The fast-casual Tava Kitchen chain in San Francisco has been acquired by Curry Up Now, another Bay-area Indian concept, in an expansion move, the companies announced Thursday.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
All three of Tava Kitchen’s locations in California closed earlier this year. However, an 1,800-square-foot location in Alameda, Calif., will be rebranded as a Curry Up Now and is scheduled to reopen in June with a new open-kitchen format. The site will serve as an innovation lab to test new items and as a training restaurant, said Akash Kapoor, Curry Up Now’s co-founder and CEO.
A Tava Kitchen location scheduled to open in Denver will not come to fruition, he added. “That location was too suburban for us.”
Kapoor said he plans to use techniques Tava Kitchen employed for brand standardization to grow the Curry Up Now brand around the world.
“Indian food is finally sticking,” he said. “The American palate is becoming more globalized.”
Tava Kitchen founder Hasnain Zaidi in a statement said the deal will help spread the growing popularity of South Asian food.
“We started out simply as three friends who wanted to share their love of South Asian food, and, over the last five years, we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people find their flavor,” he said in a statement. “I think it’s incredibly fitting that we’re linking up with our friends at Curry Up Now to help scale that vision across the country.
“For years people have talked about Indian food being the next big thing,” Zaidi added. “I really think this is the team that’s going to make that happen.”
Kapoor said none of the Tava Kitchen founders will make the move over to Curry Up Now, but his company will bring in many of Tava Kitchen’s former employees.
Tava Kitchen was selected as a Breakout Brand in 2016 by Nation’s Restaurant News. The chain had attracted some serious investors, including CircleUp Growth Fund, Kensington Capital, Agilic Capital and former Smashburger CEO David Prokupek through HiGrowth Advisors.
Former Smashburger executive Jeremy Morgan joined Tava Kitchen as CEO in mid 2014, but he stepped down from the role earlier this year, Kapoor said.
With the acquisition, those earlier investors have exited, said Kapoor.
“I didn’t want to inherit that investor mess,” he said.
Curry Up Now is known for contemporary takes on traditional Indian dishes, like the Tikka Masala Burrito and Aloo Gobi tacos with pico kachumber and cilantro chutney. Ingredients are all-natural, never frozen and raised without antibiotics. Proteins are Halal and curries, chutneys and sauces are gluten-free.
Curry Up Now was founded in 2009 as a food truck and now includes five trucks, five brick-and-mortar locations, along with a Mortar & Pestle Bar concept attached to two locations offering a craft cocktail program. The bar will be a feature of larger locations going forward, while smaller units will offer beer, wine and sangria on tap.
“Tava was the Chipotle of Indian food. We’re not that,” said Kapoor. “We have more in the way of service and offer a more intimate food experience. It’s not fast food.
“We’re more like Panda Express marrying Chipotle marrying chef-driven fast casual,” he added.
Three more Curry Up Now locations are scheduled to open in the Bay area this year, including one in a high-end food hall in San Francisco, Kapoor said.
“We’re not done growing in the Bay area, but I want to take this all over,” he said.
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