Friday, September 30, 2011


The city's vegetarian restaurants are truly in the soup; not one of those 'two-handed' restaurants where you eat with one hand while holding your nose with the other and where cockroaches always enjoy pride of place. Nor the upscale eat-now-pay-waiter joints where waiters think that money grows on trays. My allusion is to the decent middle class haunts where the snacks have become so small that you start laughing and prices so high that you start crying, turning the eateries into 'whine and dine' centres.

With restaurants battling inflationary pressures, one can expect, for instance, the idli to deflate to the size of a paracetamol tablet; you pop it in and wash it down with water. And with their meal tickets coming under threat, the restaurant owners are leaving no (grinding) stone unturned to strike a balance between the size of snacks and the price line. For this, they are purportedly using an ingenious equation : Size x Price ÷ Improvise = Monetize.

To give the clients wider choice, WYPIWYG - What You Pay(for) Is What You Get - system may be introduced. Consequently, the restaurant menu cards may come to resemble car sales brochures that show the price of  the basic model and then go higher up to GL, LX, AX etc, depending on the value addition. So, you may find on the menu something like this : Masala Dosa OS(Onion-only Stuffing)..Rs 20. Masala Dosa OP(Onion-Potato)..Rs 30. Masala Dosa FL(Fully Loaded)..Rs 50. Besides snacks, ‘watered-down’ versions of coffee/tea will spice up the menu.

Walls of the eateries may be plastered with sign boards that offer discount incentives. A poster may say,  ‘50% off on all yesterday’s leftovers.’ Or, ‘Avail Upma Family Pack (ten portions for price of eight)’ Or, ‘Eat premium idlis–Idli Plus(30% extra - hurry, limited period offer).’ Besides, a 'Frequent Eater Scheme' too is on the anvil. By this, you earn one point for every ten rupees spent (fractions ignored).You can exchange 10 points for a free plate of idlis or upma or a vada. 50 points will fetch you a free masala dosa FL(fully loaded).

In days of yore, some of the finest citizens of the land were forced to grind dosa batter or wash dishes when they failed to square up after a square meal. Drawing heavily form this concept, our beleaguered restaurateurs might cook up new schemes to lure in the clientele. Under this, you get gift coupons for, say, cleaning your table and washing your dishes. Or, by choosing the roll-and-fry-your-own-chapatis plan. The coupons may be used during future visits to the restaurant (conditions apply).

Be that as it may, I know of one restaurateur who neither decreased the size nor increased the price of his medu vadas. He merely kept on increasing the size of the vada's hole!

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