Indian restaurant listed itself as 40 ‘virtual brands’ on Deliveroo and UberEats from its Reading kitchen

An Indian restaurant has defended operating 40 “virtual brands” on Deliveroo and UberEats from its single kitchen in Reading and said the move served only to trial new business options

Madras Flavours, a new vegetarian restaurant in the town centre, was called “disingenuous at best” by locals in an article by the Reading Chronicle, which highlighted the issue of “duplicate menus” across multiple listings.

The owner Mubarak Abdul said he only ever intends to run a maximum of five online concepts from his restaurant.

He told i: “It was a trial – we weren’t doing anything illegal. We were just trying different options and will only run a maximum of five brands.

“We don’t know which ones we’ll use yet. People are saying it’s a scam, but it’s not. We are just struggling and this is a business. I put all my money into the restaurant setting it up in January.

“Customers have been giving us bad reviews – I hope they read the full story”.

As well as Madras Flavours, the restaurant listed numerous others across Deliveroo and UberEats, including Momo Monk, Indie Wok, and Soul Chutney.

It is commonplace for businesses to work this way on delivery platforms, with existing companies and online-only sites trading from so-called dark kitchens, which work as takeaways from closed units.

Mr Abdul had enlisted the services of the London-based consultancy Flavour Town, which said running 40 alternative brands was a “mistake”.

“We help restaurants launch new brands and help with digital marketing,” the founder Rahul Ithape said to i.

“We work with restaurants to identify possible new revenue streams and to set up dark kitchens. We analyse the area and see what customers there want to improve sales.

“We specialise in Indian restaurants. There might be gaps in their menu – it might be simple and easy to implement a vegetarian brand, or a street food concept, or a burger menu.

“What happened in Reading was a mistake. We sent over a portfolio and they thought they should try all of them and went live.”

Flavour Factory switched off any duplicated menus when first contacted.

Separate to the Madras Flavours saga, which appears to be an honest mistake, there have long been questions over a lack of transparency in selling from dark kitchens.

Deliveroo said: “In terms of transparency, one of the key benefits of virtual brands is that it allows our partners to test new ideas, menus and products independent of their original brand which leads to better choice for customers.

“At Deliveroo we are proud to work with a wide selection and number of restaurant partners and ensure that we have the very best choice and selection for our valued customers.”

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