Why no national chains of Indian or Chinese restaurants?

The one thing you can find in every single town in the UK (I don’t about other countries) is at least one - and usually many - Indian and Chinese restaurant/takeaways. Therefore they must be immensely popular.

So, why has no-one started a national chain of Indian or Chinese fast food restaurants. The concept works for other cuisines (McDonalds, Pizza Express etc). The food is ideally suited to being packaged for takeaways, and for fast food serving. I would have thought that with the benefit of national branding it would be a sure fire success.

Here in the US, at least on the West Coast, we have Panda Express, a decent, but not spectacular, Chinese food chain.

Jimm Chung’s Chinese Buffet seems very common in Scotland and has started opening outlets here. In Dublin, Charlie’s has about 5 outlets. No national chains as yet though.

There’s a chain of Chinese takeaway places here in Australia called “Noodle Box” that does pretty good takeaway.

I don’t recall seeing a chain Indian place, though- but McIndian isn’t likely to be very good, IMHO…

On the higher end, we also have P.F. Chang’s restaurants in the states, and I think they’re very good.

Panda Express is here in the Boston area, too. I’m not sure where else it is on the East Coast.

There are several cafeteria-type oriental eateries in the local malls that are at least local chains. I’m not sure how extensive they are. There’s also an Indian cafeteria-type eatery in the Boston malls, too. They serve mainly fairly non-spicy food, although they do serve a pretty decent Chicken Vindaloo as well.

No-one said it had to be good - anyone for a Big Mac? :slight_smile:

I can’t find the article now but I remember reading about how Chinese food is far more challenging to franchise because of the wok. Unlike other cuisines in which recipes and techniques can be standardized, wok cooking inherently relies on the skill of the chef and so consistency and staffing are major challenges.

I buy Chinese meals in supermarkets. It’s more that sort of level that I would expect a national chain to come in at.

We have Panda Express here in Maryland as well.

And in Chicago. Well, Chicagoland. They’re at rest stops and malls in the 'burbs; I’m not sure if there are any in the Chicago city limits or not. (One of my favorite things about living in the city is the complete lack of need to go into a mall. Ever.)

It’s also possible that what we see that looks like a bunch of independent stores is as close to a chain as makes no difference. Apparently, there are start up kits where Chinese restaurant owner wannabes order an entire package, from menus to recipes to those horrid waterfall pictures - everything to open a “Chinese Restaurant” that Americans have come to expect. That’s why Sweet and Sour Pork is roughly the same in New York, Chicago and Wichita, and all three of them nothing like anything you’d find in China. I don’t know how much central control remains after the sale, but they’re at least developed from one ultimate source.

Indian? Got no clue there.

snort There are three Chinese take-out places within about a mile of where I live, and while there are some minor variations in the menu offerings and food quality, all three of them have that same huge waterfall picture.

P.F. Changs has started opening here, as well. There are two near me.

In California we also have Chin Chin, City Wok (best bbq pork ever), and Pick Up Stix



We have a chain of “Asian food” restaurants here in Australia called Han’s Cafe, but the food is mediocre, overpriced and westernised. You know, the kind of place that actual Asians never set foot in.

I guess a big barrier is that a large portion of people who eat Chinese and Indian food demand real food that comes from a specific country (not just “Asia”). When Chinese people go to a Chinese restaurant they don’t “get Chinese”, they “go to dinner”. Any kind of chain that pops up would have to target mostly white people, which would probably make it hard to get it off the ground, since Chinese/Indian food doesn’t have the kind of huge mass appeal hamburgers do to begin with.

As for Indian food, I image it hasn’t developed enough popularity for anyone to try starting a national chain in the U.S. After all, how many cities have Indian neighborhoods? And probably those who do like Indian food wouldn’t care for a watered down version of it that a national fast food chain would produce. To be viable a chain in the U.S. has to offer food which is on the lowest common denominator of taste, i.e., bland. Look at Yoshinora.

Most of the dishes at Panda and Pick Up Stix are pretty bland, too. I’ve never tried City Wok, but I avoid places with cutesy names on principle.

Panda Express all over central Ohio too. I like their food (especially the Orange Chicken), but it isn’t the world’s greatest Chinese…very decent for fast food, though.

That’s where we’re different in the UK. Curry is the UK’s most popular meal

Although I agree that many of the ethnic population wouldn’t be likely to eat in an Indian food chain, most of the non-Indians certainly would.

I was going to mention that, but I assumed the OP was about the U.S. In fact, when I go to London, the Indian food is what I look forward to.

I have long suspected that takeout Chinese restaurants were all buying from the same supplier, but dang.

Indian food is probably too hard a sell for a national or even regional chain in the US because of incorrect perceptions about it. The average middle American believes all Indian food is scorchingly hot, and/or unsafe, and/or made of weird things like bugs. Suggesting Indian for lunch around here is a surefire way to get an adult to say the words “yuck” or “eww”.
Spicy or ‘unusual’ foods are not popular over a large enough geographic area in the US to make a chain worthwhile. This is a country where most people turn up their nose at lamb.
You might be successful if you could spend a huge amount of money on marketing to change perceptions.

Considering that most people’s perceptions of the Englishman’s eating habits are that they have always been traditional and conservative, it is a bit surprising that we have clutched a curry to our bosom.

(It must be because of the Empire, don’t you know, old boy. Haw, haw, haw).