The latest endeavour by Shanti Hospitality involves a truck, some bread and some curry. If you put them all together, you get ‘Bunny Chow‘, a new and intriguing fast food concept, recently launched in the UK. The interesting creation is essentially a hollowed bread loaf stuffed with an array of different fillings including ‘Devil Chicken’, which is flavoured with chilli, ginger and lemongrass, ‘Crispy Pork’ with shallots, peppers and BBQ sauce, the ‘Monkey Gland Meatball’ cooked in a South African monkey gland sauce, the ‘Original Veggie’ and ‘Authentic Mutton’ – all served with an addition of sour cream. The Bunnychow, though new in concept ‘founded’ by Shanti Hospitality in 2013, actually originates from Durban, South Africa in the 1940s.
As Bunnychow spokesman Atholl Milton explains, “This is a South African concept which was invented when South Africans were bringing slaves from other African countries and India. The slaves would be given a loaf of bread and they would make their own curry or stew by taking out the inside of the bread and fill the bread with the curry and eat that. It was a good source of protein as well as carbs and helped them get through the day. So we took this concept and brought it here to the UK and to London where we started, in 2013, by developing a truck which roamed around London showing up wherever events or festivals were being held. This really tested the product. Soon after, we found there was a huge interest in Bunnychow so we opened up our very own shop in Box Park.”
Bunnychow’s first stationary appearance thus came in the heart of Shoreditch. Housed in adapted shipping containers, Boxpark offers a bunch of pop-up shops and global street food spots, the perfect spot to ensure Bunnychow is completely at home.
Speaking about the strategy to grow this new business, Milton said, “Since we launched, we can tell that it has been really appreciated by people. For example, it is rated in Time Out magazine as one of the most popular places. It’s quite exciting. We have finally secured a location in Soho that will become our year-round equivalent to Pret-a-manger, where you can get hot food, as well as breakfast. The roll out strategy is then to set up 7-10 of these in the next two years. The food will be a variety and will be referred to as breakfast bunnies, lunch bunnies and dinner bunnies and then we’re going to look at launching for children and then tie up with organic juice brands alongside it as well. So we’re planning on it being quite health conscious. It will also have a vegetarian option. And obviously we’ll keep adapting the menu with the times, seasons etc.”
Asking Milton what compelled Shanti Hospitality to choose this particular type of cuisine, he said, “Well, nobody has done it here. A lot of people are doing sandwiches, pizza, burgers but that is everywhere. This is something which has a tradition to it and a history it. Secondly, you can adapt this type of food to the local culture, change the flavours according to the month. Also the bread itself can be gluten free, brown bread, low-calorie bread, to cater for the more health-conscious customers.”
As fast-food Bunnychow increasingly attracts many lovers, Shanti Hospitality plans to fulfil the demand by expanding the company all over central London and its boroughs. Milton said, “We have been aggressively talking to Westfield Mall and we hope that we will be able to crack that and get into there. But for the moment, we are exploring the individual outlet concept as I mentioned in Soho, we’ll be having our first one launching very soon.”
So far, though it has been funded by the C&C Alpha Group, Bunnychow seems to have lifted off without any traditional marketing. Milton said the secret is, “we decided to take a more untraditional route in the sense of talking about the brand. So, for example, we’ve used the new age of social media to get people talking about Bunnychow, taking pictures of it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, that has all created a huge buzz, which has been really encouraging.”
If the Bunnychow tweets, ‘likes’ and instagrams are anything to go by, this new food phenomenon is set to be deadly competition to all existing fast-food joints!