Home chefs find going tough amid pandemic

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on May 24, 2021

With orders drying up, they find it hard to sustain their business

It's not just restaurants that have seen a decline in business during the ongoing pandemic, even home chefs are finding it tough to stay afloat.

Take the example of Supriya Phulwani, a 35-year-old home chef based in Mumbai, who has seen a sharp decline in party orders and orders from regular corporate clients. “Last year when the lockdown eased up I was getting several local orders that compensated for the lack of big corporate orders. Now my revenues have declined by at least 30 per cent,” Phulwani said adding that she had to let go of at least five of her staff members.

Abhilasha Jain, who has been a home chef for at least seven years in Delhi said that her brand Marwadi Khana has seen a decline of at least 30-35 per cent in orders. Similar is the case with Parul Sachdeva, a Noida-based home chef and baker. Eventually, Sachdeva started making daily meals for Covid patients at low or zero profit margins.

‘Dying a gradual death’

Arvind Singhal, Chairman at Technopak Advisors said “Most home chefs struggle to maintain their topline growth because their cost, quality, and cuisine is not set. Unless scalable, home chefs die a gradual death. For a home chef or a home kitchen to survive, it needs a sustainable, scalable, and commercial model.”

Also read: Delivery disruption: Restaurants forced to serve differently

Hit by the pandemic, The Bohri Kitchen had to shut shop for several months. Chief Eating Officer of The Bohri Kitchen, Munaf Kapadia said in a post that “When the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, it was a body blow for my business. I had to let go of almost the entire team, shut down four out five outlets and very seriously considered shutting things down permanently.”

It resumed operations only three months ago and has pivoted its business model. Now, the company has pivoted to delivering food themselves instead of depending on aggregators to save on margins. This has brought down their orders drastically from 200 orders per day to close to 20-30 orders a day now. But Kapadia has seen an increase of at least five to ten per cent of profit margins.

Unorganized industry

The home chef industry is a largely unorganized industry, and there is no count on how many home chefs actually exist in India. Not only that, experts like Singhal say that the kind of quality of food that was being served by home chefs, too, was unknown.

In November last year, FSSAI had clarified that it is necessary that home-chefs register themselves. Arun Singhal, Chief Executive Officer of FSSAI told BusinessLine that it was working towards streamlining and further easing out licensing processes for home chefs in India.

Published on May 24, 2021

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