When Amar and Autumn Singh switched up the concept of their already successful fast-casual eatery, Bombay Bowl, to the slightly more upscale Taja Indian in April 2015, they did it with the goal of making Taja easily scaleable for potential franchisees. The result is a streamlined menu, some behind-the-scenes technology, and a clean-and-modern look designed to attract interest in taking Taja beyond Denver.
And it worked, because earlier this week, Amar Singh signed on a new franchisee in Houston, who will open three of the "fine-casual" Indian restaurants in the next three years, with the first set to debut at the end of July.
"Taja means 'fresh,'" Singh says, "so the food is the first thing." Dishes are prepared using traditional ingredients and methods, locally sourced chicken free of hormones and antibiotics, grass-fed lamb, organic, non-GMO tofu and non-GMO rice.
"What I eat at home, that's what I want to bring out for our customers," he adds.
But a good menu is only part of the equation. "We've designed a turnkey solution and a simple operation," Singh explains. That means that franchisees receive technology, training and support to run a restaurant as a business.
"Not everyone can be a restaurateur, and not everyone is a finance or accounting graduate," Singh notes, so he has also incorporated software as part of the franchise package to help future owners with accounting, inventory and other business aspects of running a restaurant.
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Singh explains that Houston is a great city for the first Taja franchise because it is "a huge market — it's a big melting pot." And while there are many mom-and-pop Indian restaurants in the Houston area, he's confident that "nobody has done this with a clean, beautiful look, great food — and with everything [on the menu] under $10."
The Singhs operate two locations of Taja in the Denver area, one at 575 Lincoln Street and one at 180 South Union Boulevard in Lakewood. The new Houston franchise (located in the suburb of Pearland) fits with plans to target desirable markets nationwide; Singh says he also hopes to add franchises along the Front Range.
With a smart start, Taja is further evidence that Denver continues to be a top incubator for fast-casual dining.