Authenticity and versatility sets Tiffin apart from the average Indian concept. Instead of simply serving food using standard plates or takeout containers, it leverages a unique aspect of India’s culture to create a story around the food and program.
That story centers on the practice of families in the Indian city of Mumbai to pack up “bagged” lunches in separate small metal canisters, one for each particular dish, before leaving for work. Each canister holds a different item: a dal, basmati rice, a vegetable, a curry or main course.
Tiffin uses the same approach, adapted to the American corporate dining environment while not compromising the integrity of the recipes. As a result, the Tiffin station gives customers a large variety of options that can be mixed and matched in the separate to-go containers.
The program and story are tied together by Tiffin’s unique marketing and merchandising, which includes branded bags that create a conversation piece amongst guests to generate interest and drive participation.
One of a revolving set of menu concepts Restaurant Associates (RA) can deploy at a single station on different day, Tiffin has been a huge success, generating about 10 percent more covers than any other programs at the same station.
“Customers really enjoy the authenticity of this program and the variety of options,” says RA Director of Marketing Serena Crutchfield. “It has been a huge hit with our clients as we have received very positive feedback from various diversity groups and organizations on this program.”
The authentically Indian menu is vegetarian friendly but also offers a daily protein for meat lovers. Its design lets customers get a full meal with all components at a set price while still offering a build-your-own option. That has generated high guest satisfaction with both portion size and price as customers don’t feel locked into a set meal but can pick and choose.
The daily menu always includes basmati rice, a dal of the day and a vegetable
of the day, plus a choice of main courses, one being a meat protein and one a vegetarian dish. Sides and other extras like samosas, paratha, various impulse snack items and specialty beverages like mango lassi and chilled chai tea can be added to orders.
Each Tiffin component is served in an 8-ounce soup container with a lid. The stacks of four containers are placed in a brown paper bag stamped with the Tiffin logo.
With the suggested sell price of $7.95, food cost is about 37 percent.
The original idea for Tiffin was developed in the fall of 2013 by RA’s Vice President of Culinary Marc Scheuer, Senior Vice President of Creative Services Sam Souccar and Director of Culinary Innovations Tim Buma. It was then passed for further development to the onsite culinary team at one of RA’s large financial firm clients, where the client’s diversity groups were invited to taste test potential menu items and provide feedback.
“The responses were overwhelming; this is a great way to measure feedback and authenticity, as they in turn went back to their fellow colleagues and spread the word,” Crutchfield says.
Piloted at that site’s newly renovated facility in winter 2013, Tiffin was then tweaked for a companywide launch in January 2015 and has been running consistently in all RA units since then.
Jack Payne, executive chef, RA at Morgan Stanley
Rosanna DiCarlo, marketing manager, RA at Morgan Stanley
Sam Souccar, senior vice president of creative services, RA
Marc Scheuer, vice president of culinary, RA
Tim Buma, director of culinary innovations, RA
Matt Pisano, marketing manager, RA