Time to tuck in

08/05/2017 - 08:00
As the amount and diversity of fast-casual dining options in the UK continues to grow rapidly, operators such as Tuk Tuk, a bold and vibrant Indian street food concept, continue to battle it out to find new ways to satisfy consumer demands. Maria Bracken speaks with director Rizvi Khaleque to find out what makes his business hot.

Named after the three-wheeled motorised rickshaws of Asia, Tuk Tuk presents itself in a way that goes against Indian restaurant sterotypes. It has taken a different approach to the current Indian restaurant market by targeing a niche, younger customer audience with sharing plates.

Khaleque launched his first site in Edinburgh in 2002 and following its success, later launched a site in Glasgow earlier this year. Khaleque explains: "The Tuk Tuk love affair began with the street food hawker culture in India. I had experienced this at home and wanted to bring the flavours and tastes of India to the UK."

"I was bored with the traditional fine dining style Indian restaurant. With burger chains applying design-led interior inspired by independent eateries, I felt I could apply the same concept to Indian cuisine. It was a year of planning the Tuk Tuk brand before it opened."

Its philosophy is all about experiencing and sharing good food. "We specialise in Indian cuisine with our own unique spin  -  we carefully selected dishes from different regions of India as part of our inspiration for our restaurant menu. Our menu consists of a range of street food dishes from golgappa and bhel puri to biryani. These have been adopted in a lot of Indian eateries. They are dishes which are familiar in people’s travels abroad. People’s palates are changing for unique and different dining experiences."

Only halal meat is served in both restaurants. Roadside plates include chicken lollipops; Keralan spiced chicken wings (£3.95), Channa Chaat; cubes of potato with chickpeas tossed with tomato & cumin (£4.00) and Hakka Chilli Noodles; fiery Indo-Chinese speciality from Kolkata (£5.20).

Tuk Tuk street curries consist of Pau Bhaji; classic street food dish, mashed potatoes & peas served with buttered pau bun (£5.00), Channa Puri; chickpeas served with deep fried flat bread (£4.85) and Tuk Tuk Wallah Staff Curry; on the bone roadside chciken curry (£4.90).

Meat market dishes include Gilafi Kebabs; skewered lamb mince slowly cooked in the tandoor (£5.10), raste Ke Biryani and on the bone chicken biryani (£5.50).

As well as a sit-down restaurant, Tuk Tuk also offers a grab & go service at its Glasgow site and are also looking to launch a takeaway service with Deliveroo in the near future. In terms of event catering, Tuk Tuk also offers catering facilities for weddings, corporate events and office lunches.

Quality of food and service is also critical. "Our biggest challenge is to continue to maintain the same level of quality and authenticity whilst also continuing to run the business efficiently. We have 50 plus employees who work so hard to ensure our customers are satisfied. I have a big responsibility towards them to ensure the business can continue to run while also looking after it's workforce."

He adds: "Our customers are our main asset when it comes to advertising as their experience is the most genuine form of promotion for the experience and service we provide. A satisfied customer can have a far bigger reach than an expensive and fancy advertisement."

Khaleque identifies expansion as a big opportunity for the business. "I feel that we can and should look to expand the number of sites on top of the present two, be it in Scotland or other parts of the UK. I am also open to starting in foreign countries - somewhere like Dubai would be nice wouldn't it?"

"I want Tuk Tuk to become a market leader in the casual dining sector, taking a design led approach with our advertising, marketing and branding."

Khaleque sees the Indian street food movement evolving over time. "There are a few quirky concepts within Indian restaurants that are beginning to fuse British and Asian cuisine together. I think that Indian street food will evolve into bringing unique plates and tastes to diners that will be influenced by food trends."

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