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Calorie Smart Review

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This is a review of http://www.caloriesmart.in/ - an ideal example of a fantastic idea that is currently stuttering in execution. I don't know the owners personally, so this is an unbiased Punjabi foodie's review. As entrepreneurs, I can only wish them the very best and hope they work things out. Else, I can see their USP becoming a Unique Sampling (not Selling) Proposition.

We tried them out over 4 days. Just doesn't work. Here are the primary gripes:

  • Service - Their person comes and collects it the next day. Atleast in Mumbai, the dabbawalas take it back same day. Thus the office doesn't stink.
  • Portions - Inadequate for overweight punjabi males with a healthy appetite. It leaves almost every male feeling hungry (sample set, n=5, in my office) . The female colleague had no such issues
  • Taste (of one portion) - In the pursuit of health and controlled calorie intake, one or the other item turns out to not be yummy. Coupled with a limited portion, that becomes quite tough. Whether it be a soup, sprouts, sprouts tabouleh, or oats in the last week, net, there is something daily I didn't like to eat. And mind you, I am a glutton with low standards.
  • Order accuracy - We have had multiple instances where either less than requested veg meals were supplied, or continental food was replaced for Indian, etc. Surely teething troubles, but the error rate is fairly high for comfort

The good parts:

  • Lovely packaging - it looks nice - quite chic and high quality. However, this packaging means that the food is almost always cold even if u have it within 10 min of delivery.
  • Creative foods - the pasta was good, the kheer, the oats (though the taste was the usual yucky oats taste). The wrap + hummus and the cheesecake (see bottom) was simply outstanding The plating is quite good as well. You look forward to opening the plates.
  • Fresh fruits are FRESH. The watermelon was GOOD.

UPDATE: Here is a response from CS: http://freerider.in/images/cs/CS-response.pdf (verbatim save the names/identities of 3rd parties - mostly excerpted below)

It is clear that there are things which they view very differently (for starters its a case of glass half empty here!). Here is my pointwise reply to them:

  1. There is no outsourcing of delivery as with dabbawallas here and it is a conscious call to collect the next day, helps us deliver our meals within the price range that we do , otherwise the customer would end up paying much more. The zip bag needs to be used to avoid this and CS will educate customers more effectively going forward. Rinsing your plate in a min. and putting it in the bag (which we usually do if it’s a home dabba before putting back in our bag) , makes things great!
    I would understand the logistics angle, but I'm not sure it is an unsolvable problem (esp for midsized or large orders). Though, I honestly think they would know their business inside out :). That said, I have never rinsed my tiffin - it would be eaten clean!! The zip bag issue is valid since in our office, someone feels hungry at 1230 (yours truly) and others by 1400. No one's ideal so the zip bag remains unzipped.
  2. We are working on this and with investment in technology and CRM, this will improve going forward. But also to clarify
    , the Premium meal has a “Multi cuisine Menu” , through the week. Continental is a type of platter we do , we also do
    indian once or twice a week in that (Indian with a twist or a regional Indian Platter)

    Accepted. Probably there is an expectation mismatch at work then. Could definitely be something at our end!
  3. This is the core proposition, it suits some and not all. The meals have to be measured and calorie counted.The calories
    and food is scientifically enough for an average person (not unless you’re a child , nursing mother , athlete with higher
    calorie requirement). CS will again ensure that the message is communicated more effectively to customers going

    Exactly. and THAT is my bone with the program. It is mostly delicious but if the portions are inadequate (coupled with one dish which is left uneaten) then USP becomes a Unique Sampling Proposition. 2/4 days I ordered a thali from the regular chap - other days I just still needed something to nibble. Atleast for many like me (and I'm not that unique) - lunch is a "filling" comfort food. CalorieSmart is *mostly tasty* but is not filling. Maybe that is why most people fail on diets, no? Addressing this obvious plan can win you thousands of customers - ever thought about that?
  4. This point is subjective and while one customer may not like the food, there are 400 others who do. The endeavor is to
    make healthy yet tasty food. CS is sad to see that customer is suggesting the food taste is poor, but not much can be done
    here and customer is entitled to his opinion

    Again, let me state it clearly (and i have edited the original feedback above). What you have here is a double whammy. Limited portions + atleast one item which is not yummy = Still Hungry customers (some, not all). Which may not be intentional but is not a good thing under any circumstance. Either you can look at the other 400 customers (who may just be silent), or you can acknowledge it and try to work a middle ground out. Mind you - it is already a pretty good lunch otherwise. Its 80% tasty - you can take it to 100% IF you look at it another way

EPILOGUE: In summary, I think CS still need to be commended for their unique business, and their 80% success at making healthy food taste palatable (as opposed to the healthy food in hospitals!!). However, I speak for myself - I am not continuing the 4 day trial simply because it is not adequate for me. I have not even once felt sleepy one bit - but I did feel hungry too!

If they were a cafe, I would gladly patronize them once a month or so - just as I used to visit the VLCC cafe, circa 2008. However, on a daily basis, I need food that's more 'filling' and 'comforting'. It would be ideal to have something which does both, but as of now, the twain don't meet. I do wish them the very best in their endeavors though! :)
I do know and appreciate that it may definitely be suitable/ideal for some folks - just not for me.

Pictures of the CS meals are below - the meal with the wrap made me order a regular thali right away, while the brown rice meal was almost filling. I just needed chips later!

Main menu 2

Story | by Dr. Radut