Since the pandemic last year, restaurants are struggling to survive curfews imposed across India. While many restaurants have closed their shutters, Juss By Sindh Co-Founder, Sannat Ahuja has pragmatically faced the ongoing challenges head-on by launching his second takeaway outlet recently. He shares his strategy in the interview.
You launched Juss By Sindh in 2016. What has been the response towards the vegan menu since then?
Along with my mom, Kanchan Ahuja, I started Sindhful in May 2016. We will complete 5 years this month. Back in 2016, there was very limited demand for a vegan menu during the first year. But we saw the shift by 2017 where customers started requesting for dairy-free options. We would customize the same for the customer as there were a few but not too many inquiries.
Since 2018, it was quite evident that there was an opportunity for us to work on a vegan menu. This is when we opened our authentic Sindhi restaurant ‘Juss by Sindhful’, which was Vegan and Vegetarian, and we served everything Sindhi, right from Sindhi chaats, snacks to Sindhi Thalis.
We would have a lot of vegan customers dine at the restaurant and it was so wonderful to see more and more awareness about the same. Unfortunately, after Covid hit all restaurants in March 2020 we took a decision to shut the Restaurant Juss by Sindhful (JBS) and continue with our delivery brand, Sindhful.
The year 2020 was the best response we got from our vegan menu. Last year, people started getting more health-conscious and were even moving from a non-veg to a veg diet. We also got an overwhelming response for our vegan menu, which encouraged us to keep adding more dishes to the menu. Now we have over 80 vegan dishes on our menu and we keep adding more.
What has been the biggest USP since then?
For Sindhful, it’s always been our authentic Sindhi dishes which are not available elsewhere. Along with that there was very limited or rather no availability of vegan Indian food. Most dishes use dairy of some sort. Hence creating those vegan recipes for Sadak Chaap (SC) and Sindhful was very difficult and time-consuming, but important and unique. Every starter and the main combo has a regular and vegan option to it–so 90% of our menu is vegan.
Post-lockdown, while all restaurants are battling heavy losses and struggling to stay afloat, you have decided to launch a takeaway outlet. Please throw some light on your strategy for Sadak Chaap.
We first launched Sadak Chaap outlet at DN Nagar, Andheri in Feb 2020 with my wife Palak, who herself is a fitness coach and a vegan. But unfortunately, a month later Covid hit all of us. SC has been doing very well in the lockdown even in 2020 and 2021. We have seen a lot of regulars who want to make that switch from non-veg to veg and also vegan diets, and SC is looking to do exactly the same.
Hence launching a second outlet was always going to happen, but it was a matter of when. And with such great response at Khar, especially with people ordering from across Mumbai like Andheri, Chembur, Worli, and even Powai… we thought it was time.
How has the menu evolved since the initial launch of Sadak Chaap?
We try to keep adding new dishes to the menu. There have been a lot of new additions which mimic the taste and look of non-veg food. Our new menu bestsellers are the Amritsari Phish Fry, The Unchicken Makhanwala, and the Keema Pav. Our newest additions to the menu will be added next month.
Do both the outlets have a common kitchen?
No, the kitchen at Andheri is a separate one but the spices are made at the central kitchen in Khar.
How have you worked with your chefs to develop the menu?
The menu had been a year in the making before we actually launched SC. As mentioned earlier, major Indian dishes contained some kind of dairy products and it was very difficult for us initially to get an economical yet tasty substitute. Initially, it was a challenge, but worth the efforts.
It was not easy for the Indian chefs to understand vegan food and healthy chaaps for that matter. Getting the consistency of the chaap right was also of crucial importance, which was the most time-consuming for us.
And now, we keep trying something new and different in the kitchen most days. We can use soya chaap in so many different ways the possibilities are endless. And we all do enjoy trying and testing new ideas which keep our minds going.
Going forward, what is your vision for JBS and SC?
For Juss by Sindhful, our dining restaurant will have to wait until a few months to years I believe. But we have plans to expand our takeaway outlets Sindhful and Sadak Chaap all over India.