A plate of piping hot, delectable charcoal biryani is Trivandrum’s latest hype. In the sudden surge of new restaurants and takeaway counters that have taken the capital city off its feet, LF Eats has paved some space for itself. An uncommon and a wholly new taste to the palette of a foodie from Trivandrum, LF Eats biriyani has an interesting and inspiring tale of how they came to be the city’s new favourite biryani destination. But, this is not a story about good food. This is a story about how a group of close knit friends built their way up a ladder of triumphs and turmoils.
In 2017, a group of boys had a novel idea of bringing restaurants closer to homes through their delivery service called HungerG. At a time when delivery services weren’t at one’s fingertips, HungerG had found itself a void that needed to be bridged. A team of four friends with a passion to start their own service, HungerG was born. In a world of comics and movies that tell you tales of cape wearing superheroes, HungerG cut the image of a saviour, who keeps your hunger at bay. Pooling in savings and money from loans, they got hold of bikes, to deliver food from restaurants to homes across the city. When they could not bring enough delivery boys together, they themselves would set out to complete the task. They had stumbled on many challenges in building HungerG. HungerG was kickstarted in August 2017. Lack of adequate funds had been a severe roadblock in their journey. Little did they know that this was just a speed bump that slowed down their ride to triumph. Their target of achieving 10 orders per day was met by 70 orders per day by the 7th month of their service. Adding more delivery boys to their workforce, HungerG hoped to be a delivery revolution in Trivandrum. But with the onset of the fateful floods of 2018, HungerG’s activities slowly went south.
Much before HungerG was sacrificed, during one of their delivery attempts, they had stumbled upon a quaint little takeaway counter that would soon become their ticket to success. The aroma of the most mouth-watering biryani had brought them into the shop. Run by Mr. Haris, commonly referred to as Ikka out of love and respect, they discovered for the first time in Trivandrum, authentic Kannur style biriyani, with it’s crispy fried chicken coupled with flavourful rice topped with caramelized onions. Quick to their feet, this group of boys seized this opportunity of narrowing their delivery interests to this particular biriyani. With no business plan to keep as a model, the boys followed a trial and error method with no limit to their motivation. They produced biodegradable containers to pack the biryani, which at the time, was one of the greatest steps against single use plastics and the start of a much needed trend in the food delivery ecosystem. Nevertheless, this too had found its way to different problems for the otherwise hopeful group. Making ends meet had been a tasking responsibility that was weighing their growth down. The LF Eats team had really faced the test of time when the unprecedented floods of 2018 had taken over Kerala. With that began the idea of taking over LF Eats as a business. With Ikka’s support, this group of boys quickly sprouted up to action. They would wake up early and learn the nuance of cooking this delicious biryani. They learned the finer aspects of maintaining a kitchen, of prepping before the biryani made its appearance to their valuable customers. Ikka taught them the art of cooking and developed a nurturing bond with the boys. Though he charged them a small amount for the life lessons he imbibed them with, a lot had changed for the boys with the presence of Ikka. The unfortunate setback that it had put forth had brought their delivery activities to an absolute standstill. But Ikka’s biriyani was their new gateway to success. To be able to buy out Ikka’s biryani business, lack of funds stared at their faces. The boys turned to the place where all of this began : their alma mater, CET. The Mens Hostel of CET has been often described as a feeling, rather than a place. For many, it became their home away from home. For the others, it was the pride of their college. A fraternity that came together during all things happy and sad, the hostellers of the MH, CET, were the guardian angels of the LF Eats group. With small amounts to bigger amounts, each MH student gave them whatever they could afford. Vishnu R Pradeep, one of the founding members of LF Eats, tells us that one particular friend from the Mens’ Hostel gave an amount that they cherish to this day, not because of its volume, but because for a student, that may have been a great sacrifice. Launched in January, 2018, was Ikka’s biriyani, but only to be now known as LF Eats.
With a funny twist to the popular phrase “Finger-licking”, identified as part of the tagline for famous fried chicken brand KFC, the name LF Eats has an interesting story behind it. Ben Issac Mathew, trusted friend of the LF Eats group and alumni of CET’s Architecture branch, is the mastermind behind developing “linger-ficking”, a hilarious take on the popular tagline, which came to become the name for our biryani in question. Mr. Ben helped rebrand the image of LF Eats, despite being in a different country. Ikka’s handing over of the business was not a seamless one. His trust in the boys had grown, but his faith that the biryani would sell before he left the business scene was not something he saw happening. And just 2 weeks before Ikka left, the boys had unlocked a new level in the biryani game : cooking and selling 50kgs a day. With the highly demanding offer by UberEats, a delivery programme by Uber, which sold biryani at just under 60, LF Eats quickly became the best budget friendly biryani in Trivandrum. By December 2018, they were serving 80 kgs of biryani. An achievement that was met by the need to maximise, the team hired more workers. The process of cooking this sought after biryani began in the wee hours of the morning and did not end until a little before noon. It required all hands on board, and to this day, the proud owners of LF Eats are also the chefs and helpers. From one takeaway counter to creating a restaurant, the team of LF Eats has seen the rise and dip in their business. With the decline of UberEats, more number of employees and unforeseeable natural calamities, LF Eats had taken a huge blow. The high inflation induced prices of onions brought down the cost of each individual biryani, which resulted in more losses. But quick to spring into action, to increase their profits, they started three branches. Kuravankonam, Kunnumpuram and Kazhakkootam saw takeaway counters that made a remarkable difference in their sales.
The Covid scenario has not affected the sales of LF Eats, according to Vishnu. But having more employees was a risk, but now with every member being a part of the cooking process, LF Eats thrives. They share that without the support of many individuals, LF Eats would have been a distant dream. The arrival of different team members seemed like a match made in heaven. Abhay S, a dear friend of the team, alumnus from the EE branch and a great cook, joined in to assist Ikka and developed a rather special bond with him. The Akkulam branch of the restaurant was designed and executed by Ben Issac Mather and Abhishek Raj K K, alumnus of the Civil Engineering branch. Some friends whose help was not limited to financial support, but other kinds of help. Dilshan, alumnus of the Electrical branch, is still one of their most cooperative friends. Other acquaintances such as Nasal, who helped them create their website, Suhail, Cyril, Babish, Aswin R Nath and Abraham P Joseph have all extended their love to the LF Eats endeavour.
With no business model in place and no intention of creating a business in the food sector, the members of the LF Eats initiative are surprised themselves on where and how it all began. The foundation to running this successfully began at CET. His experience as Mess Convenor, Vipin V S, alumnus of the Mechanical branch, taught him how to run a kitchen. Some members, such as Vishnu, Ranith and Adarsh served as Mess Secretary, which gave them the ability to understand what food sells and what doesn’t. It was almost as though CET had prepared them to not just become engineers but to also run a food business, unknowingly. A true story of destiny, the tale of LF Eats is one of hope and brotherhood. It is about the countless people who joined hands to set afloat a dream that now sails smoothly, prepared for the worst storms. The 7 member team of LF Eats includes, Vishnu R Pradeep (Civil), Adarsh B (Mechanical), Jithesh Mohan (Computer Science), Akhil P Krishnan (Electrical and Electronics) , Vipin V S (Mechanical), Ranith K P (Mechanical) and Abhay S (.Electrical and Electronics). LF Eats has a long way to go, but the spirit of fellowship, that was derived from the hallways of CET, will keep the spark ignited.