Indochinese restaurant operator Banana Tree has found that growth in delivery sales during the pandemic has increased five-fold outside the capital, director Anne Chow told MCA.

The nine-strong group has continued to offer delivery from its restaurant sites during each of the lockdowns, with only its Soho branch not offering the service currently.

“We have seen big growth in delivery outside London where we previous had a very small delivery market. Since the pandemic it has increased a lot – more than five-fold in areas like Milton Keynes and Chelmsford,” said Chow.

She said that, overall, around 60% of its delivery sales were coming from existing customers, and that is was hopeful that some of the new business would result in people coming to eat in the restaurants when they reopen. She said she believed the way that deliveries have gone into everyone’s homes and habits will at least partially remain when the pandemic is over.

The business is just about to launch its debut delivery-only kitchen, in Kentish Town, with another to open in Chiswick next month. It is opening the dark kitchens in partnership with Foodstars, with all sales to be serviced by Deliveroo, and furloughed staff returning to work in the units.

Chow said that the delivery-only kitchens would be reviewed after three months and if they were successful the business would look at further opportunities, with Foodstars or other dark kitchen operators. “We are looking at all avenues,” she said. “The only way to grow our sales at the moment is to focus on delivery.”

In addition to the Banana Tree brand, Chow also revealed to MCA that it would be offering its own virtual brand, What’s Your Katsu, from the delivery-only kitchens. The virtual brand was launched on the quiet last summer, while the business assessed its merits, and is currently available through Deliveroo from its existing restaurant locations.