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Curry Up Now Acquires Fellow Fast-Casual Indian Chain Tava Kitchen

A curry coup in the quick service Indian space

Fast-casual Indian restaurant and food truck chain Curry Up Now has snapped up competitor Tava Kitchen, another growing Bay Area chain. The official news of the buyer follows the closure of Tava’s three Bay Area locations in April, when founders Vijay Brihadesam, Hasnain Zaidi, and Jason Pate announced the acquisition via signs posted on the restaurants’ doors.

Both Curry Up Now and Tava are known for their takes on burritos, with the former’s Tikka Masala Burrito and Sexy Fries among its most sought items. Tava’s “buroti” are made with traditional Indian bread — roti, hence the name — rather than tortillas. Curry Up Now will immediately rebrand Tava’s Alameda branch as a Curry Up Now restaurant at 2640 5th Street, which will also serve as an “innovation lab” to perfect Tava’s recipes for scalability.

Curry Up now was founded in 2009 by husband and wife Akash and Rana Kapoor and partner Amir Hosseini as a food truck fleet. In addition to four roving Curry Up Now trucks, the brand now boasts brick and mortar locations in Palo Alto, San Mateo, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

Tava is a slightly newer, five-year-old operation founded in Palo Alto that’s turned its eye toward speed and catering. “Tava Kitchen was the first, true Indian quick service brand who figured out how to dish out amazing food in a standardized format,” Curry Up Now’s Akash Kapoor, the company’s CEO, said in a statement regarding the acquisition. In a phone interview with Eater, Kapoor clarified that his goal is to be nationwide “with 400 or 500 locations.” Says Kapoor: “We’re not going to be able to do that unless we’re standardized and simplified.”

“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,” Zaidi also said in a statement, making explicit their combined plans for national growth that includes a restaurant in Denver. “For years people have talked about Indian food being the next big thing. I really think this is the team that's going to make that happen.”

As Eater wrote last fall, asking whether fast Indian chains could be the next Chipotle —and citing both Curry Up Now and Tava as examples — scaling presents challenges. Tava, for example, raised $4.5 million in equity financing to build up the company, with a new executive chef brought in from burger chain Smashburger. In an attempt to reach a larger market, Tava changed its name — it was then Tava Indian Kitchen — to rebrand as “South Asian cuisine,” serving more American or americanized food like South Asian mac and cheese with Indian spices and panko crumbs.

Another Curry Up Now expansion effort to watch: While their locations have served beer and wine for some time, the chain has also opened two cocktail bars under the name Mortar & Pestle at Curry Up Now in San Jose and San Mateo. Curry Up Now leadership is banking on expanding its Mortar & Pestle businesses alongside their existing locations — and more to come.

But as far as Chipotle comparisons go, Curry Up Now doesn’t see things that way. “We’re not the Chipotle of Indian food... we’d love to have as many locations of Chipotle, but that’s not us.”

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Article by Caleb Pershan (c) Eater SF - All - Read full story here.