Sandwiches from Olive Bistro are the best to grab on the go. Photo via Facebook.
It's 6 am at T2 -Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The scene at Aaswad is probably as busy as the departure and arrival lounges! The staff is preparing traditional Maharashtrian breakfast items such as batata vada, sabudana khichdi, thalipeeth, misal and pohe for the customers who have just walked in. The buzz continues until 11 am and then picks up around 8 pm in the evening.
Owner Suryakant Sarjoshi of the popular Maharashtrian eatery, who started with a Dadar outpost in 1986, launched the T2 branch in March, 2016. "We see approximately 1400-1500 footfalls per day. It is interesting to find passengers packing vada pav and boxes of chaklis and chiwdas for their journeys ahead," he smiles. He further claims that it is the only food outlet, which serves everything fresh at T2, although chopping and batter-making happens at their Dadar branch. "But we do have an onion chopping machine as knives are not allowed at the airport, and it is one vegetable that goes bad if left unattended," he adds. Aaswad is also offering crates of Ratnagiri Alphonso mangoes for those who want to carry them for friends and families.
Considering Mumbai airport has recently been announced as the busiest single-runway airport in the world, it is obvious that the dining scene is buzzing with several restaurants - cafes, bars, takeaway joints – and enjoying heavy footfalls. With names like Starbucks, Olive Bistro, Subway, Maroosh, McDonald’s, The Beer Cafe, Theobroma and more, the choice for a traveller is endless.
Stop by at The Beer Cafe before you catch your flight. Photo via Facebook
And why not? Given long stop-overs and late night flights, passengers prefer to chill before embarking on their journeys. The Beer Cafe, which has an outpost at T2, sees as many as 300 to 400 footfalls on an average day. "Although we are known for our beers, we cannot serve more than a certain amount inside the airport. We need to follow the rules, even if our customers demand for more," says Anil Patil, manager at The Beer Cafe. The busiest hours are between 3 pm and 8 pm, and again between 11 pm and 1 am. "Although we require a staff of about 22 to 23 people to handle the daily rush, we have only 17 who are constantly on their feet," he informs.
Olive Bistro, the popular European restaurant at T2, is typically known for its pastas, burgers and sandwiches. “Most people like to sit down and have a meal before their flight, while others prefer to pack a quick snack to take with them,” says Amit Kalgutar, manager at Olive Bistro. They see maximum footfalls between 8 pm and 2 am, and approximately 140 to 200 customers. "We calculate our footfall a little differently than the other branch. It is the number of orders and not the number of people who enter that makes up for the final footfall he says. Amit also talks about the challenges the restaurant faces inside the airport. "We cannot get knives or any sharp objects inside the airport. Gas cylinders aren't allowed either so we can only cook with the pipeline that is provided inside," he adds.
Pick up a dessert from Theobroma. Photo via Facebook
Standing pretty in pink, everyone's favourite bakery, Theobroma is also doing good business at the airport. Loved for their irresistible desserts and bakes, the patisserie is buzzing from 7 in the morning to 6 in the evening, although it is open all day. "People usually stop by to pack a box of brownies, pastries, savouries and tea cakes," says Nazir Sarela, COO of Theobroma. With a daily footfall of about 400 to 450 and a staff of 12, they divide and cater in three shifts. Talking about the restrictions faced, Nazir says, "We aren't allowed a hot kitchen and can only sell pre-packed items without heating."
Running nearly 900 flights a day, and handling around 45.2 million passengers annually, Mumbai airport has a huge demand to fulfil - that is not only to feed hungry passengers, but also offer them a variety of choices. Currently, the pressure is on the current 40-50 restaurants and cafes that are operating at T2.