Street food chain Mowgli to grow workforce to 700

Barrister Nisha Katona launched Indian street food brand Mowgli with a single restaurant in Bold Street in Liverpool and now its UK expansion will see it employ 700 people by mid-2022. Tony McDonough reports

Nisha Katona
Nisha Katona, founder of Indian street food brand Mowgli


A Liverpool restaurant brand that started with a single outlet in 2014 will be employing 700 people by the middle of 2022.

Mowgli Street Food, launched by trained barrister Nisha Katona in Bold Street in Liverpool city centre, is now set to open its 13th restaurant this year. It will welcome diners to Charlotte Street in London in November.

It has been quite a journey for Nisha, who practised law for more than 20 years before starting Mowgli. And the entrepreneur, whose popular Indian street food concept is rooted in her own family’s cooking heritage has broken two of her early pledges.

Her passion for food found an an outlet in cookery books – she has written three of them – and in YouTube videos where she was ‘the Curry Evangelist’. She pledged never to open a restaurant but the urge eventually became irresistible.

And once she did had opened her first restaurant she made another pledge. She told a Liverpool business audience in 2018: “Not a bone in my body that wanted to give up any equity.”

But that too quickly changed when she was convinced of the growth potential of the Mowgli brand. In 2017, when Mowgli was operating just two restaurants – one in Liverpool and one in Manchester – Foresight Group recognised its potential and injected £3.5m of growth capital into the business.

Following that investment, founder Nisha hired Karen Jones, founder of Café Rouge and chair of Hawksmoor, as Mowgli chair and appointed Matthew Peck, former head of finance at private equity backed Byron Hamburgers, as chief financial officer.

She also brought in Lucy Worth – formerly of Byron and Jamie’s Italian – as chief operating officer. They have provided invaluable assistance to the Mowgli team regarding growth strategy and implementation.

Mowgli’s new London outlet is the latest in a string of new Mowgli sites and following this there will be further openings in Preston, Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

With a modern focus on healthy, light, flavoursome dishes, along with its provision of an extensive gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan offering, Mowgli differentiates itself from traditional Indian restaurants. This quality has seen customers stay loyal to the Mowgli brand, returning in force once the country emerged from lockdown. 

Mowgli Indian street food restaurant in Water Street, Liverpool


Again, speaking in 2018, Nisha said: “My parents came here from India around 50 years ago. And the passion for the food is a big part of our heritage. It is one of the few things you can keep alive.”

Future expansion plans see Mowgli Street Food aiming to launch four to five new restaurants per year, with ambitions to open in Newcastle, Chelmsford and Cambridge. Speaking today, Nisha added: “Foresight and its expert advisors have supported our continued growth, despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.

“They have stood shoulder to shoulder with us as we emerged from the COVID crisis in a position of strength and resilience in the face of the unprecedented circumstances facing our sector at present.

“Being primarily based outside of London in university cities and towns has helped to counter any recruitment issues. We currently have 510 members of staff and create 40 new local jobs in each city we open in, so by July 2022 we will employ just under 700 members of staff.

“And we operate a tight supply chain with many of our recipes based around pulses, rather than red meat, which has helped to protect us from supply shortages.

“What we want to do now is build on our strong position by expanding further, all the while maintaining our brand integrity and continuing to offer customers what they have always loved about Mowgli.

The company’s expansion goes hand in hand with its commitment to social value. Mowgli was created with charitable giving as a central pillar of its ethos. Each year, The Mowgli Trust donates up to £500,000 to its carefully chosen charitable partners.

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