Motu, the Indian restaurant delivery brand created by JKS Restaurants, which launched in October 2016 was designed specifically to pay “homage to the British love of a classic Indian takeaway.” It is a delivery-only service, that operates out of four sites across London — in Battersea, Canary Wharf, Swiss Cottage and Islington. (It closed its original site in Camberwell late last year, and moved all staff to open Swiss Cottage.)
Motu’s format deliberately nods to the “dabbawalas” of India, those who would traditionally deliver a packed meal for workers across Indian cities in what is known as a tiffin. Though they do not use tins, Motu’s sophisticated boxed packaging — for “indulgent home style Indian food” like classic chicken tikka masala and lamb shank roganjosh — is among the many things that sets it apart, and which last year marked it as the outstanding addition to London’s rapidly developing restaurant delivery scene.
Its success ought not to be a surprise, since its creators operate not only two Michelin-starred South Asian restaurants (Gymkhana and Trishna) but also Hoppers, the Sri Lankan restaurant brand which debuted in Soho and opened a second site in Marylebone last year. In May, JKS will open its eagerly anticipated Indian barbecue, beer, whisky, and live sport venue Brigadiers in the Bloomberg Arcade.
Motu — which takes it name from the affectionate Hindi term for “fat man” — is one of the founding members of the Deliveroo Editions programme, the so-called ‘dark kitchens’ that invite restaurant operators to trial their initiatives for delivery from shipping containers in car parks. And yet, last month it was reported that the group is planning to move the brand to the high street and open its first bricks and mortar restaurant before the end of the year.
Eater spoke to Karam Sethi, the man in charge of food and concept development, as well as the K in JKS, about Motu’s recipe for success and what’s in store for the future.
Why did you first decide to move into delivery?
It’s something that had been on our radar to explore, and as online and digital continued to grow and the technology started to exist that allowed us to facilitate it in a way that we wanted , it seemed like the obvious step.
How important was the first location?
Catchment area is something that is very important and is the first port of call to review: An affluent demographic and under-supplied areas of quality Indian food is key to a successful location for us, and we work really closely with Deliveroo on this.
How well established was Editions and did Deliveroo offer you a compelling package?
We launched in line with the launch of Deliveroo Editions, the package was compelling in the fact that there were no upfront costs to set up the units, so again — right timing for us.
What cut do Deliveroo take from an Editions order?
Not able to disclose.
Did you feel there was a gap in the market for your type of food?
We wanted to highlight a ‘best in class’ product to the suburbs and take Friday night curries to the next level.
What do you think you did differently?
Executed high quality in branding, food and overall product experience — we wanted to deliver a 360 product that would reflect quality and familiarity. I think we’ve achieved this.
Was it exciting to do an offering that was a lower price point and to get into Indian food that was more well-known to an average UK consumer?
We are always focused on creating new experiences that reflect different types of occasions — Deliveroo Editions gave us the template to focus on classic ‘British-Indian’ dishes that we would not normally highlight within our restaurants, so yes — always exciting to explore a different offering.
From your experience, do the “dark kitchens” work? And how do you keep staff happy — since it could seem like a less appealing kitchen job with much interaction or the buzz of a restaurant?
We actually find that for many of our Motu chefs, it offers a better lifestyle and work/life balance as the hours are more reasonable and less intense than a restaurant environment. But great that within our group we’re able to offer chefs the option and they can find the best of both.
Overall, has it been a success? And if so, in what sense a success? If not, why not?
It’s been successful in the fact that it has built brand awareness for us to new audiences, allowed us to understand new channels to market through e-commerce and to understand the scope of opportunities of take away/delivery to the suburban areas. And it’s opened up doors for us that wouldn’t have been otherwise, there’s still lots of scope for the brand to grow.
Will you do more Editions kitchens?
What exactly can you say about the plan to move the brand to the high street?
It’s not something that we’re in a position to disclose fully at this stage — however the bricks and mortar model will allow us to have more interaction with our customers.
When do you expect to open the first bricks and mortar Motu site?
It’s something that we are currently working on as model and we are looking to get our first site up and running in the next 12 months. As ever with physical sites though, it all depends.
Does that planned move mean you’ll move away from the Editions delivery and do your own delivery or will you keep them operating in tandem?
We still plan to continue building our relationship with Deliveroo and work in tandem with them.
Typically, how many orders do you process per week across all the Motu sites?
We currently have four sites and on average we do around 400/500 orders a week, per site.
Have you any idea where you rank in terms of popularity among all the Editions operators?
This is not something we review against as we are not privy to other operators stats – However on average we score 9/10 from customers on our overall experience, which is how we look to benchmark ourselves.