Cloud kitchen in Mumbai aims to capture bigger pastry clientele

Even though India's official lockdown happened on the 22nd of March, The Pastry Journal’s business was already affected earlier on. Since early March, its customers from companies nearby decided to adopt a ‘Work from Home’ pattern.  The Pasty Journal is a cloud kitchen whose primary revenue comes from corporate events catering and personal ordering for occasions. However, the lockdown due to COVID-19 has caused the business to slow down, Bhumika Harwani, chef-owner of The Pastry Journal in Mumbai, told Tasty Asia.  
Chef Bhumika Harwani
"Our revenue has dropped majorly, and plans to open a retail space was pushed further away," Harwani said. During the lockdown period, the pastry shop managed to get business from ‘Quarantine Birthday’ occasions and ‘Sunday Specials’ menus. The Pastry Journal enjoys the trust of its existing customer base, but attracting new ones is proving difficult. Harwani said this is because the pastry shop has to work hard in assuring new customers that its pastry creations are consistently safe and prepared in hygienic conditions.
Even with a partially lifted lockdown (after 50 days), human resources and working hours remain limited. "We are now functioning with just one out of four employees, besides myself.  Three days a week, four to five hours a day only, and after acquiring a police-verified pass,” Harwani said.  

Indulgent yet healthy offerings
Despite the current setbacks, Harwani is determined to woo more customers by offering a healthier menu with a ‘Care Package’ category — an assortment of treats, both healthy and indulgent with items such as Chocolate Quinoa cakes, and tarts made with oats and buckwheat flour. Another strategy is to offer new and exciting treats such as flavoured milkshakes, savoury quiches and limited edition tarts every Sunday.
The varied treats from the Care Package are carefully curated to help keep customers from over-indulging while sitting idle at home. An assorted box also means something for everyone at home, making it a win-win, Harwani said.
So far, the Care Package is a hit and has the highest number of ordered products last Mother’s Day. “As for the Sunday Specials, we have been generating polls on Instagram asking people for their preference. So far, assorted-flavoured milkshakes and fresh mango tarts are doing neck-to-neck,” Harwani revealed.

What lies ahead for the F&B industry
Post-COVID, Harwani sees more cloud kitchens surviving in India as their operational expenses are lower than those in retail. Businesses catering to private home celebrations for 15-20 people also has the potential to thrive. Food companies supplying their products to high-end supermarkets such as bread, chocolate bars, brownies, tea cakes, artisanal pickles, dips and sauces will continue to evolve as well.
“Private chefs who are famous, coming over to your house and cooking especially for you will be valued more now, I feel,” she said.
“Technology in the F&B industry is the only thing keeping food businesses alive at the moment. Food delivery apps like Zomato and Swiggy (in India) are the only ones running on high demand during the pandemic. Of course, Instagram is helping keep the image and interaction of the business alive,” Harwani said.
However, in the case of The Pastry Journal, even though several of its business comes through Instagram, Harwani feels that Technology is not everything. “Most of my orders come from clients who have already met me and experienced my brand personally before the pandemic. They now trust me to send across the goodies,” she said.
“People are ordering a lot of food online, but restaurants that have maintained good personal relations and have had abundant human experiences in the past have a better edge. I think the essence of personal human attention can never be lost. Even though one cannot compute it in real numbers, it's the major driving force of the food industry in my opinion,” Harwani concluded.

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