JJ Food Service has spent the past few days visiting customers and industry friends, including celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala, to produce a “top tips” guide to spice up caterers’ sales ahead of National Curry Week, which takes place next week (October 12 to 18).
National account manager at JJ Food Service Sue Guilfoyle says: “Curry has become an integral part of British cuisine with more than 9000 Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants across the UK and about 23 million people eating the dish regularly, according to the National Curry Week website. And with the nation’s appetite for Indian cuisine showing no sign of slowing, it’s critical to take advantage of every opportunity to grow sales.”
JJ customer Arif Hayat (pictured above with Sue Guilfoyle), manager at Tandoori Restaurant in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, managed to increase sales and improve efficiencies by putting more fresh lamb on his menu.
“We were reluctant at first because fresh lamb can tend to be quite expensive, but the prices at JJ are really competitive. The softer texture has been an immediate hit with our customers”, he says.
Using more fresh lamb has also enabled Arif to make big savings in other areas of the business.
“We’ve reduced cooking time from two hours to just twenty minutes, helping to cut our energy bills by £35 a month”, he says. Lamb curry is now quickly outselling the mutton. “We use 100kg of lamb per week compared with 25kg of frozen mutton – it’s been a huge success for us,” he says.
While fresh lamb offers a quick cooking, soft alternative to mutton, it needs to be treated with great care, explains critically acclaimed modern Indian cuisine chef Atul Kochhar.
“The most important lesson I’ve learned in my career is to treat your ingredients with respect and they will give you an immense amount of joy in return. Lamb is gentle, juicy and succulent. It has amazing flavour and requires a shorter cooking period. It should be used in season and must never be doused with spices – just gentle seasoning.”
According to Chef Cyrus Todiwala (pictured below with his wife and Sue Guilfoyle and Elit Rowland of JJ), proprietor of East-London based restaurant Café Spice Namaste, sustainability (such as the Protected Geographical Indication or PGI certification) is a great marketing tool. He put goat curry on his menu to prevent wastage and put male goats back into the food chain. “Next year the British public will start to look more closely at sustainability and ethical sourcing” he says, “making it critical for caterers to work with supplier partners who offer British or regionally sourced options.”
Todiwala adds that one of the biggest opportunities for Indian cuisine and curry restaurants to improve the quality of their menus and use the term ‘Indian cuisine’ over “curry” to change the perception of Indian cooking. “We must veer away from the ‘Friday night curry’ image and direct consumers towards a better dining experience assisted by quality Welsh lamb rather than non-guaranteed, non-traceable mutton from foreign shores.”
As the British consumer continues to get more adventurous with flavours, spicy dishes will continue to be popular.
“Britain’s best-selling curry this year has been Jalfrezi”, says Todiwala, adding that consumers are interested in the other more complex flavours offered by different herbs and spices. “Caterers can respond by experimenting with spices like cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. For instance, we use four different kinds of fennel in our venison Tikka which creates a wonderfully complex flavour.”