Thali, an Indian restaurant on Orange Street, will close this Saturday due to reduced customer flow and competition from other businesses.
The restaurant’s owner, Prasad Chirnomula, announced the imminent closure of Thali on Sept. 20, 11 years after it opened in 2006. Over the past year, fewer and fewer customers have been ordering food from Thali due to the increasing ubiquity of Indian restaurants in New Haven, Chirnomula said.
Chirnomula added that “poor location” of Thali at 4 Orange St. contributed to the loss of customers. Thali’s other location on Broadway will remain open.
“We were hoping the area [around Thali] would be more commercially developed with more retail, more people, more shopping, maybe a hotel or something like that,” Chirnomula said. “Every time we heard from the town or developers they would say, ‘this year, next year’ but it never happened.”
Thali received a prestigious three-star review from the New York Times in 2006. According to staff at the restaurant, it has served many dignitaries, and regular customers have predominantly been workers from nearby businesses, as well as faculty and other members of the Yale community.
Thali has faced major competition from restaurants that use online delivery systems, Chirnomula said. He added that the costs of operating online delivery through GrubHub and Uber are too high to make that a sustainable business strategy.
Thali would have had to lower prices to compete with other online restaurants, Chirnomula said. The restaurant industry already has a very low profit margin, he said, and it would be difficult to maintain the quality of Thali’s food with the reduced revenue and high costs
Facing decreased sales, Thali implemented marketing measures to attract more customers, said Mohammed Ayub, Thali’s food and beverage manager. But those initiatives were unsustainable, failing to achieve long-term increases in food sales, he added.
The restaurant’s relatively isolated location has also led to its reduced customer base.
“I see this as a destination restaurant – when people think they have to go specifically to Thali, they will come here,” senior waitress Nisha Mishra said. “As for people who don’t know about Thali, because we’re on the corner of the street, we don’t get much [of a] crowd.”
Mishra added that Thali Too on 65 Broadway, Thali’s vegetarian counterpart, is doing much better because it is near Yale’s campus and many students and faculty eat there.
The employees who are currently working at Thali will be moved to the various restaurants owned by Chirnomula’s Five Star Restaurant Group, such as Thali Too, Oaxaca Kitchen at 228 College St. and India in West Hartford, Mishra said.
The future of 4 Orange St. is still up in the air. Chirnomula said he is soon ending the lease contract with the landlord, who does not yet have a tenant for future use, but is likely looking for another restaurant to replace its predecessor.
And although New Haven is set to lose one of Chirnomula’s restaurants, he may try to bring another one to the Elm City.
“I have something in mind for the future because I am always ahead of the game,” Chirnomula said. “I have a concept for New Haven that might be really big, but one has to wait till I announce what the plan is.”
Jever Mariwala | firstname.lastname@example.org