Hotel Dwaraka

In its earlier sit-down avatar on Bull Temple Road, it was known for doling out copious quantities of chutney in buckets. No sooner had you emptied half the chutney on your plate, a waiter would materialize and pour a bucket of the stuff into your plate. The main item on the menu here was the “khali dosa” (not to be confused with “plain dosa”). No sambar no palya no saagu. Just enormous quantities of chutney.

It was some 2-3 years back that the outlet closed down, as the building was being demolished. It resurfaced in it’s present location in N R Colony some two years ago, having converted itself into a kind of a darshini. They still have tables covering half the restaurant area, but you need to go to the counter to buy tokens and then get your food. There is also sufficient standing room here, so the waiting aspect that was prevalent in the old restaurant has been taken out.

The main item still remains the “khali dosa”. They also make poori, masala dosa, idli, vada, kesari bhath, khara bhath, etc. But the most popular item is still the good old “khali”. The dosas are made to stock, sometimes using two huge tawas during high demand periods. Normally, 24 dosas are made at a time, while during rush hour, it’s 48. Sometimes, one tawa is dedicated to making the khali dosa, while the other is used to make masala and other “special” dosas.

The most interesting thing about this restaurant is the modular menu. Usually, in a South Indian restaurant, when you order a dish, there are a variety of side dishes that come free with it, unlimited. So if you order idli, you get both sambar and chutney free. Similarly for other items. At Dwaraka, they have done away with this free stuff.

The chutney is still free, and doled out in copious quantities from buckets (more on that later) but the restaurant had decided to charge for all other accompaniments. Two khali dosas with just chutney cost Rs. 13. If you want the onion-potato curry (palya) also, you have to shell Rs. 3 more. If you want butter, pay a rupee more. Similarly with all other items. The only thing is the chutney is free and unlimited.

I think this modularity has introduced a large number of advantages:

  • Palya, saagu, etc. are more expensive to make compared to chutney. And they have a lower shelf life also. Pricing them separately allows the restaurant guess the precise demand for them which helps in better planning.
  • Sometimes, towards the end of a session, these things might not be available. It is easier for the restaurant to tell the customer that the palya can’t be served, since now they are getting a discount
  • Due to this modularity, there is less wastage. If you pay extra for the palya, you tend to finish it – even though you’ve already paid and it’s a sunk cost. If it had come free, there would have been a greater chance of your wasting it.
  • The customer pays only for what he wants. Earlier, the costs of the accompaniments would’ve been implicit and the customer would be paying for all of it, even if he didn’t have most of it. Now he can pick and choose.
  • It easily allows the customer to pick and choose his combinations. Like butter is usually associated and served with dosa, but here I saw a number of people buying it with their idli. You get dirty looks sometimes if you ask for sagu with idli. Here, if you want, you can get it.

The other Kinnovation at Dwaraka is the roving agent for chutney. Now, different people have different needs for the quantity of chutney with their food. In order to make sure that everyone has enough, and nothing is wasted, the normal model is to serve a “basic quantity” up front, and encourage the customers to come back for a refill. However, at Dwaraka, the counter area is quite small, so there is usually a huge crowd of people who are waiting for their made-to-stock dosas. Also, Dwaraka? needs to preserve its heritage of waiters pouring chutney into the plates.

So they have one or two guys who roam the restaurant with a bucket full of chutney. They keep an eagle eye for customers’ plates, and quickly refill the chutney of anyone who looks like he needs more. The aim is to serve before being asked – a number of people hesitate to ask, and if they aren’t served the dosa may not taste as good with the limited chutney, and they might not come back. With the current process, the restaurant ensures that appropriate quantity is given for everyone without wastage. Of course, the chutney price is implicitly included in the price of all other main items (except for maybe the kesari bhath).

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