Curry Pizza House is run by first generation American Indians. The California-based company has expanded outside of the Bay Area with now 12 units and is poised to expand into larger markets.
Curry Pizza House is run by first generation American Indians. Founder Gursewak Gill went to school working as a truck driver while dreaming of opening his own restaurant. Partners Romy Gill and VP of Marketing Neelu Gill also have a love of food. Now with a corporate store and 11 franchised units, the counter service concept is expected to expand outside of the Bay Area. Pizza Marketplace spoke with Neelu Gill about the company’s concept and what sets it apart from the multitude of competitors for pizza supremacy.
Q:You are first generation pizzeria owners. Why pizza rather than more traditional Indian dishes?
A:We loved our home made Indian food and never wanted to try and make home made mum food. But on Friday nights (pizza nights) we felt that the pizzas we ordered were either bland or lacking in fresh flavor. It started with some experimentation at home and ventured from there into what was supposed to be a one-time hobby/passion. We never thought we would open more than one store.
Q:How did you know you were ready to open a second store? How long after the first store did the second open?
A:It took us a long time to open the second store. Once we saw the first store become a success, we started discussing opening another store to serve our customers who were coming from across town. When the opportunity to open a second store presented itself in the perfect location, we dedicated ourselves to expansion. There was a three-year period before the second store opened. After opening the second store, we felt much more comfortable opening the third and fourth stores.
Q:In which areas do you want to develop?
A:Mainly in large cities which are cultural “melting pots”. Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle and Los Angeles are our top priorities.
Q: What are you looking for in a franchisee?
A: We are now solely focused on growth through a franchise model. Our ideal franchise candidate is someone with restaurant experience who understands what it takes to successfully run a food business. In addition, we are looking for franchisees who want to be part of a brand that wants to be “Fresh & Spicy”. Being hands-on and customer-focused is the epicenter of what we ultimately look for in a franchisee.
Q:Curry Pizza House offers an eclectic menu. What will be your most popular item and what’s on it? Why is this the most popular item?
A: Our best sellers are:
- Chicken curry: curry sauce, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, olives, red onions, Jalapenos, diced tomatoes and fresh cilantro.
- Curry Chicken Masala: curry sauce, cheese, peppers, diced tomatoes, red onions, chicken masala and fresh coriander.
- Chicken Tikka: white sauce, cheese, diced tomatoes, red onions, chicken tikka, green onions and fresh cilantro.
- Achari Gobhi: white sauce, cheese, red onions, diced tomatoes and marinated cauliflower and fresh coriander
For vegetarians, we offer many different choices. Shahi Paneer and Achari Gobhi are top sellers.
We also offer a cauliflower crust for our gluten-free customers.
Finally, what is really an interesting trend is that we are seeing a lot of traditional American and Italian pizza lovers becoming loyal customers of our classic American pizzas like The Hawaiian, Pepperoni and Meat Lovers. These are made from traditional Italian ingredients (no curry flavored sauce) and are a hit with any pizza lover.
Q: What do you attribute the success of Curry Pizza House to?
A:The three main things are: our sauce, which is really a secret sauce. It’s fresh and spicy. We prepare our fresh sauces and cut our vegetables daily (never frozen); our crust – we are proud of the crust. As we say “trust our crust” – and finally, our customer service: we are customer service freaks. Our goal from day one has been to provide our customers with a unique and special experience when they discover our brand.
Q:What sets Curry Pizza House apart from the multitude of pizzasphere competitors?
A: The original sauce recipe and the fact that we refuse to compromise or give up anything when it comes to quality. Compared to a typical traditional pizzeria, our operations have a bit more overhead as we manufacture everything fresh from scratch in the store every day. But in hindsight, it has kept our customers happy and loyal.
Q:How do you maintain brand continuity as you grow?
A:We are very selective about which franchisees we choose to grow with. Additionally, we have assembled our team to integrate, train and oversee franchise operations as we grow. Fortunately, we are able to partner with amazing distributors to handle our logistics. At its core, it’s about building a strong team that continues to strive for excellence.
Q:Finally, if you had one piece of advice to give to a brand that is starting to grow, what would you say to it?
A:I think the first thing we would say to anyone looking to branch out and build a brand is to “be yourself”. Far too often people try to copy another successful brand and in the process lose what might have been unique in their own right. If you have an idea or skill in the food industry, follow your passion and don’t be distracted by other successful brands. Also, don’t be discouraged if you have trouble getting through the door. We struggled a lot in our first two years. It takes time to build something special and unique. There will be ups and downs, you have to be ready for the roller coaster in the first few years. But once you hit your stride, all your hard work will pay off.