Would you like Vatthal with that, sir?

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For the tamil challenged, Vatthal means “Fries”.

I had lunch at Saravana Bhavan today. As a Chennaiite, I have long admired their no-nonsense efficiency, quick service and incredibly tasty food. They make no pretences of being an “Ambience” restaurant and the waiters will generally reach your table a few nanoseconds after you sit down and deliver your order before you can even think about small talk. But I detected a small change today. A faint whiff of American style marketing training. It happened thus:

My wife. “Masala dosa”.

Waiter upsells. “Special Masala? Paper Masala?”

My wife reiterates. “Plain Masala”.

No luck there. Plan B. Waiter cross sells. “Any vada? Any khichdi?”

Temptation beckons. “Ok. Khichdi”

Satisfied smile. He makes his next move. Rook to e5. “Any juice?”. Check.

Ah. Once the descent into the canyon has begun, there’s no looking back. “Tomato”.

Bishop to e4. I catch him muttering. “1 large tomato juice”. My spock like ears pick that up and I clarify. “Small tomato juice”.

Now that the pattern has been set, I also end up ordering a Ghee paper roast, Curd vada and carrot juice. We’ve been cross-sold, up-sold, side-sold and front-sold.

Two people. Rs. 166. At Saravana Bhavan. Checkmate.

You evil American marketing demons. Leave my Saravana Bhavan alone.

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10 responses to “Would you like Vatthal with that, sir?”

  1. root3 Avatar

    cost me 500 for three… and the size of their sambar vada is something to talk about… roughly smaller than a one rupee coin, its a wonder how they manage to put a neatly placed hole through… and yet, the next time the family wants a meal, saravana bhavan it is…. branding sells!


  2. krishashok Avatar

    He he. Liked your blog by the way. It looks atrocious on IE, but that’s ok. It says more about the browser than it does about your layout skills 🙂

  3. mahendrap Avatar

    So Chennai is following in Mumbai and Bangalore’s footsteps…?

  4. Ashok Avatar


    There are an ample number of stereotypical “branded” restaurants. Saravana Bhavan was one of the last bastions of traditional examples of poor, unintrusive marketing. Now, we are losing that as well 🙂

  5. root3 Avatar

    thanks ashok… the browser part is a bit like those america returns who forget the inglorious twenty odd years here when they talk about how the roads aren’t wide enough, the cars aren’t fashionable and the heat is murderous….

    used IE all my life till hardly a year back when i shifted to ff… and since i dont have IE anymore dont test anything there! and that shift causes me to take on a more selfish turn, despite more than 70% of the world on IE… which brings me back to saravana bhavan… my student days were a wonderfuly manipulated by the ‘cost-to-quanitity’ ratio. now im ok with spending a tad bit over quality… but damn, saravana bhavan could just as well get me back on the streets, n hungry~!!

  6. Anand Avatar

    Nice mate with Bishop and Rook;)

  7. pradeep Avatar

    two people and all that for 166 did u really check it was saravanabhavan? as well pl check ur bill too or the S/W! the 166 would have been for one person. They may not have the poor unintrusive marketing nor the franchiseeing still the taste is the same is more or less the same across all their outlets. may be they follow a factory model.(at least that’s how it tastes to me)

  8. DD Avatar

    brilliant writing, really.

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