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Monday, April 07, 2008

The Success Formula

We were driving past Murugan Idly shop on Elliots Beach and K commented on the large crowd of waiting people spilling on the street. This is how it should be! He commented. People must stand in line patiently waiting for entry to your place. Now what is it that draws people to such shops. He is selling idly. Something that any housewife worth her batter in Chennai can do.
I understand why Dhaba Express has a similar crowd. We don't get Punjabi / North Indian cusine here in every nook or corner- the butter masalas, naans and tandooris which normally one don't make at home. So it would be a good idea to eat them outside.
But this is idly and chutney and sambhar!
The guy next to Adyar Bakery on SP Road makes a killing each day - crowd of IITians mainly- he sells bhajjis and masala vadas and daal vadas. When I was pregnant I developed a strange fascination for it and bought a couple of vadas for myself. I didn't enjoy it so much though after going through all the pains of walking up in the crowd with K waiting impatiently in the car in the middle of the road.
The Qwiky's outlet in Ascendas food court makes Rs 25000 per day profit- selling coffee/ cakes/ croissants only- not even a complete meal. And the audience is captive- those who work in Ascendas or those who come there for food court experience- destination point. Not a place someon will select for a casual coffee or come there while you are at the beach. It is a destination food court and they are making a hell lot of money. It is not even a complte coffee lounge. Just a few bar seats round the counter is the atmosphere. Rest is shared as part of the food court ambience.
Or look at Pothys sari store in T Nagar (for that matter look at T Nagar itself - what a crowd on any day at any time)- The store is teeming with people even on non sale period. There are people relaxing outside after their shopping ordeal (I call it an ordeal- it really is), people get lost within the store, families get separated and it is impossible to get someone to service you. Yet the store is bursting with customers. And it is not a Nalli or a Kumaran mind you. It is mass market sari store with downtrodden prices-as low as Rs 60-100 per cotton sari.
Saravana Store, T Nagar- Another you blink and miss the rest of your family kind of store. Infact the entire shopping duration, my grandma and Mom could never find where my Grandpa & brother were lost when they returned to the store after parking the car. Infact if you are not looking you might trip and fall into the service stairway, it is narrow and steep and comes suddenly out of nowhere in th plastic goods section.
Spencer's Mall- Have you really purchased anything there- apart from at Westside/ Pantaloon/ Fab India/ Reebok/ Titan other branded stores. What pulls people like me there? We usually end up walking around and buying nothing except parking space for those 2 hours or a Subway meal perhaps.
Fab India- They are predictable, they fade fast, they have no range, no choice and are priced high. Moreover designs - there are no designs- only full sleeve, half sleeve or sleeveless and every level of sleeve costs Rs 50- 100 incremental. Yet they sell. Lack of choice especially in Chennai? Or brand value or brand image?
Grand Sweets, Gandhi Nagar- Another of those queue reaching the street kind of store- even on normal days- I have never made a purchase there because I have no patience with the queue and waiting time.
Anjappars and Ponnuswamys- Typical South Indian food restaurants that have families waiting outside always. Cheap and Holistic South Indian meal- non veg is the main attraction. These are not the hip Chinese places where you inevitably wait for being seated. These are down-to-earth crowded places where you end up sharing tables with another family.

Wonder what attracts people so much to these places?


Shobana said...

I guess the affordability and the food is what attracts people to these restaurants...also that which would fall in this category is Saravana Bhavan...I think the one in T Nagar where you blink and there may be someone eating out of your plate...that crowded..been there once and got very scared.

Itchingtowrite said...

shobana-also predictability of the food- very home made and too get scared in such crowded places!!

Minka said...

I cannot speak for any of the other places but for Grand Sweets , I can ! I grew up with their athirasam and manoharam defining Chennai for me ( I have never lived in CHnenai until I got married and moved here !) . And also , everyone in Mumbai/Pune knows Grand Sweets but strangely no one who lives here has even heard of it.

Itchingtowrite said...

minka- lot of fans of the athirasam of grand sweets!! the location of grand sweets in gandhi nagar is very hard to find that's why maybe- u have a krishna sweet at every nook & corner and therefore it makes it easier for people to just pick up stuff from there esp if one is not so discerning

dipali said...

Grand Sweets is an institution unto itself, once you are able to locate it! And while you sit there waiting for your order, they often serve you a delicious leaf-bowl of prasadam- yummy.
Pothy's and Saravana Bhavan in T Nagar- I went there once and was terrified- never dared venture in either again.
Spencer's was where we'd end up because Sunday was the only day hubby was free to shop. But I never liked the ambience of the place, though I've done a fair amount of shopping there.
FabIndia I love, especially for furnishings. Although their sizes are not always consistent- you have to try on each garment for size.
It's good to get your size there and have a tailor copy the cut.
Agreed they don't last very long, but the fabrics are comfortable and usually quite pretty.
Always wanted to visit Murugan's but never did. I loved hanging out at Amethyst, and had awesome meals at Citrus, Cedars and Benjarong.
I miss Chennai.

Usha said...

I do not know most of the other shops you have written about but grand sweets - this I know. Even on a hurried one day trip I always find time for grand sweets to bring home some of the typical snacks like thattai seedai and Murukku, sweets (yum Badusha) and all those delcious chutneys and pickles. A little expensive but if you are sending it over to another city - all vacuum packed and in convenient sizes.
The crowd is because of the availability of things nobody has the time to make anymore, the taste and they are fresh because of the sales they do.
They manage the crowd very well and I have not had to spend more than 20 minutes even on the most crowded day. Doesn't bother me because I love to sit / stand in a corner and watch ordinary people and sometimes listen in on their conversations. :) grand sweets rocks!

Itchingtowrite said...

dipali- scary is the right word for T nagar... best going there alone- no need to worry abt others getting lost. we even lost our car & driver once and went back in an auto. the poor guy waited till almost midnight before going back to the travels office as he did not have a cell & never called back his office
usha- i got the urge to shop in grand sweets whn I was around 7 mths pregnant. since i was not served fast enuf i walked out and never hav been able to go back!! but agree your point - thy hav stuff that no one makes at home nowadays

Lavs said...

Some gyan from my experience-please do not mind!!

Murugan Idly shop- Like you, my first impression was why eat idly in a hotel when they can be made at home?? But Murugan idlis are special—they are soft, they come in one piece with no blemishes and to make idlis like that itself is an art. Coming from an orthodox south Indian family, idli is my staple diet. I have had so many different forms of idlis- those made at home, those made in hotels like Saravana Bhavan, those made during marriages..but nothing matches those idlis made in Murugan Idly shop.

They have special idli podi which is very tasty when had with piping hot and soft idlis. Their vadas are simply out of this world-seriously you must have one to believe me!! Crispy, piping hot and huuuuuuuuuuge vadas- just writing about them makes my saliva overflowing!! They offer 5 different chutneys and sambar to go with their idlis and dosas. And if you have a sweet tooth, do try out their chakarai pongal (sweet jaggery rice). My hubby swears by it!! And those specially roasted onion uttappams. YUMMY!!! You can eat to your heart’s content yet the bill will not cross Rs.200/-A good place to treat your friends without hitting your pocket and for those outings during month end cash crunch:-0

Grand sweets- I do not know about others but we get sweets made for occasions/festivals from that shop. Recently for my baby shower ceremony, we bought our traditional sweets from there. You can pre-order them according to your specifications. They even pack it according to our orders. For eg, we wanted one laddoo and one muruku to be packed together (to be given away in the tambula bag/betel leaves bag given during occasions) and they got it done that way at no additional cost. They have special sweet packages for festivals like pongal, diwali, navarathri etc. Evenings, they make special pongal which apparently sells like hot cakes. For vegetarians traveling abroad, their savouries are god sent gifts. And then there are people like my father’s MD who buy only from Grand sweets (murukus and mixtures) to have with their daily food.

I do not know about others..btw, have you tried Bhel-puri from a shop called Ajnabi in Fountain plaza, Egmore????

Itchingtowrite said...

lavs- u make me drool for murugan idly shop only thing i dont hav the guts to stand and wait
ajnabi- heard abt it never tried

artnavy said...

grand sweet- awesome- cant get enough

muruagn idly- nothing compares to their sweet pongal and the chutneys- but only the opp sundari silks branch- besant nagar is not good

ajnabee- i think i have told u about- very gujju farsaan kind of
shop- also makkhan chor near cenotoph road dhaba express

choxbox said...

itchy! go to grand sweets! worth every minute spent standing in teh queue.

all these years later i have a clear clear clear memory of the taste of the stuff we ate there. yummm.

and adyar bakery? - :) :) :)

Mama - Mia said...

every city has this l'il cubby holes that do roaring business!

be it bade miyan in Mumbai or Vidyarthi Bhavan in bangalore!

i guess they do serve the yummiest of food, which is why people take effort to eat there! plus over a period of time they become sorta legends! and apart from old loyalists, there are new ones wanting to know what the big deal is!! :D

verry nice post!