Despite trying times for the restaurant industry in 2020, Tarka Indian Kitchen proved to be a best-in-class brand that has staying power. 

Going into 2020, the innovative, Austin-based eatery became well-established in off-premise business due to its fresh and flavorful Indian food being easily transportable. As an early adopter of off-premise ordering with various strategies already in place, Tarka leaned into third-party delivery before knowing that it would eventually become the brand’s redeeming feature.

Shortly before the crisis struck, Tarka increased its prices on third-party delivery to offset the margin and ensure there was leftover profit for the brand. When the pandemic forced dining rooms to close, Tarka was already top-of-mind for guests when ordering off-premise, so the brand saw an astounding 121.06% increase in third-party delivery sales and 42.24% increase in to-go sales. Overall sales were up 13.54% compared to the year prior.

“Though 2020 presented unforeseen trials, Tarka was ready for the challenges thrown at us,” says Tarka CEO and co-founder Tinku Saini. “We previously saw about 15% of sales come in from third-party delivery orders. So as a restaurant with an already steady to-go and delivery business, we were well-positioned when those ordering options skyrocketed. Guests had already seen our brand’s name on third-party delivery apps before, so we believe that previous exposure was a key contributor to our huge spike in delivery sales.”

In 2020, Tarka partnered with another Austin-based company – ATX Specialty Foods – to outsource its sauces, which set the brand up to begin rapid expansion efforts. Outsourcing its sauces helps streamline operations and quickly and efficiently reach wider audiences through additional growth and franchising. Looking into 2021, Tarka expects to grow within its primary markets – Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Additionally, a new Houston location is currently under development, and Tarka’s expansion into Dallas is imminent.

Throughout the year, Tarka made updates to its digital ordering channels, with additions like online ordering, curbside pickup and a digital rewards program, all of which increased Tarka’s insight into its customer base and allowed the brand to make smarter site selection decisions. Tarka added delivery links to its website and App with much lower commission on orders originating from those links, and the brand leveraged its rapidly growing rewards member base to push offers and communicate with guests at the start of the pandemic, which led to an increase in guests’ spending and frequency of visits.

Menu innovation also remained significant to Tarka in 2020 as the authentic fast-casual Indian restaurant launched more vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free items. Tarka plans on expanding its partnership with Beyond Meat in 2021 to adhere to guests’ dietary and lifestyle preferences with even more healthy, customizable Indian food.

“From innovative new menu items to outsourcing our sauces, Tarka is committed to finding new ways to provide guests with more delicious, affordable Indian cuisine,” Saini says. “With new initiatives like more Beyond Meat offerings and the potential to franchise our concept, I really think 2021 is going to be an even more successful year for Tarka.”

Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, News