The timeless taste and tale of Kochi’s Tandoor

May 31, 2024

How did a restaurant bring the North Indian touch of tandoori dishes to Kerala and thrive for decades? Here’s the story of an iconic brand and Swiggy’s role in the journey. 

In the early 1970s, when eating out wasn’t as trendy as it is today, Tandoor laid its foundation as one the first places in Kerala to serve Tandoori chicken – a dish that sparked curiosity in the culinary scene back then in the state. A restaurant with an open kitchen that gradually started getting attention with its dhaba-style food. 

Cut to 2024, Tandoor is stepping into its 50th year with the multi-cuisine restaurant earning a loyal following over decades and generations. Here’s the story of how Tandoor’s owner, Krishna Mohan took over and sustained the brand established by his father, and how the restaurant continues to remain relevant five decades later with Swiggy’s help.

Tandoor in the 1970s
Tandoor in the 1970s

Bringing the tandoori experience to Kerala

At a time when starting a restaurant was not a conventional career choice, Krishna’s father, Mohan Divakaran, decided to bring North Indian food to Kochi after completing a hotel management course from Pusa, Delhi. “It was not an easy move to bring North Indian cuisine to Kochi back then. The restaurant started with the look and feel of a normal ‘dhaba’. In the 70s itself, it had the modern structure of an open kitchen which is now commonly seen in big restaurants and five-star hotels,” says Krishna as he narrates the initial days of Tandoor.   

An old photo of Krishna and his father at Tandoor
An old photo of Krishna and his father at Tandoor

The first few years came with an uphill task for Tandoor to hold its ground in a town where many hadn’t ever heard of ‘tandoori chicken’ before. “It sparked curiosity as people saw chicken streaked with red masala on the skewers and thought it was blood,” says Krishna.

Initially, it was a struggle that saw Krishna’s father put in extra effort often till late at night. “As a child, I often saw my father returning home after closing the restaurant at around 1 AM. Gradually, I was attracted to the business,” says Krishna, who has been supervising the restaurant’s operations for the last 25 years.

“I started with cutting onions in our restaurant’s kitchen and then moved out of Kerala to work in various kitchen-based setups and get a better understanding of the business,” adds Krishna, who eventually implemented all his learnings while managing Tandoor. 

From humble beginnings to persistent progress, Tandoor kept growing with evolving tastes and times to become the go-to place for the best ‘dhaba-style’ tandoori cuisine in Kochi. 

Taking over the reins from his father, Krishna currently runs the restaurant along with his wife, Sikha. Today, Tandoor’s has grown to become the go-to place for the best ‘dhaba-style’ tandoori cuisine in Kochi. 

A photo of Krishna Mohan and his wife
Krishna Mohan and his wife

Apart from a wide variety of food, how does the brand continue to remain relevant with evolving tastes? “With Tandoor, our focus has always been to ensure consistency in taste and provide high-quality food and service to our customers. I always try to establish a friendly connection with almost everyone who visits us,” says Krishna, who believes in the power of customer feedback and his long-standing team to keep things going the way they have been.

Krishna is also an experienced actor in the Malayalam film industry. “While I take up opportunities to act as they come, my 100 percent focus is towards running the restaurant,” he says. “Even when I am away for my acting duties, I keep in touch with my closely connected team,” he adds.

Swiggy spicing up Tandoor’s growth

With strong branding and delivery already in place over the years, what led to Tandoor’s association with Swiggy? “It happened when some of my customers encouraged me to enter the online food delivery space, as that would allow our restaurant to reach more people,” says Krishna as Tandoor became one of the latest brands in the region to be onboard with Swiggy. 

Akshay Curian, Swiggy's Account Manager with Krishna Mohan
Akshay Curian, Swiggy’s Account Manager with Krishna Mohan

“The help and support from Swiggy is available to us 24*7. It has been a partnership where I openly seek suggestions to improve anything and we push each other to do what’s best for the brand,” adds Krishna, who observed a surge in orders as soon as Tandoor gained visibility on the food delivery platform. 

When Akshay Kurian, Swiggy’s Senior Key Account Manager took over Tandoor’s account, he identified the path ahead. “We started with adding images to all the food items and strengthening the menu hygiene. Additionally, we started running relevant ads as a part of our marketing strategy. I also recommended adding special discounts for customers ordering for the first time,” says Akshay, who proactively suggests multiple ways for the brand’s growth.

A crowd favourite from Tandoor
A crowd favourite from Tandoor

In around seven months since he took over the account, Akshay developed a strong working relationship with Krishna. “Whenever Krishna is away for other commitments, he asks me to treat Tandoor like my baby and do whatever is best for its growth,” Akshay laughs as he shares this. 

“Our aim was also to cater to a wider segment of customers, and for that, we worked on lowering the price ranges for add-ons like bread and curry. To increase the average order value, I also suggested adding portions of items such as biryanis and gravies to affordable combos for healthcare workers nearby. Additionally, we plugged in discounts under Swiggy Dineout for customers who visited the restaurant”, adds Akshay, who admired Krishna’s down-to-earth nature when they first met. 

So what does the future hold for Tandoor? “We have already launched another cloud-kitchen brand named Canteen By Tandoor, which focuses more on quick tandoori dishes and snacks. We are currently working together on the plans to expand it further,” adds Akshay.

With the taste and memories that Tandoor keeps giving its customers, the future surely looks Tandoor-ific for the brand.

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