This quick-service restaurant chain celebrates Indian street food in safety and style
Most people will attest to having dearly missed their favourite Indian street foods during the lockdown. Once things began to open up, Delhi-based Suraj Mahant realised the difficulty of accessing authentic street foods at home, which provided a unique market opportunity. This led to him launchingin 2020.
“With our brand Chaat & Chai Co, we aim to bring a revolution to the chaat sector in a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) format. We currently have outlets across Delhi-NCR, Agra, and Lucknow, and deliver our offerings throughout Delhi-NCR. Our brand celebrates the bold, authentic flavours and social gathering traditions of age-old Indian street food, accompanied by India’s most loved beverage – chai,” explains Suraj.
Dwarka branch of Chaat and Chai Co restaurant
After attaining his BCom degree from Delhi University, Suraj entered the food and beverage industry. Over the last decade, he has worked with renowned brands like Lite Bite Foods and Dabur Group. As a food enthusiast himself, he is familiar with a wide range of cuisines, however, street food has always been one of his favourites.
He was well aware that as far as street foods are concerned, the promise of tasty fare is not enough – the dishes must also recreate or offer a modicum of the nostalgia associated with the concept of street food.
So, the brand sought to recreate India’s colourful roadside food culture.
“Indian street food is known for its unique flavours, diversity, and most importantly, its versatility. Every city has its own signature street food culture, whether it is Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai or Bengaluru,” says Suraj.
He adds further, “When you think of cuisines in India, it’s not just regional food that comes to mind – even street food qualifies as cuisine and is one of the major things you seek to try when you visit an Indian city. We felt that there had been a gap in the market for an organised space to showcase street food. We were particularly looking to set up a place that is hygienic and safe and also has a quirky ambience to appeal to patrons, while offering the most authentic fare. Earlier, if one wanted to enjoy some chaat, they would have to go to a sweet shop – which was not possible during the lockdown. Also, safety and hygiene became a priority in the last year, which was a valid concern in the local neighbourhood street food eateries.”
Pindi Chhole Samosa by Chaat and Chai Co
Before launching the brand, rigorous research went into identifying the most popular flavours and kinds of street food. The team did this by visiting many local chaat stalls across Delhi-NCR and other Indian cities like Agra, Lucknow, Mumbai, and Kolkata.
Based on their research, Chaat & Chai Co developed authentic items. The brand takes special pride in the chai that it serves as that is India’s most iconic and well-loved beverage. Their special masala blend is made in-house. Apart from regular Indian tea variants, they also offer bubble tea made with tapioca bubbles that provide a burst of flavour in the mouth. The eatery serves a selection of chaat and samosas – dishes that best accompany their chai. Additionally, they offer classic street food items like gol gappe, bhel puri, sev puri, raj kachori, and ram ladoo, among other things.
However, to stand out from their competitors, they have also introduced variations like the Chinese samosa and Punjabi chholey samosa, which have become quite popular with patrons. Another classic offering on the menu is their selection of Maggi dishes – ranging from Masala Maggi, Soup Wali Maggi, Masala Cheese Maggi, and Paneer Bhurji Masala Maggi.
Prices of individual items begin from Rs 40 for a chai or a plate of samosas and go up to Rs 180 for their bharwa paneer tikka chaat. They also offer pocket-friendly combinations consisting of chaat meals for two or four people. The most value-for-money offering on the menu, priced at Rs 860, is their maha jumbo package as part of which one can enjoy four chaats, two plates of pakode and four adrak chais.
“We want Chaat & Chai Co to be a familiar and approachable chaat place. Our brand focuses on providing top-quality street food, in a safe and comfortable environment. Other measures that we have taken to be more conscious of the times is using environment-friendly packaging,” shares Suraj.
Pao Bhaji at Chaat and Chai Co
Since its launch a few months ago, Chaat & Chai Co has opened eleven outlets across Delhi-NCR, Agra, and Lucknow expressway. They plan to launch 35 more outlets across the length and breadth of India in the next two years.
Having found an early investor – Bijender Singh Lohia of the Lion Group – the company was off to a promising start and is self-funded as of now.
Though the pandemic has been a difficult time for the entire food industry, Suraj believes it has also led to a change in the fundamental dynamics of the way restaurants are run. He believes the only way for businesses to survive in this altered scenario is if they are willing to be flexible enough to adjust to the changing demands of the customer and the industry.
Suraj shares candidly, “We were lucky enough to expand and sustain ourselves through the pandemic’s second wave and afterwards. In fact, the company has grown during this period.” Chaat & Chai Co has doubled its sales before completing its first year in business, with several new openings lined up for the coming financial quarter.
By utilising the QSR format to its advantage, Chaat & Chai Co has been able to carve a niche for itself in an overly saturated market.
Suraj says, “No other company has brought together the most loved beverage of our country and its unique street food offerings in an organised manner. Undoubtedly, big banners do have them as a part of their menus or seasonal festive offerings, but they almost never have a menu that is focused only on chaat and street foods from around India. Hopefully, we will be able to grab the consumer’s attention with this concept.”
Though their journey has just begun, being able to open an outlet inside the premises of the Taj Mahal has been their most gratifying moment as of now – something Suraj particularly takes pride in.
Apart from their physical outlets, Chaat & Chai Co also deliver through Dotpe, and will soon start deliveries with third party services like Zomato and Swiggy.
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