Indian street food was tipped for big things this year, but how easy is it to grab a bite to go?
We have seen Iceland roll out a ready-meal Indian street food inspired range and Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Benares launch a new menu with five plant-based dishes (as well as meat versions) inspired by the street-food specialities from chefs' individual hometowns.
Waitrose has taken accessibility a step further with its Bombay brunch wrap, but the pioneers in this space are Indian grab-and-go concept Wrapchic.
Having addressed the portability of Indian street food by offering wraps, burritos, bowls and quesadilla, Wrapchic is now branching out into new markets with a kids menu, breakfast muffins and even a dosa waffle.
So what’s driving the chain’s food development?
Portability and authenticity
Paolo Peretti, a non-executive director at Wrapchic, tells Food Spark that the brand is unique in the marketplace as there are not many operators doing Indian street food for the food-to-go market.
“I think that no one has ever managed to find a format that works. You always think of Indian food as a sit down meal with friends. I don’t think anyone has ever quite got the to-go, portability aspect of it,” he says.
“It wasn’t until our founder came up with idea of taking elements of Mexican cuisine and creating this fusion, which enabled him to take the food and make it more portable. But he has now extended it to a naan-based wrap – so even taking away the Mexican element – and now it’s a completely Indian to-go offer. But that is where the genesis of the brand was, that portability and the ability to have a more casual dining format.”
Peretti reckons if you couple the words 'street food' with 'artisan' or 'authentic,' then it becomes trendy pretty quickly, as consumers are looking for cuisines with some cultural backing.
He says Wrapchic can genuinely claim to be authentic as it has Indian chefs creating the food in traditional ways. The chain grinds its own spices, which gives it an edge in terms of taste, and vegan and vegetarian food is inherent in Indian food, allowing it to respond to the rising tide of flexitarianism.
There is also a large Muslim population in the UK, with not many brands playing particularly to that segment, according to Peretti, while Wrapchic does that by offering halal meals.
“Twenty-five per cent of our customers are Muslim. I don’t think anyone has really tapped into that market and we started to in a format that is easily accessible,” he says.
Kid food, waffles and fish
While the chain has big growth plans in the pipeline, including seven new openings, as well as its first counter in a garage forecourt and a move into the education sector, it also has it eyes on targeting different customers with new foods.
“The next big thing is the naan wrap, which we have just gone to trial with, and with the taste testing we have done the feedback has been exceptionally good,” Peretti says.
“We are also in the middle of developing our kids' range, which makes it more accessible, and we also have dosa waffles, which is what you would expect a waffle to look like but with an Indian twist.”
Interestingly, chains developing menu items specifically aimed at children seems to be on the rise, with Crussh recently telling Food Spark it was creating items that were healthy but would still appeal to kids.
Peretti says Wrapchic are playing around with kids food at the moment, but the meal is like a pizza-based product in flatbread form, which comes with a mild topping.
“A lot of our sites are in retail centres, so you go where your kids go. And again, because a large number of our customers are Asians, that’s the kind of food they would want to feed their children. So it’s doing something that is aimed specifically at kids that will attract their parents ultimately,” he says.
Peretti says there are plans to push the vegetarian side even more and to do interesting things with fish, with a number of dishes currently under consideration. With the introduction of the naan bread, there is also more focus on experimenting with different types of ‘carriers’ for the fillings.
McMuffin, Indian style
Wrapchic has snacking, lunch and dinner covered, but what about breakfast?
Well, it has just released a range of McDonald’s-style breakfast muffins, but of course with an Indian influence.
“We have a lamb and vegetarian-based muffin with egg and with some of the Indian dressings as well, so they are mildly spiced. We also have an egg-wrap-based product, almost like a mini omelette; you would eat in the form of a wrap,” Peretti says.
“The muffins are really interesting. We just launched them in a couple of sites and they are doing quite well, so it’s just persuading people that Indian street-food-style takeaway is a good place to go for breakfast.”
Peretti says he sees the Wrapchic format as being fairly adaptable as it's in airports, on the high street, in shopping centres and is about to go into garage forecourts, while there are also talks about moving into convenience stores.
“Ultimately, we are finding that people know Indian food in the UK, it’s not a new thing, but the fact they can eat it on the go is a new thing, and it brings what is a very popular product and gives it even more of mass appeal than it has,” he says.
“With the garage forecourt, we have got potentially quite a few more coming up, and it will be like Subways or Greggs in petrol stations. This is the same concept with a Wrapchic counter in a petrol station, so you will be able to buy a burrito with your petrol.”