The Hoboken, NJ, location of Curry Up Now celebrates its first anniversary on February 25. Akash and Rana Kapoor, along with cofounder Amir Hosseini, conceptualized the popular eatery. As a result of their hard work, Curry Up Now’s mission is to serve authentic Indian flavors through nationally recognized corporate and franchised units.
Akash Kapoor grew up in Ranchi, India, where he learned the joys of cooking from his mother Bably, who was a successful self-taught chef. Kapoor spent five years in a boarding school in India before coming to the United States in 1990 as an exchange student. In 1993 he returned and made San Francisco his home. In San Francisco, he worked as a car salesman and then proved an excellent entrepreneur by starting a credit card processing company and a mortgage company.
It Started With a Food Truck
When Kapoor and his wife learned about an up-and-coming Korean food truck in California, their focus started to shift. Kapoor loved the idea of bringing the Indian food he grew up on to the public.
Akash started Curry Up Now as a popular food truck business that caught the eye of franchise development company Fransmart’s CEO, Dan Rowe. Kapoor signed on to work with Fransmart and the business grew rapidly. The first brick-and-mortar location of Curry Up Now opened in San Mateo, CA, in 2011. The first franchise location opened in Atlanta, in 2019; the second in Irvine, CA. The next three openings happened just before the pandemic hit. These included the Hoboken location.
Kapoor now owns five locations and has eight franchises across the United States, with another 10 on the way this year. This business, according to Kapoor, is currently the largest and fastest-growing Indian fast-casual restaurant chain in North America. Kapoor’s plans include opening 500 Curry Up Now locations in the United States as well as international locations.
Something for Everyone
Curry Up Now offers a wide array of Indian dishes including street food, LyfeBowls, fried chicken sandwiches, and more. Curry Up Now’s menu has something for everyone and is designed to support vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and Halal diets.
Kapoor’s own favorites include the following:
- Vada Pav, a mashed potato fritter sandwich between an Amul buttered bun with garlic chutney and Bombay dust
- Pani Puri, made with hollowed semolina puri, potato garbanzo mash and cumin tamarind water
- Bhel Puri, with puffed rice, potato garbanzo mash, cucumber, chutneys and crispy sev noodles
The menu also includes Samosas, a Hella Vegan Burrito and Kathi Rolls with your choice of protein, onions, cilantro, chutney in a homemade flatbread. The restaurant also serves beverages that include their Mango Lassi and Bournvita Milk along soft drinks.
Q&A With Akash Kapoor
Kapoor told Jersey Bites about his restaurant in the Hoboken community and plans for the future of Curry Up Now.
JERSEY BITES: Tell us about some of the favorite dishes your mother prepared when you were a child.
AKASH KAPOOR: My mother is an accomplished baker so I got to eat eclairs and doughnuts very early on along with croissants and then were exposed to Asian, Mexican, and Italian food very early in my life. At boarding school, I used to trade doughnuts for candy with kids from Dubai and Singapore. But the best thing I grew up eating was Kashmiri food cooked by my grandma and mom. Kashmiri food is the least heralded of Indian foods. It’s hard to get and rarely available outside India and even in India, apart from Delhi. In my opinion, it’s in the top five percent of foods from India.
Tell us a little about the Hoboken, NJ, l location and why it has been so successful.
Hoboken is Curry Up Now’s first East Coast location. We were looking for a place that felt as close as possible to our home in the Bay Area. Hoboken had that San Francisco vibe. We opened and quickly had to pivot to a delivery/takeout model at the height of the pandemic. During that time, we gained a loyal following. We’re excited to celebrate our first anniversary with the community this month with lots of surprises in store.
Why do you think the New Jersey restaurant scene is so vibrant?
Hoboken, specifically, is cosmopolitan and homey at the same time. I love how walkable the city is and how diverse the restaurant scene has become.
Can you share a little bit about your team?
Our local Hoboken franchisee’s name is Pritesh Benjamin. He and his wife operate some pharmacies in the area. Pritesh also works as a part-time RN. He’s been one of our nation’s frontline heroes during this pandemic. At the corporate level, we have Shubhdeep Gill Gosal, our director of franchise Operations; Bryan Blair, our head of people and culture; Sarah Baskin, our catering director, and my cofounder and partner in crime, Rana, to whom I have been married to for 25 years.
What challenges have you faced in maintaining your business during the pandemic?
So many. From the shock and awe that we first felt in March to the many different jurisdictions around the country that have different rules to not getting any tailwind for our restaurants that opened a few weeks before—and some a few months after the pandemic hit us.
Along with headwinds, the other challenges are just dealing with [public health] technicalities, changing steps of service, and dealing with any employees or their family members who test positive. It’s been a rather challenging 10 months, but I firmly believe that today, we are better as a company, franchisor, and brand owner than we were in March 2020.
How do you maintain the high quality of your dishes across the brand as it grows so rapidly?
We spend a considerable amount of time training kitchen managers and their teams to execute our food. We make all of our master sauces in our facility in SoCal and then finish these at the local restaurants for freshness and taste. For a cuisine like ours, which can be highly specialized, we’ve cracked the formula that now allows us to grow nationwide and even worldwide. We teach our cashiers and other front-of-house staff to also make our food so our busy kitchens can get help when [they need it].
What’s in store for Curry Up Now in the future?
We are opening new locations in the Bay Area, Dallas, Austin, Bloomington, Indiana, and Alpharetta, Georgia this year. Our franchise team has been busier in the last six months than they were in the previous two years combined so we are going to be opening in many other markets in the next 12 to 24 month. We’d like to go to Europe and back to India at some point as well.
Hours (subject to change):
Daily: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (indoor dining, delivery, and takeout)