One fine day, we decided to put up our first ever food stall in a colourful Holi celebration event in our apartment. It was fun planning for the menu and coming up with pricing for them. We had several late night discussions and each of them helped us fine-tune our whole plan. We broadly devised our menu to sweets, main dishes and drinks. Since, it was happening during summer, buttermilk was an obvious choice in our menu. We also planned to serve the special drink, Thandai, made especially during Holi festival. In addition to that we planned to put up infused water, lemonade and iced tea made of dried flower petals.
Bangalore has a multi-cultural crowd and people are highly exposed to very different cuisines all across the world. Hence, we want to surprise our audience with not-so known traditional recipes from our hometown. That’s why we decided to have Black Sesame Laddus, Roasted Gram Laddoos and Special Groundnut Candies from our hometown to be part of our “Sweets” menu. We ourselves are fond of Idly with Chicken curry combo which is not so usual in restaurants in Bangalore. So, we decided that for main dish. To be inclusive of vegetarians, we decided to prepare Mini-Idlies with Sambhar. We then added Paratha with Chicken gravy also to our menu to attract audience from north of India.
Our plan was extensive from deciding on menu, pricing, logistics, resource management and everything. But, we were once again reminded of Murphy’s law on the day of the event – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong!”. We started our work by early morning 4 am and our gas cylinder went off in first 30 minutes. We cannot prepare all the items with our backup induction stove or microwave oven. But, actually we predicted this as well in our planning and had a backup cylinder in our friend’s home nearby. But, Murphy’s law was so strong though. We realised that the backup gas cylinder that we got from our friend was not matching with our gas cylinder regulator. Panic mode on!
That’s when we learnt another very important lesson. Sometimes, unplanned things work well. We gathered enough courage to knock on the doors of our neighbour house whom we have never met before. They were so kind to immediately help us and that enabled us to prepare all the items almost on time. But, we had initial haphazard to bring things to our food stall and arranging our posters and menu. Ironically, we had spent too much time designing those posters and menu. After setting up things, we got a happy problem to deal with a lot of customers at a time. We learnt to market and sell from that experience.
Thandai was fast moving than we expected. We had to actually prepare extra Thandai during the event itself. It was one of the happy problem. But, we had high hopes on buttermilk, sweets and Idly with Chicken curry combination. Unexpectedly , Mini-Idlies with Sambhar moved well than we expected. It was a great experience conversing with people and getting feedback about our food. Our food items were remaining even after the busy tiring event ended. Calculators told us that we made break-even with our food stall. We had mixed feelings and posted about our remaining sweets in our apartment chat group. We got one huge order for our sweets and our day of highs and lows ended with profit. More than profit, we think we had a very valuable learning experience.
Some takeaways from our experience in general:
- Even though we think our planning is extensive, we cannot prevent all the failures and cannot predict what all can fail.
- Sometimes we just need to courage to do things. When we do that, even unplanned things will work in our favour.
- Knowing audience and understanding the context of the event is very important. We sold more Thandai than Buttermilk on a sunny summer day because it was Holi celebration. Also, our mini-idlies with Sambhar outsold our best Idlies with Chicken curry combination mainly because most of the people were vegetarian on that given day.
- We should be ahead in time. If we didn’t have gas cylinder problem, we might have finished our tasks in time and setup our food stall smoothly. Since our processes were delayed, we had haphazard setting up our stall initially.
- Finally, don’t lose hope soon. We ended our day profitable after the food stall event was over. We never expected a huge order after we posted about remaining sweets in our apartment chat group.