What’s not to love about food trucks? It’s a funky mobile kitchen serving a variety of on-the-go food. But what if we were to tell you that there is a group of people doing almost everything a food truck does, including serving food up to 200 people a day… except that there are no trucks.
Meet the Nijish Nair, Arun Varma and Krishna Varma, the Bengaluru men behind BBQ Ride India.
From left: Arun, Nijish and Krishna
The concept behind BBQ Ride is unique, yet simple: they work the same way as food trucks, except on Royal Enfields. They serve barbecue, burgers, sandwiches and much more.
But how do they fit all this onto a bike?
“The secret is the sidecar,” Nijish tells TNM. “Arun came up with the design, and we can easily carry food for almost 200 people in it. It also doubles up as a barbecue, and pan for the burgers and stuff,” he adds. They have also applied for a patent for the design.
Two people man each unit of the mobile barbecue and kitchen, while one person interacts with customers, taking orders, and the other makes the food.
Three BBQ Ride units operate out of Bengaluru currently: one each in Kamanahalli, Marathahalli and Coffee Board Layout. So far, they have been limited to these areas because they live nearby.
However, Nijish says that they plan to start in Koramangala and Whitefield within the next few weeks.
How it began
Nijish met the Varma brothers a year ago, when both parties ran food truck business separately. They realised that they were facing similar hurdles in their business - difficulty getting space and permission to park the food trucks. It was then that they decided to experiment with barbecue and bikes.
In October 2016, they started with the two Royal Enfield bikes that Nijish owned.
“It was merely an experiment. But the response was so good that we could not stop,” Nijish says. Soon, more people were interested in working with them. Now they have units running in Hyderabad and Vizag and two which are going to launch at Connaught Place, Delhi.
The business model
“Once we knew that BBQ Ride had potential, we started giving bikes to people who were interested, on franchise. They have to pay one-time fee, and we work on a non-profit sharing model,” Nijish says.
Essentially, the co-founders give the bikes to people for a one-time fee of Rs 7 lakh and a monthly royalty fee of Rs 10,000. However, everyone works under the BBQ Ride franchise, after the co-founders run background checks and give them a two-week hands-on training sessions. The profits remain with the people who make them.
These mobile sister kitchens are told to operate within a pin code. So, they can move within that area, but not outside that pin code.
BBQ Ride units generally set up by 5-6pm and finish by around 10 at night. During the short time they have been operational, they have managed to get some loyal customers and lots of party orders. The latter includes a few celebrities based in Bengaluru, as well as some corporate get-togethers, Nijish says. “We have a 30-35% customer retention rate,” he quips happily.
Now, Nijish looks after the brand building, while Arun oversees PR. Krishna is responsible for supervising everything inside the kitchen.
Challenges and the future
While Nijish is a 27-year-old software engineer, the Varma brothers are 22 and 23 year olds. Arun is studying a Bachelors’ degree in Management Studies and Krishna is a student of BCom, and neither have graduated yet. But what brings the three together is a love of food and the joy it gives people.
And while they have tasted success in their BBQ Ride’s nascent run, there are challenges that the brand is still grappling with.
One of major issue is the perception that street food is unhealthy, Nijish says. “But we’re trying to change that, which is why we went with barbecue. It uses less oil, has plenty of nutrition and is healthy,” he explains.
The second roadblock is standardisation. BBQ Ride is expanding much faster than the founding trio had anticipated when they started out.
“We do give a hands-on training to the people we franchise the bikes to, but barbecue has to be done manually. There is very little automation that we can do, so we’re still trying to figure out how to standardise all our dishes across units,” Nijish says.
All said and done, Nijish and team are optimistic about the future. “Unlike the West where it’s already popular, barbecue is still picking up in India. We hope to play a role in popularising it and also making use of the market,” he says.
(Photos courtesy BBQ Ride India/Facebook, used here with permission.)