Trends among emerging fast casuals and unexpected menu items at top chains indicate that now may be the time for Indian fare to rise. Let’s see how.
Emerging fast-casual Indian concepts on the rise
Emerging fast casuals highlighting Indian fare that have come onto the food scene in recent years include three-unit Biju’s Little Curry Shop in Denver and five-unit Tarka Indian Kitchen in Texas. But new developments in the space have been in motion more recently. Just this month, Dakshin debuted in San Francisco and plans were announced for a summer 2017 opening of Rasa Indian Grill in Washington, D.C. And this summer, Taja Indian signed its first franchise deal to expand outside of Denver, with the first site already opened in Pearland, Texas.
Top non-Indian concepts test the cuisine
Top chains and noncommercial venues that aren’t dedicated to Indian fare are trialing it. P.F. Chang’s is currently branching out beyond Chinese with Indian-inspired fare. The trick, according to CMO Dwayne Chambers, is to keep the curry flavor to a minimum and focus on flavors that are clearly Indian but have “a little more of the sweetness that you get from China.”
Some noncommercial concepts expanding with Indian cuisine include Iowa State University’s Union Drive Marketplace. The university offers such dishes as Indian-spiced roast turkey and panang curry.
Indian ingredients move front and center
Curry has recently popped up on a number of top chain menus, including Bahama Breeze and Sweetgreen. Turmeric has seen 5.4% growth over two years, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, and was called out as a rising star on the 2016 Food Trends on Google report. Showing 71.4% growth, vadouvan (an Indian curry blend) has especially been trending at independent restaurants, such as Daniel in New York City.
Consumer preference for Indian on the uptick
Consumer data shows there is increased openness to trying various cuisines, and Indian is no exception. According to Technomic’s Generational Consumer Trend Report series, consumer preference for Indian fare has increased over two years for all generations. Thirteen percent of Gen Zers said they would order Indian fare at restaurants in 2014, compared to 21% in 2016. With millennials, the percentage increases from 19% in 2014 to 27% in 2016. And for Gen Xers, 23% said they prefer Indian fare this year, compared to just 17% in 2014.