Back in 2011, when Red Ninja Express, a Chinese food delivery service, was launched, it became the first of its kind. It was the only one that packed its meals in New York-style takeaway boxes. “We got the idea from sitcoms like Friends. They’d all be eating in really cool boxes. We thought that if we’re offering quality food, then we need to up the brand value with great packaging as well,” says Nikhil Lulla, who co-owns the service with his brother.
Now, suddenly, there has been a surge in the concept in Mumbai. Everyone, from luxury hotels to fast food chains and restaurants, are introducing smartly packaged takeaway boxes, meant to be eaten on-the-go.
The newly launched delivery service, Square Meal Co, offers some delightfully reasonable meal options, which reach you in specially crafted boxes, similar to Red Ninja’s. “Convenience is key in packaging. You know that if someone has worked hard to give you packages that are biodegradable, microwaveable and leak-proof, the contents will be yummy too,” says founder Anuj Shah.
Fast food chains also seem to be jumping on to this bandwagon. “It’s not food-on-the-go if you can’t eat it while riding on the back of a bike,” says Arjun Gadkari, president, Nilgai Foods, which owns Pico Express. “I enjoy my meal more when it comes in a beautiful container, or is presented on a pretty plate. There is more to eating than just consumption.” Pico’s recently launched Pot Food option is available in over 180 ingredient combinations, and is served in a leak-proof, specially designed takeaway box.
And it isn’t just restaurants like Nom Nom that have introduced travel-friendly Bento boxes. After noticing an increase in demand, Khandani Rajdhani too has started offering a range of packaged meal boxes. Aji Nair, vice president, F&B division, Mirah Hospitality, says, “We have got a very good response from corporates, tour operators and more. People are attracted to what they see.”
At the other end of the spectrum, hotels like Westin Mumbai Garden City are also embracing the trend, with affordable takeaway meals, priced between Rs 350 to Rs 1,150. Executive chef Ajay Chopra says, “We understand the needs of the new-age corporate individual. Convenience is a luxury, especially in terms of quick dining options. That’s how we came about the concept of our express lunches.”