Deliver us from lockdown

King Fu Canteen and Brun & Babka, both delivery services, are the latest brands to join Hunger Inc’s portfolio. We got a chance to speak to CEO Sameer Seth about the entrants and also, sample the home delivery experience.

Hunger Inc, the group behind well-known brands such as O Pedro, The Bombay Canteen and The Bombay Sweet Shop, has diversified its business to launch two new delivery brands – King Fu Canteen and Brun & Babka.

Sameer seth yash bhanage partners at hunger inc. Hospitality pvt. Ltd. 2 pic courtesy tejal pandey dsc 6957x min 1
Sameer Seth (left) and Yash Bhanage (right) expanded with these two new brands with the primary objective of offsetting losses in the dining-in segment. However, depending on consumer response, both brands could fit into a long-term plan.
Photo courtesy Tejal Pandey

King Fu Canteen specialises in Indian Chinese cuisine while Brun & Babka is a bakeshop. The team at Hunger Inc had explored and experimented with these concepts previously, but it was only recently, with the state of Maharashtra imposing lockdown restrictions a couple of weeks ago, that they materialised into full-fledged services. “We downed our shutters to diners at the restaurant and switched to deliveries only just about a couple of Mondays ago. This situation has happened before and it takes a lot out of people to go through this kind of a scenario. So, we wondered what we could do differently this time. If we had to go into a lockdown, may as well do it on our own terms, and the thing we do best is create,” says Sameer Seth, Founder and CEO, Hunger Inc.

The turnaround time for the brands to start functioning was quite the benchmark. In fact, says Seth, both concepts were launched in less than a working week. “When dine-in stopped, we put started brainstorming on that Monday. By Wednesday, we had moved to the tasting phase and by Thursday, we had the menus in place. Both brands launched on Friday. It was only possible because of the kind of team we are.”

What also helped with the quick rollout of the brands was the group leveraging its existing kitchen and staff infrastructure as well as delivery partners,, to produce efficient results.

Deciding on Indian Chinese cuisine was driven by the team’s research, some years ago, into the concept of such a restaurant. The fact that it played to the chefs’ strengths and that this kind of food works well in the delivery format, sealed the deal. Executive Chef Hunger Inc Hospitality, Hussain Shahzad and Chef De Cuisine O Pedro, Jyoti Singh are the brains behind the menu and bring their years of expertise to present dishes such as choris baos, beef short rib and marrow wontons, mutton momos and Tangra chilli jumbo crab, among others.

Brun & Babka’s culinary driver is Chef Heena Punwani, and the menu adds international flavours to the group’s sweet repertoire which already has Indian mithais with the Bombay Sweet Shop. Decadent cakes and eclairs are on the menu for now, with more options in the pipeline.

This writer had the opportunity to experience home delivery by both brands, and initial impressions show promise.

The King Fu Canteen offerings included appetizers choris baos, beef wontons and Tangra chilli paneer, along with mains black pepper chicken, mapo tofu, egg fried rice and pork noodles. Dessert comprised crispy honey noodles and a thoughtful little snacking pack of dark chocolate and butterscotch brittle. Brun & Babka had sent a box of assorted eclairs.

The packaging was well done and the proportions of each serving, especially with the mains, were enough for two. The flavours themselves were engaging, from the steamy goodness of the baos pairing perfectly with the texture of the pork mince stuffing to the succulent beef wontons.

It was with the mains that the team’s inspiration from Kolkata’s Tangra became more evident. The simplicity of the egg fried rice balanced out the spice of the dark-gravied chicken and tofu, while the noodles with juicy pieces of pork worked well as a meal in itself.

The eclairs from Brun & Babka were decadent to say the least. The rich layering on top, with the filling inside, all peppered with crunchy nuts were exactly the sugar indulgence that would work great as a pick-me-up in the toughest times. It also made this writer wonder about the cakes on the menu.

It’s a home delivery experience well worth it. Especially since King Fu Canteen is one of the few places in Mumbai to have gotten the flavours (and proportions) of Indian Chinese cuisine spot on. Brun & Babka tempts with its rich offerings and given how good the eclairs were, the cakes are sure to be the highlight of any celebration.   

Both the brands were conceptualised and executed at rather short notice, so credit must go to the team for turning out such accomplished menus. With lockdown restrictions forcing restaurants across the country to shutter dine-in services again, prospects for the industry look grim. Already bruised by a year of shutdowns, decreased capacities and little help by way of policy, the fresh rounds of lockdowns have the industry teetering on the brink. King Fu Canteen and Brun & Babka do represent channels through which Hunger Inc is looking to minimise losses on the dine-in front through the lockdown period. But whether they fit into the group’s long-term plans depends, naturally, on diner response.

“King Fu Canteen was definitely thought of as a lockdown initiative while Brun & Babka could be something that finds a permanent spot. However, it’s still early days for both brands and it all depends on the kind of response they garner. Developments will happen as we continue to reach out across the market with both brands,” signs off Seth.

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