Indian fast-food chain Wrapchic is to shift its short-term focus onto dark kitchens and low capex projects following the closure of the majority of its estate during lockdown; however it does have a pipeline of bricks and mortar sites which it will see through.

Owner and founder Mahesh Raikar told MCA that it will be opening two dark kitchens – in Birmingham and Croydon – in the first week of March, and if trials are successful it has another 10-12 locations that it could expand to.

The chain opened its latest standalone site on The Parade in Canterbury last week, taking its UK estate up to 16, while three additional stores are currently being built back-to-back – one at Manchester Airport, which is due to open in April, and two high street stores in London.

Raikar said all of its estate was trading well before lockdown so he is looking forward to being able to fully reopen. “Only 20% of our estate is offering delivery and trading at this time,” he said. This comprises its Birmingham Bullring, Wembley and Milton Keynes shops. “Most of our locations are in malls. With the previous lockdown we were still trading from most of these locations but since the second lockdown there isn’t the footfall so it’s not cost effective to do so,” he explained.

Raikar said the fact the estate was heavily weighted towards shopping centre locations has not been a blessing but he said the concept does need to be in heavier footfall areas. He is optimistic that London will have bounced-back fully in a couple of years and believes it would be the right time to start looking for sites in central London high streets in around six to eight months’ time. “We have performed and done really well in those locations in the past but unfortunately we couldn’t retain some of those sites due to redevelopment,” he said.

Its newly-opened Canterbury site is the first to display Wrapchic’s new branding, which sees the previous black and white logo and colour scheme ditched for a colour version, which has already been rolled out online. Raikar said the plan was to update the older stores over the next year to 18 months. “The principles and ethos are still the same, but it’s a fresher looking brand,” he said.

Raikar added that he believes future consumer behaviour will be shaped by the growth in online and delivery channels during lockdown. “People who were hesitant to use delivery before have been forced to do that as there are no options to go out and eat, that will create a behaviour of change in a lot of people that would normally go out,” he explained.

He said the other bigger factor was that if the furlough scheme comes to an end and there is limited support from the government, “there will be mass redundancies” across the economy, not just hospitality.