Betting that American consumers are hungry for new ethnic flavors, entrepreneurs across the country are racing to develop what could be the first national chain to offer Indian food in a fast-casual setting.
Full-service mom-and-pop operators have long dominated the landscape of Indian restaurants across America, but this new wave of chain concepts aims to offer the same flavors with limited-service speed and price points.
Bombay Bowl in Denver; Chutney Joe’s Indian Diner in Chicago; Royal India Express in San Diego; Café Spice in New York; and Merzi in Washington, D.C., are leading the pack.
Some borrow from Chipotle Mexican Grill’s customization model, while others have followed in the Chinese quick-service restaurant Panda Express’ footsteps.
Despite their operational differences, all brands say they see a wide-open opportunity to hook American diners who are ready to move beyond the more familiar ethnic categories of Mexican, Chinese and Italian fare.