Last year, amid the social media noise around sourdough and banana bread, freshly baked choux buns and croissants from Miam Patisserie stood out—they turned their focus from being a cafe to creating and delivering boxes of food that could be used for picnics or served as complete meals during small get-togethers at home.
The Delhi-based cake studio is run by husband-wife duo Bani Nanda and Akshay Handa. In the pandemic, they reimagined what it means to run a bakery by focusing on delivery, paying attention to trends and cashing in on festivals; not only did they introduce more desserts and celebratory cakes—artfully garnished with delicate tuiles, fresh flowers and berries—but also relaunched their doggy cake menu with gluten-free options.
In June, Nanda collaborated with Food Talk India, an online community of food lovers, and conducted an online baking workshop which raised close to ₹4.5 lakh for the Good Food Project. The citizen-run initiative provides meals to crematorium workers. Nanda, 31, spoke to Mint on how she pivoted to taste success in the past months.
What was your reaction when the first lockdown was announced?
It was quite unnerving and we didn’t have any game plan. At that time, we had a cafe-cum-studio in Lado Sarai, which catered mostly to a South Delhi clientele. We closed it and moved to my mother’s home, which has a professional kitchen because she is a home baker.
At that time, we were not delivering all over Delhi, and on the few occasions when we did, our cakes were sent via Uber. By the end of April we realised cafes and restaurants wouldn’t open anytime soon and even if they did, people would be hesitant to step out.
We shifted gears to a delivery model and contacted a third party delivery service, Pidge. We worked from home and catered to orders across Delhi, to places as far as Noida, which was impossible before the lockdown.
My house help and I would be in the kitchen and Akshay would be taking calls. This went on for a month, and it really picked up.
When did you reopen the cafe-cum-studio?
When we managed to do well by working from home, it gave us the confidence to shift back slowly and restart the operations at the studio by the end of May.
Since no one was coming to the cafe and the demand for deliveries had shot up, we had to expand our kitchen and took over the cafe area. In fact, due to the deliveries, we were doing better than we did before the lockdown.
What are the trends that guided you to launch new products?
I started to create boxes with assorted treats like croissants, breads, dips and cakes, which was a way to respond not only to trends but also offer something special for festivals. For instance, there was the picnic box, designed for four-six people, which came with cutlery, chocolate cake, croissants and baguette dips and cold cuts. It was practical, didn’t need reheating and could be shared.
In Delhi, we have sprawling parks like Lodhi Garden and Nehru Park, and those turned into picnic spots, especially during the pandemic.
For occasions like Valentine’s Day, we had a breakfast-in-bed pack. I featured my social media-shy husband in a reel to demonstrate how to lay out this box. You know, it’s important to do this because someone who buys this box should be able to imagine how the food will look once it’s laid out; it’s a marketing strategy.
We have boxes for house parties with stuff like crackers, confit and cream cheese, because I realized that people were having small gatherings at home and they wanted to serve their guests good, hassle-free food. This box doubled up as a travel pack when people in Delhi drove out of the city to the hills.
One food item that signifies:
Love - dark chocolate
Hope - passion fruit and coconut.
Joy - bread
Home - Kadhi
Turning the Tables is a fortnightly series on how food entrepreneurs are coping with covid-19.