Restaurant Development & Design

SEP-OCT 2018

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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1 8 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 0 1 8 TREND Hot Indian HQ: Minneapolis After 15 years in marketing and brand strategy at General Mills, Amol Dixit took a job on the line at Chipotle. His motive: to learn all he could about fast-casual restaurant operations while cooking up plans to put his own spin on the model. Within months, he'd hired a chef, tested recipes, created a brand and launched Hot Indian, initially as a food truck which, quickly expanded to brick-and-mortar locations. "The idea was to create a fast- casual brand that would make Indian cuisine more accessible," Dixit says. "The response to the food truck was solid, so in 2014, I opened the first location in Midtown Global Market, a food hall/incubator for minority-owned businesses. That was a great fit for us." It still is. Hot Indian is a big draw at the food hall, and its kitchen now serves as a production commissary for the concept's other units. In addition to the truck and food hall unit, the Hot Indian portfolio now includes a food cart at Tar- get Field and two new restaurants, one in the downtown Minneapolis skyway and one in a Mall of America food court. Opened in May, the 1,450-square- foot skyway restaurant seats 16 and serves as the brand's flagship location. "One of the things we realized as we began thinking about growing was that in fast casual, lunch is critical," Dixit says. "I wanted our first stand-alone location to have a solid, built-in lunch crowd. There's nowhere better than the skyway for that in Minneapolis." The Mall of America opportunity came about quickly thereafter. Dixit met the mall's leasing agent a couple of years ago, and she reached out to him when a space became available. That location, which measures 800 square feet, shares an open seating area with other restaurants. With the exception of the food cart, which has no fryers, menus across the units are consistent and showcase authentic Indian flavors in simple, more familiar forms. Inspired by the Chipotle model, guests choose a base, filling and chutney before staff top off their dish with HI-Slaw, a blend of cabbage, apples, carrots and mangoes in a coco- nut milk dressing. Fillings include three animal protein choices (chicken tikka, pork vindaloo and lamb) and three vegetarian options (spinach paneer, I ndian dining experiences in the U.S. have long resided primarily on either end of a very niche spec- trum: mom-and-pop curry house- style restaurants with lunch buffets and low prices or chef-driven operations offering fine, authentic Indian cuisine. Options in the middle for those who just want a quick and affordable Indian fix at lunch? Not so much. But that's about to change. A handful of entrepreneurs have set out to bring traditional Indian dish- es and flavors to the fast-casual arena. Eschewing Taj Mahal and elephant imagery, they're recasting Indian in ways they hope will make this vibrant, colorful and complex cuisine — and their pioneering brands — the next big thing. Here's a peek at three concepts leading the way. Fast-Casual Indian By Dana Tanyeri Hot Indian's logo depicts the brand's fun-loving muse, Sona, who helps guests celebrate "living the HI life." Image courtesy of Hot Indian Foods

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