Tiffin India’s Fresh Kitchen: Revolutionizing Indian Cuisine in the Core

April 14, 2021
Category: Blog Posts

Tiffin India’s Fresh Kitchen: Revolutionizing Indian Cuisine in the Core

When Joti Dhanju opened Tiffin India’s Fresh Kitchen’s downtown location in May of 2019, she noticed that most Indian food offerings for downtown workers were limited to food courts and envisioned real possibilities for her fast-casual Indian eatery.

“Downtown was missing a concept like Tiffin,” says Joti. It’s not fine dining, nor is it fast food. It straddles that space in between quick service and casual dining with a focus on quality food, serving plenty of standouts from butter chicken to chicken fenugreek to fish pakora.

With 65,000 workers in the core on weekdays, Downtown was the perfect place to open the second Tiffin location.

Things were going well in the first year. Line ups were out the door at lunch time, then COVID-19 happened. The walk-in traffic and the downtown workers disappeared in a matter of days. 

“Things came to a cold turkey stop,” says Joti. “We went from lineups out the door to nothing.”

Joti and her sister-in-law, Suman Dhanju, who manages the downtown location went from the euphoria of owning a popular new restaurant to the realities of shifting to survival mode. For many restaurants, the draw of being downtown is the added lunch rush, but in a pandemic where most people are working from home, there’s very little demand for lunch-hour dining. The sisters had no choice but to adjust to the new realities of downtown dining.

While they could never make up all of their potential business lost to the pandemic, they did notice that the bulk of their orders switched from noon-hour to the evening. Dinner has become a bigger part of Tiffin’s downtown business now, with more people who live downtown ordering dinners for pick-up. The Dhanjus even noticed that people who were normally lunch-time customers were ordering dinner in the evening just to support them.  

“Business did decline with the decline of foot traffic,” says Suman. “It has been a challenge. But, a lot of people are supporting local.”

The support from their landlord, Midnapore Investments has also been key to Tiffin’s survival. In the end, it’s in the landlord’s best interest to keep the building occupied. No property owner wants to have “For Lease” signs hanging in their windows, putting negative pressure on rental rates.

The generosity didn’t just flow into Tiffin. The Dhanjus did a few weeks of giveaways, offering meals to essential workers in the community including union workers, pharmacy staff, truck drivers and more. Right now, Tiffin is supplying monthly meals to Ronald McDonald House at discount.

While there have been pivots, Suman says, “The brightest day will be when the foot traffic comes back.” In the end, like many downtown restaurants, Tiffin’s lifeblood is the lunch rush by the 65,000 office workers who are employed in the core.

This spring Tiffin India’s Fresh Kitchen will be participating in Downtown Dining Week for the first time. The Dhanjus hope that people who have never dined at Tiffin will use this as an opportunity to visit and explore their food and vibe that thrilled so many people once before.

Check out Tiffin India’s Fresh Kitchen $20 Downtown Dining Week menu.

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