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03/04/2021

Tarka Capitalizes on Off-Prem

After a year of disruption followed by rapid innovation , Tarka Indian Kitchen looks to make further enhancements to its off-premises business.

Tarka is among the restaurant brands that accelerated tech adoption at a record pace. In 2020 Tarka updated its digital ordering channels, adding online ordering, curbside pickup and a digital rewards program, all of which increased Tarka’s insight into its customer base, and allowed the brand to make smarter site selection decisions.

As it leaned exclusively on off-prem, Tarka added delivery links to its website and app, reducing the commission fees paid out to delivery services. With third-party delivery sites, “We leaned into our partnerships with our delivery partners after implementing premium pricing and negotiating our commission rates so that we are nearly making the same margins on these orders as direct orders,” explained Tarka CEO and Co-Founder Tinku Saini. Plus, the brand leveraged its growing rewards member base to push offers and communicate with guests at the start of the pandemic, which led to an increase in guests’ spending and frequency of visits.

Crazy About Curbside

To power its curbside pickup program, the brand added Radius Networks’ FlyBuy pickup. “That system has proved to be invaluable,” said Saini.  “The delight our guests have when our team members bring out the food to their cars,  just as they are parking, is wonderful.

“For those that don't want to share locations, the system also allows guests to just type 'OMW' and 'HERE’ instead, so it is very flexible based on guest preference.”

For 2020 Tarka posted a 121.06% increase in third-party delivery sales and 42.24% increase in to-go sales. Overall sales were up 13.54% compared to the year prior.

“Though 2020 presented unforeseen trials, Tarka was ready for the challenges thrown at us,” said Saini. “We previously saw about 15% of sales come in from third-party delivery orders. So as a restaurant with an already steady to-go and delivery business, we were well-positioned when those ordering options skyrocketed. Guests had already seen our brand’s name on third-party delivery apps before, so we believe that previous exposure was a key contributor to our huge spike in delivery sales.”

As they say, timing is everything. At the end of 2019, Tarka had “just completed the revamp of our digital channels … by implementing a digital rewards program and mobile app with our partners at Como,” and new online ordering system from Restolabs, explained Saini.  “Having a personalized rewards program in place prior to the pandemic hitting was critical in our success.”

Its beta testing of in-store kiosks was put on hold once the pandemic hit. “We are about to restart that beta testing… That being said, everyone has a kiosk in their hands now with our mobile app, and we may roll out the ability to order ahead for dine-in. Currently, it is only available for takeout, curbside or delivery.”

Tarka is planning additional locations in Texas and beyond. One of its top priorities for the year is to leverage delivery services to simply fulfil Tarka’s delivery orders.  “…The vast majority of [delivery] orders still originate from the third-party marketplaces,” explains Saini.  “We will be able to retain the customer in our ecosystem and pass on a flat delivery fee to our guests. We will retain the customer in our ecosystem, and it will be less expensive overall for our guests won't be paying premium pricing as they do when placing orders on the third-party marketplaces.”