Curry Pizza House founder Gursewak Gill came from a trucking background, but his days on the road gave way to the kitchen when he decided to indulge his foodie persona. As a first-generation Indian American, his family would order pizza on Friday nights, but they would add spices and curry on top to liven up the flavor.
Soon, Gursewak found himself experimenting, making his own pizza dough, and inviting people over to try it. He would serve it to friends using original sauces and recipes.
The home-cooked fusion concept quickly evolved into Bombay Pizza House in Union City, California. After 10 months of successful business, the mom-and-pop restaurant burned down in a fire.
HEADQUARTERS: Fremont, California
YEAR STARTED: 2012
ANNUAL SALES: Average annual store sales
as of 2022: $1,089,184 (12 open stores)
TOTAL UNITS: Total of 36 have been signed, but 15 of them are yet to open.
FRANCHISED UNITS: 21 open franchised
Gursewak persevered, partnering with good friend Gurmail “Romy” Gill in 2013 to bring his Indian-inspired pizzeria concept to life under the rebranded name Curry Pizza House.
The chain’s menu is built on a blend of Indian flair, contemporary favorites, and everything in between. Signature dishes include the Curry Chicken Masala Pizza, the Palak Paneer Pizza, and the Shahi Paneer Pizza.
Classic pizza styles like Meat Lovers and Hawaiian are offered. There are also gluten-free and vegetarian options as well as thick and thin crusts.
In addition to innovative pizza designs, Curry Pizza House features wings marinated in curries, spices, and tikka, achari, and tandoori sauces. A robust wine and beer menu is available too.
The menu evolved to get to this point, starting with Southeast Asian tastes and slowly adapting to different flavor profiles. The founders often visit European and Asian cities in search of new and innovative ingredients to add to recipes.
“What started happening is [Gursewak] became a great pizza maker,” COO Neelu Gill shares. “He added traditional pizzas to half the menu, which started helping cross over into markets he traditionally wasn’t targeting.”
Even untraditional dishes, such as the Mexican Pizza, have been a hit, Neelu says. Each style performs well in its own right, but she has noticed patterns in sales depending on the demographics and community.
For example, in areas with a heavy South Asian population, the Vegetarian Pizza is a best-seller. However, in cities like Dallas or Sacramento with large populations of Northern Indians and non-vegetarians, other styles of pizza are more suitable.
“No matter where, one thing is for sure—the flavors of our pizza have always been compelling,” Neelu adds. “All of the pizzas at all locations do well. One does not completely overpower the other.”
At the cusp of the pandemic, the Curry Pizza House team found itself at a crossroads: Do they keep opening stores in the Bay Area, or do they expand the concept into a franchise?
“The feedback we were getting is that even non-South Asians were loving the concept and trying new flavors,” Neelu says. “They are open to fusion brands. So, we sold the initial running stores and started to expand the franchise out of state.”
By partnering with a law firm specializing in franchising, Curry Pizza House created a program in about 18 months. The franchise program includes real estate and construction expertise, modern restaurant design packages, established operational and training standards, and lending partners. Initial investments fall between $293,500 and $995,700.
Ideal real estate includes inline, endcap, and standalone locations ranging from 1,500–2,600 square feet with pickup windows. The brand is not shying away from conversions, with its first Texas location in Cedar Park being the product of a restaurant flip.
Through the franchise program, Curry Pizza House has grown to over 40 signed franchise locations as of November 2023. The chain is actively developing in California, Texas, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The team credits its cult-like success to a high volume and simple model.
Most of the current franchisees share a common thread, hailing from the Bay Area and transitioning to other states.
“During and after the pandemic, they went elsewhere and realized there was no concept like this,” Neelu says. “They really missed our flavor and approached us for a franchise.”
The emerging concept has its sights set on expanding to Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and select cities running up the East Coast. Through franchising, Curry Pizza House is committed to adding 100 more stores in the U.S. in the next two to three years.
Neelu describes the next chapter of growth as one marked by area development deals, with one recently signed by a husband-and-wife entrepreneurial team in Southern California.
“Signings for other areas are going east from here, and there’s a huge opportunity for us to take this into other areas in the northeast like Boston, New Jersey, and naturally Chicago,” Neelu says. “I think Michigan would also be a great fit.”