Disruptive Eating Entrepreneur May Disrupt Fast Food IndustryBy Amanda Lewan on March 24th, 2016 /
He calls his business the first healthy Indian food chain, one that brings “disruptive eating” to the table.
Priya Ranjan Dass said the idea came to him while working at the Dominos headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Indian native moved to the United States to go to the Ross School of Business for his MBA, but stayed for the business opportunity he discovered.
“Why is there no Indian food chain like Panda Express or Chipotle?” he asked himself. “We are giving the masses a fast and healthy Indian food option.”
Dass knows that what’s often called the “fast fresh” market is growing immensely, with companies such as Freshi on the rise. This trend serves a growing customer base of Americans wanting healthier options in a quick and casual setting. But Dass has to break down some misconceptions he sees Americans still have about Indian food first.
Indian food which Dass describes as a “food of flavor” is much healthier than most think. The entrepreneur says Americans are used to Indian food standing for naan bread, buffets, and heavier cream based dishes. Often the dishes Dass serves have whole wheat Roti bread, much healthier meats and proteins compared to a burger and fries and in healthier portion sizes. A staple meat served, Goat meat, has 40% less saturated fat than beef. Lentils also a staple have a higher protein and fiber and low fat.
But goat is not something Americans are used to eating just yet. Dass wants to change that.
“We’d like to bring goat into the mainstream,” he said. “People think meat is only protein, but we have lentils and proteins that are much healthier for you too.”
He calls his model for healthy eating “disruptive eating,” bringing affordability, flavor and healthier Indian food options to consumers. Right now his restaurant in Ypsilanti has been serving healthier food at affordable prices, including a $5 box with five items. Nirmal Indian Cuisine has been doing well since he purchased it in 2009. Since then, Dass has been exploring ways to expand quickly. He piloted catering to cafeterias at universities and corporations with 12 satellite locations, and still sees franchising as a potential path in the future.
“We spent two years focusing on our message, our food, and we tested a lot of recipes to make the food healthy. Now we want to grow,” he said.
The ideal target audience Dass wants to reach is young millennial students and low-income people who might be disproportionately affected having less healthier fast food options near them. He shares much of his disruptive eating research and findings on his blog here, aiming to help others realize health could be a key to fighting income and educational inequality.
So, could he have struck a unique path forward to take on the next Chipotle or Freshi? We’ll have to see. Check out more on this unique restaurant in Ypsilanti: http://www.nirmalindiancuisine.com/