Cloud

How Kolkata’s Chowman launched two new restaurants and a cloud kitchen amidst the pandemic

Bengal and Bengalis can go on for years debating over Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, CPIM and Trinamool, and Ilish and chingri. But one thing that all bengalis seem to agree on is Chinese food and music. And Kolkata-based Debaditya Chaudhury seems to have made it to the heart of Bengalis through both. 

The musician-turned-entrepreneur is the founder and Managing Director of Kolkata’s leading chain of Chinese restaurants, Chowman. Starting as a small restaurant in Kolkata in 2010, today Chowman has 15 outlets spread across the city. It has also extended its wings and recently launched a cloud kitchen in Bengaluru

“My aim was to create a human character, similar to KFC and McDonald’s. I wanted to go with Mr Chow in Town, but we were not able to get registration for that name. I then decided on Chowman, which sounds similar to Chowmein — the first thing Indians think of when they think Chinese,” Debaditya tells SMBStory

Chowman claims to have recorded a ten-fold increase in its delivery and takeaway services during the pandemic, and has also managed to retain its set of loyal customers. 

Chowman

Debaditya Chowdhury, Founder and Managing Director of Chowman

Love for food and music 

After completing his graduation from St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, Debaditya went on to pursue MBA from IISWBM. However, his mind and heart was always towards music and food. 

“Growing up in a house next to Kim Wah (a popular Chinese restaurant in Kolkata), my passion for Chinese food started at a tender age. I dreamed of opening a restaurant in my hometown since my college days,” says Debaditya, who is also the founding member and keyboardist of Bengali rock band Lakkhicchara.

His love for the cuisine was almost innate and it took physical form

Swiggy’s cloud kitchen model is set to transform dining

When food delivery startup Swiggy started cloud kitchens three years ago, it was a sideshow in its food delivery business. The concept caught on as restaurant brands that had a following in one area could expand easily into new localities or even other cities. Investment in real estate was reduced because these kitchens could be smaller and didn’t need premium locations, apart from doing away with seating and the staff for serving.

Various models arose. Some introduced cloud kitchens in addition to restaurants for expansion, like Chennai’s Buhari becoming available in Coimbatore. Others like Rebel Foods created fully virtual brands that only came from dark kitchens. This became a new real estate and services play as restaurants only had to provide cooking staff while everything else, including cleaning and maintenance, could be outsourced.

Cloud kitchens caught a new impetus after the covid pandemic struck this year. Now even high-end restaurants in luxury hotels resorted to those as eating out took a nosedive and is yet to return to anywhere near the pre-covid levels. For example, Swiggy rolled out a Marriott-on-wheels with menus and prices tailored for delivery at home. Marriott could launch online-only brands whose specs varied from those of its on-premise dining.

“We help create new brands out of the existing kitchens of fine-dining restaurants,” says Vishal Bhatia, CEO, Swiggy New Supply. “For example, a premium restaurant for Chinese cuisine can use the same infrastructure to produce mass Chinese brands. We can help with the catalogue, pricing and discounting for it.”

This helps restaurants find new consumers and partially offset the under-utilization of kitchen facilities and culinary staff. “Everyone’s volumes have dropped and they’re looking for new revenue avenues,” says Bhatia.

Swiggy has co-created nearly 200 brands since the launch of this model using existing kitchens of restaurants in

Cloud kitchen opened in Coimbatore

Dee’s Cookhaus has opened a cloud kitchen in Coimbatore. The kitchen caters to only online orders and delivers the food at door-step of the customers. It has several facilities for food preparation and these are rented out to restaurants, according to a press release.

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