Coffee, Roshogolla Co-Creation ... Candies, Speciality Group

Coffee at Candies

Candice & her dad, Allan, at the coffee station

I was standing by the cupcake tray when an old lady looked at me. She smiled and said, “could I have a chicken pate please”?

That’s when I remembered that I was at the other end of the counter of Candies. Not the customer end. Rather symbolic given that I was there with the folks at Candies that evening trying to figure out why their coffee tasted different of late.

It all started a couple of days before when I wrote on Facebook about my disappointment with the dropping standards of coffee at Candies *

Candice, second generation owner of Candies, wrote in to me asking if I could drop in and help figure out what was the problem with the coffee. That seemed like a good idea as I spend quite a bit of time there and it was in my interest to get back the coffees to my liking. Selfish but important.

So I went over on Friday evening and met Candice at the serving area behind the counter where they make coffee. We then moved up to the terrace and sat with our coffees – ‘Nescafe’, cappuccino and cold coffee. On the way chatting about the problem of ‘crowd management’ at Candies, something which people vent their ire about when they go to Candies on my recommendation. Candice told me about the various things that they had tried, the limitation of non McAssembly-line inventories and her hopes that something would work eventually.

We tried out the different coffees. The Nescafe was too strong and bitter as I said it had become of late. The cold coffee, watery and too sweet. Unlike the ice cream rich chocolate syrup streaked cold coffees of yore at Candies. The cappuccino, on the other hand, was pleasantly strong and not as limp as I found it to be whenever I tried it recently. 

Candice then called her dad, Allan, the owner of Candies. You might have often seen him at Candies. Thin. Tall. Handlebar mooch. White shirt. Blue jeans. Shining shaved pate. Always very busy.

Allan joined Candice and me as we headed back to the coffee section. Candice told him about our experience with the coffee. Allan first started with the cold coffee and asked the Barista, Jayesh, to make it in front of him. It was Allan’s recipe after all. Once done, I tried it again. It was still watery. Allan rolled up his sleeves then and made it himself this time. 

I took a sip. I smiled. The cold coffee now had the nice creamy texture that we used to love pepped up by some pretty robust coffee. Not the over sweet sickly form it had taken. of late “There seems to be some plus minus” said Allan. A transmission loss between the concept and the execution. Plans were made to work on training the staff again.

We next focused on the ‘Nescafe’. Black coffee with milk on the side. The amount of coffee added seemed right. The coffee was made fresh and not poured from a pot as I apprehended. Another cup was made. Same result. The three of us kept looking at the jar of coffee wondering what could have changed. That’s when it struck both Allan and me at the same time. The coffee was a fine powder. Not slightly granular as it used to be earlier. Seemed like the Nescafe blend had changed. Hence the change in taste. Plan B was to now to try out others coffee blends available at the same price range. Allan had already started weighing his options.

The ‘mystery’ behind the cappuccino was solved. Allan said they had begun adding two shots of coffee in the cappuccino these days instead of one. This probably explained the renewed kick in the cappuccino. The price constant.

I discovered another secret. Apparently the reason why I like the green Thai curry at Candies so much. On asking I found out that they do season their green curries with fish sauce! Something which I am very particular about. Allan, asked me, “do you feel the zing in the curry?”. You bet I do. 

The secret to their ham and cheese sandwiches, a favourite of Allan, and me, was the ham from Keel. The secret to the potato chips K loves? They are made in house.

Allan was happy to hear that I liked the beef rendang that one used to get at Candies. I found it to be similar to what I had at Malaysia. It was a favourite of Allan too but they stopped it because of low demand. Candice told me that one of the biggest selling combos at Candies is, hold your breath, butter chicken and Chinese fried rice!

I found out that a lot of the stuff in this close to twenty five year old restaurant were based on recipes of Candice’s mother or Mrs Allan, that is Valerie. Candies started with the stuff which Valerie used to cook for the family – the sandwiches, the puffs, brownies (the best in the whole wide world IMHO), sorpatels, lasagnas, chop sueys, roast chicken, stroganoffs, the bolougnaise – thankfully the Pereira’s were kind enough to share their food at home with the rest of us.

I had read somewhere that Allan had designed the murals at Candies, I asked him. Turned out to be true. With the Michael Jackson murals and videos playing on the TV this was no brainer but I still asked Allan whether he was a fan of MJ. 

Allan is. He calls MJ a genius and is enthralled by the dreams Michael Jackson brought to live with technology.

In my world folks like Allan are the rockstars.

Roshogollas at Speciality Restaurants

A million roshogollas

And here is something on another favourite of mine. The Speciality A common strain between the two stories in this post is the way of handling consumer complaints. The way they make you feel special. And show their earnestness. That’s what makes me keep coming back to them.

We were at South City, Calcutta, on my sis in law’s birthday sometime back. Ended up at Fame and Grill as Mainland China was too full. I wrote to Bhavana of the Speciality Group chain on FB from my phone requesting her for a table at MLC on a hunch. Didn’t expect an immediate response as this was on Facebook.

Half way through our meal the manager from MLC came in. Turned out Flame & Grill belonged to the same group. It was too late to change but I ordered some noodles and XO chilli prawns for lunch next day. And then out of nowhere a birthday cake, a sparkling candle and champagne came to our table much to my lil sis in law’s excitement and in her words it was her ‘best budday ever’.

The story didn’t end there. Bhavana, and then Neena, from Speciality R, called me a couple of days later. We had a long chat on what happened at Flame and Grill. I expressed my surprise at the sloppy service and the rather average food there. A big contrast to the warm and competent service one has got used to expecting from restaurants in the group.

What struck me was the detail with which they got into finding out about our experience and with a stated desire to change things. Far from defensive. Made you feel like they were taking you seriously.

A day later an unexpected pot of a million roshogollas from Sweet Bengal landed at our place from the folks at Speciality. Just what you needed in summer. For three days I kept opening the fridge and popping in these chilled spongy delights.

I don’t know about the Speciality Group but I have obviously grown from the experience.

I went back twice to Candies since then. The cappuccino was consistent with what we tried the other night. Like I wrote earlier, it was in my interest to help them get their coffee right given the number of times I go there. It’s worked so far.

The appropriate jargon in the world of marketing for this is ‘co-creation’, I am told.

*The Finely Chopped Facebook page conversation on Candies that sparked this off:

• Finely Chopped

Despite my soft corner for Candies must say that the coffee sucks these days. Tuna sandwich was great though & petite fours balanced the pain

o 2 people like this.

Ankan Mandal yes.....the coffee has its downside with the taste and also after-effects.

04 May at 13:07 • LikeUnlike

Finely Chopped yes, the 'Nescafe' has become too bitter. The cappuccino too limp. The cold coffee is not what it used to be either Ankan

04 May at 13:09 • LikeUnlike

Amita Gadre Kelkar and the thai green curry has become too watery of late! good ol candies...

04 May at 13:11 • LikeUnlike

Finely Chopped ‎Amita Gadre Kelkar hmm wonder if my ranting about thick fake green curries led to the wateriness ;)

04 May at 13:14 • LikeUnlike

Amita Gadre Kelkar Really? I would be happy to know that someone really managed to listen to a customer out there... if only they could change the staff who take the orders!

04 May at 13:16 • LikeUnlike

Finely Chopped I was just jokingt but you should write in to Candice Pereira on FB.

04 May at 13:17 • LikeUnlike • 1 personLoading...

Sue Cope We went there the other day for the first time ever and were served up a cold omelette and coffee so weak that I think they perhaps forgot to put in the coffee! Not sure whether we'll be give it a second chance!

04 May at 13:18 • LikeUnlike

Amita Gadre Kelkar will do. :)

04 May at 13:21 • LikeUnlike

Finely Chopped ‎Sue Cope I have the reverse problem. The coffee is too strong. Unless you had to cappuccino. I have already given up the omelette as being a disaster zone. Best to keep things simple there

04 May at 13:42 • LikeUnlike

Sue Cope yes - it was a cappuccino. Simple?? Is there anything more simple than an omelette??? Made me chuckle when I was in there - guy in front told his girlfriend he wanted something healthy so ordered a fruitbowl and an amazingly greasy pastry to wash it all down with!!!! :)

04 May at 14:06 • LikeUnlike

Finely Chopped Guess what, Candice wrote in to me requesting me to drop by to figure out what was going wrong with the coffees. I went there and tried the coffees today and then her dad Alan joined in and we worked on the coffees with their 'Barista' and seems like we reached solutions or identified problems that needed to be fixed. I was quite impressed by this attitude and hope that this leads to something good

07 May at 01:42 • LikeUnlike

Sue Cope Great! ... wow, they have a barista.... would never have guessed it!


Mumbai Diva said…
i love candies too. but the standing in the line trying to catch the attention of the staff for ages kind of takes away from the experience a bit :(
Sassy Fork said…
The fact that both Candies and Speciality Restaurants care so much about customer satisfaction is the reason behind their success.Others should learn from them!
Scarlett said…
Restaurants now invite you over to help fix their problems? About time you started your own restaurant!

I'm glad you had such a good experience with Specialty Restaurants but I have a hunch they treated you the way they did b/c they know you write a hugely popular blog, have hundreds of followers on FB & Twitter, and can really influence their customers. Not sure a regular customer will be treated to the same experience.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Yes, that could be a possibility
Ana said…
Hey Kalyan..Yes you are special because you have been a guest for us; Speciality Restaurants, for a long time..:) but we do treat all our guests at par and certainly want them to be delighted with our food and service..Each and every complaint is looked into seriously