Food outlets taste success with homely Tamil dishes

New age restaurateurs in the city have realised that going local is the way forward. That’s why quite a few of them have found success in founding eateries that satisfy hunger pangs, while branding themselves as quintessentially Tamil.
Mahesh, a contractor-turned restaurateur, dishes up idlies
Mahesh, a contractor-turned restaurateur, dishes up idlies

Chennai

Take for instance, B Mahesh, a highway contractor with a passion for cooking. A common gripe that he shared with friends was the lack of a good joint where he could have some great quality idlis. So Mahesh went on to create Kozhi Idli, a chain of restaurants specialising in just that – idlis, and of course, chicken. Talking about his pet project, Mahesh says, “We set up our very first outlet in Royapettah with an investment of Rs 10 lakh. We didn’t have any budgets for advertising, so all we relied on was word of mouth publicity.”  
His clear-sightedness in sticking to the set menu of idli and kozhi specialties, drew in customers by the dozens. With five outlets across Chennai, Mahesh says he was approached by quite a few major chains who were keen on his brand. “But I have no major plans for expansion as I intend to retain my quality and service,” he says.
Others like Santhosh Muruganantha, founder of the Kolapasi chain of outlets, entered the restaurant business to fill a gap. “We realised early on that the rich and gravy-laden foods that one usually finds in restaurants could only be consumed once or twice a week. So, we wanted to offer Chennaiites an outlet that could cater to their daily food needs – in other words, simple, home-style meals. Once we had a grip on our concepts, we streamlined our process and set up our outlet at almost 30 to 40% of the cost it would have taken to set up a restaurant of about 2,000 sq feet,” he says. 
Santhosh offers tasting samples to his in-house and takeaway customers, and sends cute greeting cards to first-time customers. The chain now has four outlets in the city.
Then there are entrepreneurs like Kaja Maideen, a perfume wholesaler and the brains behind Namma Theneer Kadai, a tea and juice shop chain, which he says is his attempt at corporatising the neighbourhood tea shop. 
He tells us, “It always struck me as odd that a majority of women in the city would rarely find it comfortable to step into a tea shop - owing to the standards of hygiene and general ambience, which is marked by the presence of smokers. So I decided on introducing a chain of tea shops that does away with the smoke and offers a better ambience and quality of food at a price point that’s more or less equal to a regular tea shop.” 
With outlets in Royapettah and Velachery, Kaja intends to add two more shops to his chain by the end of 2016.

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