Tiffin Delivery arrives in Kelowna

photo credit: Jasmin Dosanj

For over a hundred years, the “Dabbawalla system” has been delivering hot home-made lunches in tiffins to office workers and school children in one of the most densely populated cities in the world-Mumbai, India. Roughly translated, “dabb” refers to the lunchbox also known as a tiffin which usually consists of 3-4 stainless steel stacked boxes with a carry handle, and “wallah” the delivery person. The dabbawallas pick-up and deliver by foot, bicycle and train nearly 200,000 tiffins filled with hot lunches across Mumbai and with astounding precision and organization also collect the empty tiffins and return them at the end of the day to their place of origin. In 2002, the Dabbawallas achieved a six sigma standing from Forbes magazine for making less than one mistake in every six million deliveries.

The New York Times, the Economist and business schools around the world including Harvard have studied the dabbawallas and marveled at how a group of almost 5000 illiterate workers could navigate and deliver daily up to 200,000 lunches through one of the world’s busiest and most congested cities through a system that relies purely on teamwork and simple color coding. The key to the dabbawalla’s success is an equal percentage of the profits and that they must work together to ensure their on-going livelihood.  While the dabbawalla system cannot be replicated, tiffin lunches and delivery are finding a new home in North American cities like Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver and our growing in popularity as a healthy alternative to fast food.

In the Okanagan, Kelowna now offers Tiffin lunch delivery during the weekdays through Poppadoms Indian Restaurant.  Environmentally friendly, Poppadoms drops of the tres chic tiffins filled with a hot lunch divided into containers of either vegetarian or carnivore curry, rice, roti and dessert to offices in and around downtown Kelowna. Poppadoms returns later in the afternoon to pick up the tiffins and brings them back to the restaurant where they are washed, sterilized and ready to go again for the next day deliveries.  A delightful alternative to fast-food, Poppadoms’ tiffins are becoming a weekly lunch-time staple for many downtown Kelownites as well as staff and faculty at both Okanagan College and the University of British Columbia Okanagan.


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