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Old 29th April 2012, 11:26   #1
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Default Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

Past 2 years, I had undertaken lots of highway drive around South India, North India, West and Central India. One problem is common during all our highway drives is there are no good highway eateries, facilities for many hundreds of Kms.

However, there are truck dhabas which are not adequate to stop while you are traveling with family. With this four/six lane highways number of eateries are reduced or having of very low quality.

When I was returning from Rameshwaram, we started searching for eateries for around 7:30 PM and we found one around 10:45 PM (BP Ghar Dhaba) that too were closing and we had what ever they offered of very bad quality.

When I was driving to our home state Jharkhand from Bangalore last month, we stopped at BP ghar Dhaba at Ongole, we ordered meals as there were no options. What after meals? We found spider in meals . We left immediately and had bread jam.

Similar case happened, when I was travelling towards Nagpur from Bangalore and there were not a good eateries along the way. During last trip, while returning, I had food in outskirts of Hyderabad in a big family restaurant (Highway Inn, 25 Kms before Hyderabad) and immediately food poisoning started. Same day I came back to Bangalore by having medicine.

When Reliance petrol pumps were operational, they were having good quality A1 Plaza and now almost all of them closed. When we start from home, we pack some food from home, but this is always not possible considering early morning start.

Why there are not any good eateries coming on the highway? Why BP do not maintain their Ghar Dhabas? Why not other pertol pumps like HP, Indian Oil also opens eateries along the highway? With this good highways, are common people are not traveling on highway through car? Demand is less?

This is major turn down from my family when I plan for long long drive.

Your say.

Last edited by anujmishra : 29th April 2012 at 11:27.
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Old 29th April 2012, 12:25   #2
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

This is sad sad indeed. I dont understand why petrol pumps do not provide eating facilities. Oil companies complain that they are making a loss by selling Petrol and Diesel. But if these same loss making petrol pumps were to open good eateries, small shops and in some remote places even accommodation then they could offset the losses. The pumps already have very prime locations right on the highways. Petrol pumps in the developed world have already started this trend.

Oil company CEO's need to think outside the box if they are to make money. If selling petrol and diesel at prices set by the govt is all that oil companies are going to do then why bother having high paid CEO's running the company with elaborate corporate structures? To justify their salaries and their existence Oil company CEO's need to see petrol/diesel as a means of attracting customers. Once they have done that and the customers are at the pump they can then offer these customers other goods and services which they may or may not take. Services like small goods stores, eateries etc etc.
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Old 29th April 2012, 12:35   #3
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

Two reasons that come to my mind
a) There never were "good family eateries" on the highways. Highways, until 5-10 years ago were dominated with truck traffic and there are plenty of avenues for them. Its only recently that due to improved infrastructure, improved standard of living and availability of better cars that people dare to dream of driving 500-800 kms.
I used to stay in varanasi and we used to travel to delhi quite frequently. The distance is about 700+ kms. Something that I would probably do it by car today. But during the first 27 years of my life, we never ever dreamt of taking a bus, leave alone exploring an option to drive!


b) 4laning/6 laning of roads and escalation of land prices:- With land being acquired for road widening, all the existing old eateries are being broken down and may be due to increase in the land prices, there is hesitation among entrepreneurs to open up new ones. Increase in fuel prices is not helping either.

Generally, when I am taking a highway where there are no known good restaurants, I do make alternate arrangement like bread+jam.

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Old 29th April 2012, 13:13   #4
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

A facet of travel that is hard to miss. Even if one does not travel like Anuj did, it is there to see. I travel often on BLR-Hubli section. and recently on the BLR-Hassan section. I miss the old hotels & dhaba's. Just the 2-3 Kamat Upachar hotels, which are not great actually. The rates are very high - higher than hotels in city, even though their operating costs should be lower since they are outside the cities.

The restricted access sections is only going to make it worse.

I hope that business start opening hotels close to the exits to the cities (at the start of by-pass sections). This will provide us an exit /entry to the highway, and still be at a point where the hotels can get their supplies easily. These places can also serve the people living in those cities.
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Old 29th April 2012, 14:28   #5
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

This is a huge probem while driving long distances. All these big highway companies should come with the rest area concept that is common in west. You take exit to a designated area where there is one petrol bunk and couple of restaurants + restrooms. They can give land to restaurants/petrol bunks on rent, win-win for every one. If such rest areas are present at every 25-30 KMs probably, that should be enough.
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Old 29th April 2012, 15:47   #6
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

one thing I'd noticed was that since all the town and other minor junctions are bypassed via flyovers, most of these shops are deprived of their regular business, and most of these bear a deserted ghost town look.

Plus timing is also everything.
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Old 29th April 2012, 16:11   #7
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

I have similar experience. Infact I have seen some differences depending on a) Which partof the country you are driving in.
b) How much local knowledge you have

So for eg. when you drive from New Delhi upto Jammu or Amritsar you get pretty good options even though the road is relatively fast. Infact it can be considered a foodie trail with Dhabhas all along which have made a reputation.

But lets say if you are travelling from New Delhi to Lucknow although there are good Dhabas they are only known to regular travellers,even if you ask someone on the way you may not accurate information.

Coming down South when you exit Banglore towards Chennai or Mysore or Mumbai you have good options but not sure if there are similar options towards Hyderabad,why? I don't know or may be I am not aware.

I specially miss the Dhabas in South but I have noticed that in TN, sometimes the place may not look good but the dosas they give are quite fresh and tasty. Not every experiment will be successful. Also it is the speed we are doing these days on the 4/6 laners,even if you spot one with potential by the time you stop you would have gone 1-1.5 km & then you decide to search for the next one
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Old 29th April 2012, 21:56   #8
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

Fully agree with you guys here.

Did a recent trip to Tirupati with family and had an interesting time finding a decent eatery.
Started early from Bangalore hoping to hit the coffee day. Only to find it on the opposite side. I was driving on the 6 lane road and no way was I turning back.

Had a to make a couple of calls to enquire about options ahead and finally reached an eatery of decent quality. Surprisingly, the ladies were happy with the restrooms but not with the food (usually the other way around).

Agree with Rohit's post, that relatively higher speed means more attention to the road and lesser opportunity to spot restaurants.

We did try to Google options but that was not very helpful. Others travelogues were helpful and also gave a fair idea of the likely experience.
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Old 29th April 2012, 22:06   #9
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

Quote:
Originally Posted by anujmishra View Post
...no good highway eateries, facilities for many hundreds of Kms.

However, there are truck dhabas which are not adequate to stop while you are traveling with family.
For the last 40 years that we have been travelling on Indian highways as a family, the dhabas have been THE ONLY highway eateries to stop at.
  • Safe
  • clean
  • quick (faster than any McD or KFC)
  • wholesome food
Even today, I generally follow the truck drivers' guidance and land up at dhabas, with my family, even past midnight - at which hour the highway 'restaurants' are firmly shut.

Never fell ill, never been mugged, never shortchanged.

I trust the long-distance truckers all the way to find me the best fuel & food on the highways.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 29th April 2012 at 22:08.
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Old 29th April 2012, 23:47   #10
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

Hi everybody
Fully agree with SS Traveller's above post.
The food is always going to be fresher than other places as they have a higher turnover of people.
And I personally prefer the dhabas because more often than not their tandoori rotis are made from 100% wheat rather than a mix of maida and wheat.
Last month when driving from Bharuch to Halvad(gujarat) I asked the owner of one wayside dhaba(there were a lot trucks parked there so I ate there) about it.He told me that most of the dhaba owners get their wheat from Rajasthan.
Unfortunately the seating arrangement may not be suitable for a family as you sit on a steel bed with a wooden plank for your thali.
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Old 29th April 2012, 23:51   #11
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
For the last 40 years that we have been travelling on Indian highways as a family, the dhabas have been THE ONLY highway eateries to stop at.
  • Safe
  • clean
  • quick (faster than any McD or KFC)
  • wholesome food
Even today, I generally follow the truck drivers' guidance and land up at dhabas, with my family, even past midnight - at which hour the highway 'restaurants' are firmly shut.

Never fell ill, never been mugged, never shortchanged.

I trust the long-distance truckers all the way to find me the best fuel & food on the highways.
+1

Back in 2005, I have seen punjabi truck drivers toss the entire plate back at the waiter when the food was bad. With that kind of feedback (they may not pay that much but they demand quality food), long distance truckers' dhabas are generally quite decent.

When hungry - Wherever I see HR55 maruti trucks parked, I pull over for a meal.

Of course, with the wife, the loos are mostly at nice looking petrol pumps.

That said, I drove to Lucknow on Good Friday after an 18 month gap, and was pleasantly surprised that the number of (esp all-night) dhabas after agra towards kanpur has gone up by 3-5x compared to my last visit.

There are four distinct categories of food joints:
1. Small teashop/midsized dhaba with maybe 1-2 max trucks. These are disappearing since the highways are better, people drive longer (to favorite / famous dhabas)
2. Long distance trucker dhaba - you can see 5-7 trucks esp car haulers lined up. Key here is these chaps offer charpoy seating. Limited in number.
3. OK family types dhaba - Stuff that is generally overpriced and of variable quality. These grow the most.
4. Branded stuff - Haveli, Sukhdev, gyani dharampur which are of course in medium numbers and don't necessarily mushroom up like #3

So yes, if you want #4, you have limited options. If you are okay with 2 and can take a punt at a few of the #3s, then there's no real problem. (atleast for places around delhi - cant say about rameswaram/BLR)

I'm genuinely surprised at your rameswaram account. Its a sorry state of affairs if that is indeed the case.
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Old 29th April 2012, 23:58   #12
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

Quote:
Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post
...chaps offer charpoy seating. Limited in number.
3. OK family types dhaba - Stuff that is generally overpriced and of variable quality. These grow the most.
Some of the #3 type dhabas are a little like Film City sets actually - #3 on the front and #2 type charpoys at the back. Just to attract the LMV motorist. Key is to look for those trucks parked a little distance away, and not to order from a printed menu card. The fancy items on the menu are invariably botched up numbers. Daal-roti-subzi-paneer does it perfectly for the truck driver, as it does for me.
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Old 30th April 2012, 07:40   #13
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

This is so true, apart from this whatever are remaining arent serving very good quality and tasty food either. With this being the trend the day is not far when all of them would disappear.

Some of the recent highway initiatives are also aiding to the loss of business for them, apart from this them being in middle of the jungle isn't attractive for many family middle class travelers.

I guess its time they need to remodel themselves and find a newer more innovative way to make a sustainable business.
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Old 30th April 2012, 09:19   #14
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

There are fewer dhabas around. with modern vehicles and speeds one takes fewer halts. Of course car traffic is increasing. I for one carry a car fridge and avoid them as far as possible. There are a few issues:

1. Hopeless loos. They are so filthy and stinking that it is better to relieve yourself on the roadside. For ladies I open both the front and read doors on the off-side and then they have a modicum of privacy.

2. Reduced demand. Resulting in fewer of these being around.

3. Changing food habits. People do not like the heavy stuff they serve.
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Old 30th April 2012, 10:10   #15
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Default re: Highway Eateries : Depleting rapidly in number and quality

Its very difficult to own and operate a eatery in a city (labour problems, cooks, high attrition) Given that, I guess it would be difficult to have good cooks in the first place on highways. Maybe thats the reason the quality is not that good combined with not so good pay/living conditions for people who work there.
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