Kuti’s Brasserie was founded in 1986 and enjoyed a golden period when Indian cooking was in vogue and competition was scarce. Alongside many Indian restaurants they have found times harder since the turn of the millennium. In 2018 the Asian Catering Federation reported 200 Indian restaurants had shut in the previous two years. Over saturation in the marketplace, increased takeaway offerings (Deliveroo and Just Eat) and a skills shortage with visa restrictions making it hard to source skilled Chefs from India and Bangladesh.
In 2016 Kuti’s Brasserie attempted to buck the trend by appointing well-known Indian Chef Alfrad Prassad as Chef-consultant (Prasad had even appeared on Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares to help turnaround an Indian restaurant) but the style of cooking was not popular amongst the provincial restaurant goers. Prasad’s menu didn’t last long, understanding the marketplace is an important aspect of any restaurant. Another well-known Michelin star Indian Chef Atul Kocher also had a short-lived venture nearby at his Vatika restaurant in Wickham Vineyard on the outskirts of Southampton.
Joining the restaurant in May 2018 and helping to oversee the refurbishment of the restaurant. I also began searching for a new Executive Indian chef and was fortunate to find a skilled Chef with experience as Sous chef at Vineet Bhatia London and later Executive Chef at a Movenpick 5* Hotel in Dubai, but equally important with an excellent temperament and people skills.
We began working on the new menu, and updated the layout and feel of the restaurant stationary. With my experience from Giggling Squid I’ve seen first-hand the importance of a good lunch menu and we designed a Thali tasting-set menu reasonably priced at a £8-14 price point. The menus were all previously leather-bound folders and were very dated in appearance and the image this would portray.
After a two-day launch event the restaurant was very busy in its opening weeks trading. Whilst the previous restaurant was hovering around 12-14k a week, the new restaurant would comfortably trade at 28k a week and peak at over 40k. The menu was giving the local people the food they wanted, and it was smartly presented in a restaurant with a nice atmosphere.
The restaurant won Restaurant of the Year 2018 at Tommy Miah MBE’s Indian Chef of The Year Awards, Best New Restaurant at The Asian Curry Awards and gaining a Cobra Good Curry Guide Recommendation from Industry stalwart Pat Chapman.
The restaurant was also ranked number 1 on TripAdvisor in Southampton and Hampshire, during this period an extra 15-25 diners would come into the restaurant during the week, and 50+ extra covers on Friday and Saturday night. TripAdvisor is a very important part of any restaurant marketing strategy as out-of-town diners (Tourists, Business people, locals attending concerts and the theatre etc) will all look on TripAdvisor as an online restaurant guide find someone good to eat. And these are they people looking to spend money.