A tried and tested formula

Posted on Back of House Sep 2009 - by Tandoori Magazine
A tried and tested formula

Yogesh Datta, director-chef of the Painted Heron and Bangalore Express talks to Tandoori about launching a second Bangalore Express outlet in the City of London.

When Yogesh Datta, one of the UK’s top Indian chefs, first opened the Bangalore Express in London’s Waterloo, he was at pains to admit that he was delving into uncharted terrain.

Datta, had after all, made a name for himself at the upmarket Painted Heron, which is still going great guns today. However, Bangalore Express was a different ball game. It was Indian budget eating, rendered canteen-style with a high turnover, albeit in a modern environment. Yet, the chef-director carried it off with aplomb. So much so that he has now launched a second and larger site, in the capital’s City area.

Whereas the older site has 120 covers, the new one has 140 in the basement restaurant and in addition offers further seating in the bar upstairs. There is no dedicated bar at the Waterloo site. But the formula is the same.

“There are two core reasons why Bangalore Express is a success story,” says Datta. “Firstly, it offers value for money. The second is that it has a concept which, although based on familiar Indian dishes, has great appeal to a young clientele. Yet one also has to remember that our business is dependent on high volume.”

While Datta is convinced that the first site’s success will be replicated at the new restaurant, he admits that the new site has been “modified” in comparison, in order to accommodate the spending power of the locality.

“The a la carte menu is the same,” he notes, “but we now have an extensive wine list with a price range that includes wines up to £500 a bottle. There are also some additional cocktails that aren’t at Waterloo. We’re in an area where there is such a high concentration of financial institutions and professionals that people can earn huge salaries and bonuses, and they aren’t afraid to spend it. In addition to the a la carte, we also have some ‘deluxe’ dishes which I have brought in from my menu at the Painted Heron. This gives the diners who want to spend more, a fine dining option.”

With six chefs and three parttimers at the Waterloo kitchen and eight chefs and four parttimers at the latter. For the new site’s kitchen, Datta recruited a team of young newcomers. They were given extensive training in the kitchen of the former site so that they knew exactly how to remain consistent and conform to the existing template of the restaurant’s cooking. At present, its early days and the City site has yet to spread its name. But Datta is doing his best to ensure that everything is in tip-top shape.

“For the moment,” he states, “The City site is the one I’m concentrating on most because it’s a new business and unlike the waterloo site, which is like a welloiled machine, everything has to run smoothly here. It can be a tricky balance having various different sites, no doubt, but you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball.

I would say to anyone thinking of expanding their brand name with more sites that location and consistency in both food and service are crucial. The latter two points come from good training. If you can’t offer any of these then there is no point expanding because your reputation will suffer and that will affect not only any new sites but your existing one as well.”

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