Gone are the days when a meal at Delhi University (DU) campus meant making do with what was available in the college canteen or heading out to the nearest thelewala for chole kulche and banta. With students looking for ‘cool’ addas and diverse dining choices within pocket-friendly means, a crop of young entrepreneurs have transformed the campus area into a veritable haunt of chic cafes and concept restaurants, offering fancy culinary treats at affordable prices.
“The best part about opening a place near campus is that you are guaranteed new customers, with a fresh batch of students enrolling in DU every year,” explains Sumit Tandon, owner of Cafeteria and Co, a newly-opened restaurant at Hudson Lane near North Campus.
Recognising the immense potential of ‘campus clientele’, many have ventured into the market to open their own uniquely themed restaurants and cafes. Most eatery owners belong to the age group of 24-29 years, with some having just stepped out of college to start their own venture.
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A case in point is Echoes Cafe in South Campus, a combined effort by five friends. Launched in December last year, Shivansh Kanwar, 22, takes care of service operations while Kshitij Behl, also 22, runs the kitchen. The service staff of the restaurant also sets its apart — they are all hearing and speech impaired.
“We weren’t sure whether it would work out. We pooled in all the money we had, took help from our families and started this place,” says Behl. He adds, “That’s why you will see that a lot of things in the restaurant, like the cushions and curtains, are from our homes.”
“As we are from a somewhat similar age group, we kind of instinctively know what the crowd wants, and that helped,” says Kanwar.
The past five years have also seen many eateries wind up after failing to draw crowds. So, is there a particular mantra to getting things right? “Quirky themes are a must” says Sahil Dhamija, 25, owner of Taxi – World Food Cafe in Vijay Nagar. He adds, “The food has to be good… You could open the swankiest place, but if the food doesn’t measure up, no one will care.”
These eateries also have to find a way to make students visit the place again. “Students are loyal clients that way. If they like your place, they will come to your restaurant after bunking class, for a date and even during a break up. If you can give them a good experience, if they have enough fun to make your place their adda, that’s the biggest factor,” says Tandon.