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Lokvani Talks To Vaishali Kulkarni Of Bombay Brunch

Nirmala Garimella

1. Give us some background about yourself?

Hi! I am Vaishali. 

For the last 15 years, me and my husband have been living in the Greater Boston area. We have a middle schooler daughter and a 2-year-old doodle. I did my masters in Engineering Management from Tufts University. I lead complex enterprise programs at Dell Technologies and am a foodpreneur.

I was born and brought up in a farmer’s family in Maharashtra. Maharashtra is the third largest state of India and a home to Bombay (Mumbai) – the state capital.

Let me say a word about Bombay Brunch before we move on. Bombay Brunch is a western Indian vegetarian virtual restaurant operating out of Foundation Kitchen in Somerville, MA and serves authentic Maharashtrian cuisine to the Greater Boston area. With Bombay (Mumbai) as Maharashtra's state capital and India's financial capital, its cuisine boasts a fusion of traditional superfood-based recipes with other recipes from all over In

2. What inspired you to start Bombay brunch? Please share your journey with us

“Don't wait for the stars to align. Reach up and arrange them the way you want.” - Pharrell Williams.

I had three stars waiting to align for me during the pandemic. First was the need to diversify the Indian Cuisine experience. Second was the need to provide Indian offerings that match with today’s sustainable lifestyle. And the third, was to align the first two to changing customer preferences because of the pandemic.

We all know that India is a diverse country with 28 states and 8 union territories. Each state has its own unique culture, language, dress, and food. To make my limited point, let’s take an example of Europe’s culinary landscape. What if we are asked to enjoy European cuisine only through Italian or German foods? These are great cuisines but then we are missing out on Polish or Spanish cuisines. It is just the same situation about Indian Restaurants in the USA where they serve great food, but Western Indian Cuisine is often missing from the scene. Thriving Indian culinary scene in the USA is an outcome of the hard work of the pioneers who introduced and popularized tikkas, kababs, biryanis, and dosas to the masses. Bombay Brunch is my humble effort to build on their legacy and further diversity Indian Cuisine experience.

Many people I surveyed also perceive Indian food to be creamy, greasy, and heavy on the stomach. I want to change this perspective by offering alternatives that match with today’s diverse, sustainable needs, and lifestyle.

Pandemic also impacted people’s behaviors and outlook towards life. People started preferring take outs and health-conscious alternatives to adapt to changing lifestyle. These lifestyle changes are here to stay post pandemic.

When I saw these three stars aligning, I decided to take the plunge and test the waters with Bombay Brunch.

3. Why did you choose this model ?

Pandemic hit the food industry very hard due to its capital-intensive nature. Many restaurant businesses shut down. People started preferring take outs and health-conscious alternatives to adapt to changing lifestyle. Cloud kitchens and food delivery trends picked up.

Bombay Brunch is a digital restaurant operating out of a food incubator in Somerville, MA. We take pre-orders digitally during the weekdays and fulfill them on the weekend. We also partner with other businesses to cater to their needs for large events and meal-kit services.

Our model provides a new business like ours a flexibility to test beachhead markets and build a business ground-up without breaking the bank. My technology background helps me leverage data and analytics to automate and optimize operations as well as reduce waste.

4. How has been the experience so far as you complete one year?

My experience in the last 12 months has been very humbling, enlightening, and fulfilling.

Bombay Brunch is a weekend-only take-out and delivery service. Despite our limitations, we have now served customers from 20+ Greater Boston towns through our two centrally located pick up hubs. We regularly deliver in 6 towns.

In 2021, we proudly served a diverse customer base in terms of age groups and ethnicities at “ONCE Somerville” – a summer long outdoor music festival series. We served a large gathering at New England Marathi Mandal (NEMM) Ganapati Festival.

Recently we collaborated with an innovative, farm-to-table, CSA share company so our popular plant-proteins could be enjoyed by their customers across New England states.

Food business is hyperlocal. We abide by the local food safety regulations. We hire locally, we prepare food locally, and we serve it locally. Many such small businesses together contribute to what we know as a “local economy” and Bombay Brunch is very proud to be one such business.

I am grateful to Bombay Brunch patrons for believing in the concept, loving our food, providing regular feedback, and spreading the word. This is the reason we recently launched our loyalty program to say thank you to our amazing customers.


5. What have you learnt in this business? The challenges and the success

My key learnings reflect in Bombay Brunch values such as Customer First, Authenticity and Quality, Sustainability, Food Safety, Low Wastage, and Innovation.

Bombay Brunch is all about the people we work with and serve. Be it our patrons, collaborators, local community, and my team.

Educating customers about the Western Indian cuisine, digital pre-ordering model, and weekend-only availability are some of the current challenges. Like any other food business, we have to balance our menu prices with inflationary, labor, and regulatory costs.

Another challenge is an end mile delivery as app-based food delivery services charge up-to 30% commissions. This highlights the need for regulators to promote food pick-up hub networks.

6. Finally please share the plans going forward

Bombay Brunch has again been invited this year to cover “ONCE Somerville” summer concert series and we are excited to join them.

We are super excited about moving our kitchen from Somerville to Boston in summer. This will make us more visible and broaden our reach. This new site will still be equally accessible to our Somerville and Cambridge customers.

Soon you will find Bombay Brunch presence at local farmers markets beginning with Lexington Farmers market in Spring 2022. There are more partnerships in the works to broaden our reach across Massachusetts and other New England states.

2022 will be another exciting year for Bombay Brunch!

What are some of your signature dishes? 

For many, Bombay is only synonymous to street food. It is true that Bombay – India’s melting pot – has given birth to an incredible variety of delicious street food blending local recipes with the best that immigrants from all over India had to offer.

Although I must stress that Bombay and Western Indian food also offers a large selection of hardy grains, plant-based proteins, vegetables, and superfoods cooked in milder spices.

Bombay Brunch offers menus in 4 different categories: Bombay Chowpatty or Bombay Street Food, Maharashtrian Snacks and Mini-Meals, Usals or Hearty Plant-based protein curries, Gluten Free Breads (Bhakri) and Bhajis or special Maharashtrian stirred or curried vegetables.

Usal or plant proteins is one of my versatile dishes. We offer seven different types of Usals. Customers can consume it as-is or as a soup or with salad or with their choice of carbs. Customers stack this product to consume throughout the upcoming week.

Recently launched Maharashtrian-style vegetable curries and Gluten Free Breads have also gained popularity.

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