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Year Ender 2016: Food done right

  • With good food, consistent quality and lightning quick service, Dalle is well on its way to becoming a gastronomical institution
- BIBEK SUBEDI

Dec 29, 2016-The restaurant is not very lavish. It has a stripped-down menu. And it wants its guests to leave soon after the food on the table is over.

Yet this eatery has become the talk of the town because of its momos which, many say, are showstoppers. Dalle, a fast food restaurant established five years ago, has now carved out a niche for itself as one of the best places for dumplings in the Kathmandu Valley.

Momo—a juicy Nepali dumpling made of meat, vegetables, paneer or cheese—is dish ubiquitously popular in the Valley. They are found almost everywhere—from roadside eateries to fine dining places. 

But, in spite of the food’s widespread availability, Dalle still appeals to a broad demographic because of its plain and spice-less momos, with the kick of ginger, served with sauce made of fiery chili, referred to as dalle khursani, or dalle in short, in Nepali. 

This simple approach to delight the palate has emerged as its strength, enabling the restaurant to draw loyal followers, like Shradha Acharya of Siphal, who calls herself “a fan” of the momos served at Dalle. 

“The dumplings taste so good and are reasonably priced,” says Acharya. 

But Dalle is not only about momos. 

It’s about a concept carefully designed by Alok Yonzon and Subash Gauchan, with focus on effective and efficient management, customer service, hygiene and above all consistent quality. Perhaps this is the reason why the restaurant has survived in a place like Kathmandu, which is dotted with eateries but has a high promoter turnover rate because of flawed business models.

Established in December 2011, Dalle had a simple concept in mind: serving few quality dishes. This philosophy is reflected in the restaurant’s menu, which includes very few items, such as aaloo dum (spicy potato), Thukpa (Tibetan noodles with soup), Fried rice, Dalle bowl, and noodles or rice served with kidney beans and sauce.

Yonjan and Gauchan had designed this menu keeping their potential customers in mind. 

Dalle had opened its first outlet in Kamaladi, a business district in the Valley, which is a hub for financial institutions and corporate houses. People working in these places are generally well-paid and look for quality, but are not always willing to pay steep prices.

Striking a balance between operating a restaurant in an expensive area like Kamaladi and serving food at relatively lower prices was a difficult task.

“We knew this would eat into our profits. So, the only way to keep prices low was to serve few items, which would reduce operating cost, and serve as many customers as possible,” says Yonzon, explaining why they settled for a “volume-driven business model”.

The duo then decided to limit the order cycle to 25 minutes. This means clients should have their food and leave the restaurant within 25 minutes of occupying a table.

“This is why our staff are always in a rush,” says Yonzon. So, Dalle may be the right place for those seeking gastronomic delight at an affordable price, but not the right place for those looking to engage in hours-long chitchats or business meetings. Many patrons may not like this strategy but fast food restaurants all over the world follow this principle to reduce financial burden on consumers. And Yonzon and Gauchan wanted to push the barriers.

But again, the Dalle business model was not only about keeping prices low and the service lightning quick. It was also about serving quality food. As a quality control measure, Dalle even imported chicken from Thailand during its initial days. The restaurant, however, could not continue doing so after facing “opposition” from local chicken producers. 

“Yet, what we have always strived to do is give our best and offer a taste of home in the food we serve,” says Yonzon. 

As a result, the duo is now planning to open a central kitchen at Maitidevi, where dishes will be semi-prepared before they are sent to every Dalle outlet. “This way we can keep the taste and quality consistent. This will also enable us to serve dishes quickly to our customers,” says Yonzon.

Opening a central kitchen has now become essential, as Dalle has expanded to three locations—Kamaladi, Bhatbhateni and Labim Mall in Pulchowk.

“We are happy about our growth. We are also happy that our growth has been organic, as we have always focused on quality rather than aggressive marketing or advertisements,” says Gauchan.

As a result, Business Oxygen (BO2), a private equity fund set up with the support of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, in May, made an equity investment of around Rs50 million—equivalent to 45 percent of the company’s share—in Dalle. 

The duo plans to use the capital to expand Dalle to around eight locations across the country in the next few years. And if things go according to plan, Dalle will open at least one outlet abroad in the next five to seven years. 

“Immediate priority, however, is to make optimum use of the fund injected by BO2 and stand firmly on our own feet in the next four years, when the equity partner will pull off from the venture,” say the duo. These are heady days at Dalle momo, and if their short but illustrious past is anything to go by, the restaurant is well on its way to becoming a gastronomical institution. 

@bibekbilly

Published: 29-12-2016 11:50

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