Living in central New Jersey, you can’t help but become a fan of Indian food.
The community of transplanted people of Indian descent is large and growing, so there are always new restaurants and grocery stores opening to cater to the booming population.
It’s a fantastic cuisine for a foodie. Heck, I’ve even tried my hand at cooking it around the house, to admittedly mixed results. My only problem is that Indian food has been a bit of a “special occasion” meal. Part of this is that there is no really good Indian fast food or semi-fast food (think your neighborhood Chinese restaurant), so when you go out, it’s usually to a reasonably nice sit-down restaurant or at least a decent buffet.
Although almost any place will let you do takeout, it’s safe to say we lack an option for an easy pick-it-up-on-the-way-home-from-work dinner or office lunch delivery. That void was filled when my coworkers and I discovered Tiffin…
For those of you not down with the lingo, “tiffin” refers to a meal, usually lunch, and is typically served in a stackable metal box or pail that keeps the parts of your meal separate but hot.
Tiffin the restaurant “is a web based service that aims to provide fresh, healthy and nutritious Indian and Asian food delivery to the location of your choice. The service has been modeled after the famous meal delivery service of Mumbai, India. Tiffin.com is the brainchild of Munish Narula, a former Investment Banker and a Wharton MBA.” Their delivery area is defined by a bunch of neighborhoods, but basically extends from Temple University in the north to the Italian Market in the south and from the Delaware River on the east all the way across to University City, home of Mr. Narula’s U of Penn grad school.
Really, the important thing is that the area covers a large portion of the heart of the working city that locals call Center City. And more to the point, it includes my office.
Tiffin works on a rotating schedule of dishes. Basically, you end up with two 8 oz. main dishes, an 8 oz. dal dish and a pint of basmati rice, along with “Onion Chutney & Pickles,” which are basically those condiments you get and never know what to do with but which taste really good. One of the two main dishes is set (it’s always a vegetarian dish) and then the other main dish is your choice of three available that day, one of which is meat. Confused? Don’t be. Just take a look. On top of the main courses, you can add on other items (including naan) and even have them throw in a DVD of a Bollywood movie.
As for the quality…you wouldn’t be reading this post if the food wasn’t good, and it almost always stands up to a quick reheating in the office microwave, which it sometimes needs after its trip to your office. The choices provide a nice variety of curry dishes that go beyond the tikka masala and really take advantage of seasonal ingredients, as evidenced by the abundance of winter vegetables in their current choices.
So, what does this look like? Unfortunately, you don’t get the snazzy metal pail. However, you can see by the stylish photo (courtesy of co-worker Renee) that we’re talking about an impressive amount of food for about seven or eight bucks plus whatever you toss on as a tip. Seriously, I’ve turned one lunch delivery into a lunch for myself and a dinner for my wife and me when I paired the leftovers with some added samosas from the local market. Tiffin requires a $15 minimum, but it’s not usually hard to find someone else in the office willing to go in with you on an order.
The really cool thing about this is the mechanism for ordering. The Web site lets you create an account and add your delivery information, making it simple for you to log in during the morning and place your order. You have to commit to lunch early, though, as they require a 10 a.m. order for lunchtime drop-off. You just specify an hour-long block for delivery (they also have delivery times that allow you to take it home for dinner) and wait for them to call from the lobby. By automating the process and grouping the deliveries into time segments, it frees them up to be able to deliver all over the place, which is a great way for a niche food delivery service to capitalize on a far-flung clientele.
This really should be a model for this sort of business, regardless of location or cuisine. It’s simple…all you need is a top-notch kitchen staff, the ability to build and maintain a Web-based sales & distribution system and a degree from the country’s most prestigious business school.
Why didn’t I think of that?