At Delhi’s Satyaniketan, the cafes serve burgers for Rs 50 and shakes for Rs 25. We find out how it is possible!

Suchayan Mandal | Sep 11, 2016, 12.01PM IST

This part of south Delhi is quite different, at least in terms of pocket-friendly food. Just a stone’s throwaway from Delhi University’s south campus, Satyaniketan market boasts of 50 to 70 cafes. Take a look from one end and you can just see a series of neon signboards with glass doors. Mostly the café sizes here vary from 600 sq ft to 1500 sq ft. That’s all!

At a time when most fancy eating places are getting exorbitantly high priced, thanks to the consistent inflation, here the deal is to serve tasty food at minimum price. The target group that these restaurants serve is students, who want good ambience and food without weighing down on any one's pockets.

So we thought of walking into a few cafes and understanding what helps them keep prices within a limit. Toward the beginning of the market we discovered a new kid in the block, Canteen Till I Die. Like most of the cafes here, this one too has ambient lighting, minimal creativity on the wall and looks quite creative yet quirky. If you are hygiene conscious, the open kitchen will make you feel safer. Casually we took a look at the menu and the right hand side of it was mind blowing! Cutting chai for Rs 20, Crispy noodles for Rs 49, Bun Maska for Rs 30, French fries with dips for Rs 75. That was still okay. But wait, veg burger for Rs 30 and its chicken variant for Rs 50, Pizza for Rs 150, and Punjabi Tadka Maggi for Rs 45. Now these are the rates that you don’t expect at cafés in Delhi.

We meet the founders of Canteen Till I Die and dig deep into the pricing strategy. 28 year old Baldeep and Pradeep working with corporate firm JC Penney are just like any of us, foodies. They dreamt of opening a restaurant. Having a full time job, their restaurant business isn’t just to mint money; rather they want to cater to the students who have limited budgets, but an eternal penchant for good food.

So that way, the prices are made to lure the students for a feast, once every week. As the discussion proceeds, we get to know that monthly rent of 800 sq ft shop at this area is near to Rs 1.5 lakh. And then the staffs need to be paid and the electricity and other charges need to be taken care of. The menu lists out foods that are cheap on ingredients and fast to cook. So that way the guests aren’t made to keep waiting and in the process occupying the space. Moreover foods like burger, pizza or even for that matter parantha are quick to eat and the next guest can occupy the same table within 40 minutes.

During the day time, that is between 12pm-4pm, there are almost 200 guests coming in. Though the café can accommodate not more than 60 to 70 at a time, the guests coming at a regular frequency during the college hours make it viable for the restaurant to serve each and every one.

Here we use our insights of the restaurant business and infer:

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Soda is cheap
When they purchase in bulk a glass of soda may cost not more than Rs 3. And then the cafes add flavours. So including the cost of manpower and time, a mojito shouldn’t be more than Rs 20. So the margins are maintained.

Pasta is another food item that you find anywhere and everywhere. In Italy, pasta is supposed to be the farmers’ meal and hence cheap. Cafes don’t buy pastas from retail, they buy in bulk. Pasta is basically very inexpensive. The cost of pasta depends on what topping you are adding to it. So even after adding your preferred sauce be it red or white with some meat, there is ample scope to earn some good profit. And then you pay Rs 500 + taxes at a posh South Delhi pub and boast of a good meal.

You know the core ingredient of a pizza, right? Dough that makes pizza has only water and flour. While water is almost free, flour costs some paise and not even a rupee. Homemade pizza sauce is not very expensive. A home made pizza sauce would have tomatoes, water and spices. Cheese and toppings are the only costly.

So that sums up why the cafes in Satyaniketan are cheap! Just in case next time you get wowy about the prices at any of the cafes here, let’s remind you that you don’t pay for food at a restaurant in GK or HKV, you just contribute to their monthly rent and electricity bill.

(Image: Femina)

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