Tired of consuming butter chicken and naan at Indian restaurants in Europe, techie-turned-entrepreneur Kannathasan Pandian started ‘The South Indian’ restaurant chain, which is in Denmark & Sweden, and will soon open doors in Germany, Norway and Finland.
Over time, Kannathasan began interacting with many Indian restaurants in Denmark as part of the digital forum. “I wanted them to introduce south Indian food at their restaurants, which is both light and healthy. But they weren’t willing to, as they thought it wouldn’t sell. At any Indian restaurant, one would only find butter chicken, naan and lassi and I was keen that south Indian food be represented as well. That was when I decided to set up a restaurant myself under the name ‘The South Indian’. But, I was certain that the menu wouldn’t have butter chicken or tikka masala, and instead would focus on south Indian foods, particularly Chettinad cuisine,” the restaurateur adds.
The restaurant chain now has a total of eight outlets in different cities of Denmark, including the capital city of Copenhagen, and three outlets in neighbouring Sweden. The menu at the outlets includes dishes like dosa, Tamil Nadu style lamb soup, kozhi rasam, uttappam, Chennai-style chicken 65, kathirikai kara kuzhambu (spicy brinjal curry), lamb sukka and biryani. There’s also sukku malli coffee with dry ginger to end one’s meal with.
“Most of the diners we have are locals, who are curious to try south Indian food. Even though most are aware of Indian food, we are often credited with introducing dosa to Denmark and encouraging people to eat it with their hands. Since most people in the Nordic countries are meat eaters, our Chettinad-style dishes have been a hit. We also managed to buy over a Saravana Bhavan outlet in Stockholm (Swedish capital) to reopen it as The South Indian,” shares Kannathasan. In total, the chain employs 12 chefs from Tamil Nadu, and about 80 staff members.
With his tech expertise, Kannathasan says he learned to automate a large part of his restaurants. “Procuring raw materials like fresh coconuts can be a challenge in the Nordic region. So, one needs to have good supply mechanism in place. We are in talks with partners to open our outlets in Norway, Finland and Germany soon,” he says. To cater to the habits of many Europeans to sip on a beer while having their meal, the restaurateur also created a craft beer out of palm sugar and rice, with the help of a local brewer, to go along with south Indian food. “We aim to get more popular across Europe and offer a taste of south India to more Europeans,” he remarks.