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Jamal Hirani owner of fast growing Tiffinbites business


UK NRI's Restaurant franchise on brink of administration

London, Jan 17, 2009
Suresh Mehta

According to the local media, NRI Jamal Hirani owner of fast growing Tiffinbites business with the acquisition of the Bombay Bicycle Club and Vama businesses, has quit the company behind them and the banks are set to send in administrators. Hirani said, “Due to personal reasons, I'm currently out of the business.”

In 2003, he founded Gourmet Restaurants and became the largest Indian restaurant group in Britain after acquiring two takeaway and eat-in chains. He launched Tiffinbites and becomes its chief executive. In 2004, he opened first restaurant in Canary Wharf, London and in 2008 Franchises Tiffinbites

Hirani's restaurant chain, described as an Indian Wagamama, has grown into a multimillion-pound business from humble beginnings as a takeaway in Moorgate, London, five years ago. It was modelled on India's "tiffin wallahs", who whisk home-cooked food stored in tiffin boxes to offices at lunchtime.

Indian chains Vama Group and Bombay Bicycle Club runs four restaurants and seven takeaways under the Tiffinbites name, and has added three Bombay Bicycle Club restaurants and 14 takeaways, as well as Vama Group's top-end restaurant, airline catering and a corporate event and wedding catering arm. Tiffinbites gets through 10 tonnes of rice a week and all the food is cooked in Brent Cross, north London, and sent out several times a day.

Last year, the Bombay Bicycle Club received a huge boost when Tana Ramsay, wife of Gordon, revealed that the Battersea branch was the family's favourite takeaway. The group is being sold by the restaurant company Clapham House, which also owns Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Tootsies and the Real Greek. It has restaurants in Balham, Hampstead and Holland Park.

Hirani announced to expand the chain across the country to 50 outlets by the end of next year under a rapid franchise programme. Tiffinbites also takes over the canteens of 350 blue-chip companies including HSBC, Morgan Stanley and the BBC for feeding 250,000 workers through a contract with Compass Group.

Last year, he told media group in London:

  • The Tiffinbites food emulates traditional tiffin boxes not just in the way it is packaged but in being cooked the home-made way. It uses little oil and no ghee, lean meat and freshly ground spices.
  • We're not a restaurant where you go for an intimate dinner
  • We're not a tandoori restaurant. In tandoori restaurants you won't find a single Indian customer.
  • Our clients are 40% Indians and 60% are women
  • It attracted because our food has "less than 10% fat
  • We make one large sauce, boil the meat and if you want a korma and I want a madras, the same chicken and the same sauce is used, but you would have a bit of cream in yours and I'd have a bit of chilli in mine
  • It's served within 10-15 minutes, and that's where the Indian food market was developed.

Jamal Hirani was born in Kampala, Uganda, in 1967 and moved to Britain with his family in 1976 when his family thrown out by dictator Idi Amin. In school days, his mother used to buy 50lb bag of potatoes, waiting to be peeled by him from which his mother made traditional Indian snacks for local shops. His mother still spends time developing new dishes with the executive chef who trained with the Taj group in Kerala, famed for its south Indian food.

Jamal could not finish his maths degree at Cardiff University, he got his first job with Encyclopedia Britannica, where he became sales manager for the south-west. After getting his business degree from Aston University, he joined Marks & Spencer and advanced from store manager to lingerie buyer.

Jamal Hirani met Jonathan Marks at Marks & Spence and became partners. He raised £160,000 and put £190,000 into the venture himself after remortgaging his house. In 2005, Marks left for his real estate business. The company has raised more than £10m in capital, turned a profit £3m and has a turnover of £24m in 2006. The company is now serving 250,000 lunches at around £5 a head with food prepared overnight in its north London kitchens.




Gourmet Restaurants

Jamal Hirani
owner of Indian restaurant chain Tiffinbites, plans to “rapidly expand across the country” after acquiring the Bombay Bicycle Club (BBC) from Clapham House Group.

  • Backed by India’s ICICI Bank, Jamal Hirani, acquired BBC’s three London restaurants and 15 delivery kitchens yesterday in a deal worth £4.4m.