
Hopping Chef is now launching Hop Box, a chef-led multicuisine ready-to-eat meal box priced between Rs 200 and Rs 400. For Hop Box, they delve into recipe banks of all their chefs, curated and created especially for Gritty Foods. They had also acquired ‘Falafels’, a Lebanese Haus, in April this year.
Multiple revenue models
Hopping Chef has been a part of events like Cold Play, USICON and Justin Bieber’s concerts where approximately 5,000 guests were served on a single day.
“We have had the pleasure of serving India’s influential people across the business, Bollywood and cricket arenas,” says Shaival, without revealing names. Their private dining rate starts from Rs 1,500 and goes up to Rs 3,000.
Hopping Chef also provides cafeteria management services. “All large-scale organisations now have a cafeteria within their office premises to serve good food to employees. We, at Hopping Chef, offer multicuisine health-centric food to cafeterias, which gives them greater employee acceptance rate,” he says.
Having multiple brands - Hopping Chef, Hop Box and Falafels - has enabled the startup to focus on customers across geographies and income groups. “We believe we are able to do multiple things that have allowed us to grow our revenue across our brands,” Shaival says. He claims their turnover is around Rs 1 crore per month and that the startup is growing between about 10 and 20 percent.
Hopping Chef’s revenue projection in 2017 is around Rs 20 crore; for 2018, they are aiming at Rs 50 crore. The team hopes to turn profitable over the next few months.
Hopping Chef says their integrated kitchens are designed as per international HCAAP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) standards, ensuring the highest safety and hygiene standards for food processing and manufacturing. It enables fine dining, sit-down events, theme parties, birthdays, date parties, weddings, kids’ parties, destination events and live barbeque parties.
But food requires a personal touch. Hence, they often invite clients to the private dining room at their central kitchen. Social media is another important tool for communicating with their clients. Hopping Chef also has its own Youtube channel, which helps anyone learn the Hopping Chef way to cook.
“We have more than 100 regular clients and we hope to increase that to 200. Mumbai and Bangalore, being the two largest markets, have helped us learn the differences of managing multiple brands across multiple cities,” Shaival adds.
Hopping on to the gourmet food bandwagon
The gourmet food industry was valued at $2.8 billion in 2015, and is growing at a pace of 20 percent CAGR. There is space for multiple players, especially in urban areas. Hopping Chef competes with Freshmenu and HolaChef, which serve world cuisines from master chefs’ kitchens as well as ChefHost, which functions across India, Hong Kong and the UK as an on-demand chef hire platform. Bengaluru-based Voolsy, which lets the customer browse restaurant menus and customise orders online, is a different yet related model.
Over the next 12 months, Hopping Chef plans to expand nationally with Delhi being a strong target. There has never been a better time for disruptions like this as the aspiring middle class is open to culinary experiments. Dining in may soon be the new dining out, if Hopping Chef has its way!