Home News ‘No talent’: How a poor TikTok performance fueled a curry shop’s success

‘No talent’: How a poor TikTok performance fueled a curry shop’s success


Urban Tandoor is a British curry house that is healthy enough for family dinners but elegant enough for a low-key first date. Painted flowers adorn the entrance, while the interior is decorated with colorful walls and lighting, paying homage to Bristol’s artistic reputation. This local restaurant in the southwest of England serves up a range of crowd-pleasing dishes, from jalfrezi to moilee.

But it’s not just the food that’s drawing diners to Urban Tandoor in recent days.

“Their TikTok videos,” said Jack Smith, 22, who was celebrating his birthday. “I think they’re so funny.”

The local outfit’s crew has wowed audiences online with covers of pop songs, anthems and trendy hits that, by most standards for judging talent, are woefully poor.

have “Bhaji girl,Two of the employees wore blonde Barbie and Ken wigs and sang about chutney. There was also a Grease-inspired “You are the naan I want”, in which the group is wearing leather jackets and lipstick.Mr Riceside”, the hit song by The Killers, becomes the story of a big-eyed, big-bellied little eater.

You might kindly describe this dancing as “fervent.”

The singing could be worse, reminiscent of a group of uncles at a karaoke night. But the production value is not the point. The restaurant’s owner, Sujith D’almeida, says their “so bad it sounds good” marketing campaign works.

Online, commenters from places as far away as Texas vowed to one day dine at Urban Tandoor in Bristol. After visiting the restaurant in person, Mr. D’Almeida said there had been a noticeable increase in the number of diners under 30.

“It doesn’t take talent,” he said. “It doesn’t take practice. Someone puts on a wig. We just do it.”

Grown men dancing in costumes might look silly, but Mr D’Almeida is serious about his business, which he founded in 2013 after stints working in five-star hotels and on cruise ships. Meaningless proxyIn 2021, the restaurant partnered with a British marketing company to help it further expand its influence on TikTok.

But he just wants Urban Tandoor to cheer people up. He said some customers have told him the videos have brought them joy when they were feeling unwell and depressed.

“Happiness is something that is missing in the world today. It’s really sad,” he said. “We only give them 60 seconds of happiness.”

On a cold Monday morning, I boarded the “Bhaji Boat” with the crew, a rented ferry that served as their filming location for the day. (Most of the videos were shot in their restaurant.)

How much work goes into making something so organically awful?

There wasn’t much chit-chat at first as the crew began pulling costumes out of plastic bags. The director and shoot were all members of the Nonsensical Agency team, who also helped Mr. D’almeida come up with ideas and lyrics.

“When we let the team have their fun, that’s when things really started to work,” said Natalie Brereton, the agency’s head of TikTok.

Following trends on TikTok has helped, but Ms. Brereton said Urban Tandoor’s success is built on a long-term strategy: “You have to build your brand.”

Sure enough, when it came time to shoot, it was like turning on an energy switch.

Wigs fluttered in the wind, arms waved. Tushar Kangane, the operations manager, swung his hips. Pramoth Kumar, a waiter, swung his shoulders. Passersby smiled as they watched the group, dressed in pink dresses and electric blue jumpsuits, frolicking on the boat.

On land, the group filmed more video. A passerby yelled, “Love you!” (Eventually, Ferry Video Shot multiple times from different angles.)

Mr D’Almeida said the videos helped keep the restaurant afloat. Britain’s curry houses hold a special place in the country’s culinary landscape, Challenges in recent yearsincluding labor shortages, changing tastes and the COVID-19 lockdown.

“We are very concerned,” Mr. D’Almeida said. But he also said he never wanted Urban Tandoor to be just about food. He wanted it to be an entertainment or leisure place.

“I want to share more Indian culture,” he said. “I want to bring Bristol and Mumbai together.” TikTok, he said, has given their brand a “new dimension”.

“As soon as a song becomes popular,” he said, “we get customers from all over the world.”

But most of the employees didn’t even have TikTok and didn’t consider themselves entertainers before working at the restaurant.

“I didn’t dance at my wedding,” said Mr. Kangane, 41, who has worked at the restaurant since it opened. “If you don’t have fun at work, then work is boring.”.

Later that evening, everyone gathered again to prepare for dinner service at the restaurant. The chef takes off his Michael Jackson costume and retreats to the kitchen, where the silence is replaced by chatter as guests arrive.

This was Caitlin Piper’s first time at Urban Tandoor, but she already recognized some of the faces on the staff.

“I wanted to come here two years ago,” she said. The 20-year-old brought her mother here after seeing the TikTok video and praised the “authenticity” of the marketing strategy.

“Like, they’re not on time. They’re not in sync. And they know it,” she said. “It just looks like best friends having fun.”

Vivek Singh, on the other hand, has been going to Urban Tandoor for seven years. He said the videos are funny and called it a “very pan-Asian” humor. But ultimately, he comes here for the food. “It’s very authentic,” he said.

As the restaurant’s profile grows, D’Almeida says, the pressure to be humorous both online and in real life has increased, which can be taxing. Some brands have already reached out to them, and while D’Almeida says he ultimately hopes to use the success of the video to raise charitable donations, he doesn’t want to take paid collaborations.

His priority now, he said, is to make sure the restaurant experience lives up to its marketing goals.

“Our bread and butter is our restaurant,” he said. “Everyone needs to find their niche, and we’ve found ours.”

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