An Interview With Rajshahi Indian Restaurant On Instagram
Meet Arti of @rajshahi_indian_restaurant: When Memes Mean Business, She Memes “Family Guy”
Who Owns Rajshahi Indian Restaurant On Instagram?
Located in Gosford, New South Wales, half-way up the Central Coast of Australia, lies a strip mall with an important restaurant—Rajshahi Indian Restaurant. Its yellow sign is against the backdrop, housing curries, chutneys and busy staffers, milling about the kitchen and taking calls. One of them is Arti, the rightful owner of the family establishment. Instead of pounding naan or grilling tofu, she’s in the back making memes, using Peter Griffin as a jumping point.
What started as a way to promote her business on Instagram and Facebook, became something that earned Arti’s restaurant 45,000 followers in only the span of four months. Who are these followers? Are they hungry people, all from Gosford? Not really, they’re internet-pilled Zoomers, stumbling across the post-ironic brainwaves of Arti’s mind and leaning into the mystery that is Rajshahi Indian Restaurant and its notorious Shahi Naan and Butt Chicken.
The contrast between Arti and her inherent meme literacy is what makes an interview with her all the more exciting. What prompted her to start the original Facebook page back in 2019 and what has kept her going? Where does all her inspiration come from and where do the fans come from that eat at her restaurant?
I was able to talk with Arti over video chat and pick her brain about the wonders of memedom from the throne that is her centralized aesthetic which feels totally ungroundable yet wildly business savvy.
Q: Welcome Arti! It’s so nice to meet you and thanks for talking with me. Right off the bat, I’d like to know, when was Rajshahi Indian Restaurant founded and what’s its general history?
Arti: It was about 1988 and my dad owns it, well he used to own it. Then he passed it on to me and we still work together at the restaurant. So it's still me, dad and mom, our chef that's been with us for 30 years. I'm second generation. I’ve taken over the business.
Q: Great and what prompted you to start the Rajshahi Indian Restaurant Facebook and Instagram pages?
Arti: Um, just for fun, out of boredom…Covid. Everything was very depressing during Covid. So we needed to just spice things up and give a bit of morale to the community and to us as well. ‘Cause we weren't in lockdown, the restaurant still traded during Covid. We just stopped dining in all together, I think about ’20 when Covid hit. So we just skyrocketed ever since we had the memes going and a bit of a laugh with the community and people around the world and yeah, just made people's days. That's how it started <laugh>. Yeah. It started by just one post, which was Peter Griffin with the board saying blah, blah, blah.
Q: And why was it a “Family Guy” meme to start with?
Arti: ‘Cause I like “Family Guy” <laugh>. It’s relatable. It’s just like “The Simpsons.” It's a family thing that's relatable. Everybody's seen it, everybody's watched it. So people know all about it, but that's how it's gone. Then there was huge traffic on my Facebook with that meme and I was just thinking, what the hell is going on here?
I had a customer actually from Sydney. They said, “Oh, I posted this meme and it's gone viral” And I thought to myself about that, like, “Oh, I can do something.” So I started researching memes and what I can do, what I can't do with them, what's not appropriate and stuff like that. So that's how we began with memes as well, because of that interest.
Q: And when did you tell your parents about the meme page?
Arti: Oh, my dad laughed. I actually put the memes in front of the restaurant, so I made it visible. When people drive down the hill, they actually see it and it's bright, it's colorful, it catches your attention. It’s a great place to take a photo. ‘Cause I have people from all over the country… Yeah and a lot of people from California, from Sydney, that would do the trek to the Central Coast. From all over, all over Melbourne, Brisbane. I had a couple come from Western Australia, Port Macquarie, Byron Bay, you name it. They've come from everywhere and it's good to talk to them. It's good to engage.
Social media is such a power thing because you can pull someone from across the world who's already heard about us and make them… Not even “make them.” They’ve come all the way just to be at the restaurant. It’s-it's a powerful thing. It's such a huge thing for me… And to make people happy, because when they come that extra mile, when they come that extra distance, I always look after them. We don't do dining, so they actually go across to the park, <laugh> there’s benches and people there. They’ll even eat in the rain, or they'll eat in the car, or they’ll get their parents to bring them.
There was one time when a child and their mother were going to a soccer tournament from Melbourne to Brisbane and the son wanted to do a stopover at our restaurant. So they stayed in Gosford for the night, came to take takeaway and then went off their way the next day. Wow, it was a great thing. Yeah… I didn't think I could have that much influence, or the restaurant could have that much influence, that it could bring people together. And it's not just one person, it's a group of people.
One time we had, like, a bunch of people and I thought they were waiting to go somewhere, but they were actually just waiting to go into the restaurant, but I had already left the restaurant, but then there was this a huge group of people, 15 or 20 of them. I didn't realize.
Q: Well, that’s great. I definitely want to hear some interesting and funny customer stories. Are there any really crazy ones?
Arti: There’s not a really crazy one. They all… They all just come in for the, “Butt Chicken” <laugh>. That’s all they come in for. And, you know… I can tell if they’re Sydneysiders as well, by the way they dress, or, if they're the Instagram clients. I automatically know and my staff are like, “How do you know?”
I said, “It's the way they dress. It's how they interact. It's their demographics. The age group…” because the biggest age group is 18 to 24. It’s our biggest demographic. So you can tell straight away they're not from around here, ‘cause there's a certain demographic that comes through that I know.
Plus we've got customers that have been with us for 13 years, seven years, 36 years… I've grown up with them. They’ve grown up with me. I started in this industry when I was nine-years-old.
Q: Wow, and out of all that time, has anyone ever actually complained about too much cheese in the Shahi Naan?
Arti: <laugh> Yes. I had a customer come back and actually bring it back and say too much cheese. And I was actually so shocked. And my dad was like, “What?” And the customer next to him was like, “Are you serious, mate?” Yeah, so we made him another one with little cheese.
But you can’t have the Shahi Naan without cheese. And we put a lot of cheese in it because my dad's old school. It’s only the new school that asks for a certain amount of cheese, whereas, it's our business. We like once you rip it and you see this string of cheese just come out like this. That's really cool, yeah.
Q: I’m also wondering, why do you call it “butt chicken” instead of “butter?”
Arti: Oh! So, we sexualize the “butt chicken.” It was a comical thing. So you have your traditional rogan josh, butter chicken… But we thought, well, how do we make this product fun and engaging… And getting people to question what the “butt chicken” is. And I just get sick of telling people what it is. Just, go Google it. You’ll find it. Yeah, it’s just an engagement, something that's funny and people can relate to. We’re always on social media.
Yeah, it’s fun. It's fun. I thought, Oh yeah, “butt chicken.” And then people go, “chicken butt,” and I say, “No, no, no. It's not ‘chicken butt.’ It's ‘butt chicken.’” Yeah, I get hundreds and hundreds of Instagram messages of what “butt chicken” is <laugh> and I have a stand and say, “Look just, please Google!”
Q: Where do you see your meme page and its followers in two years’ time?
Arti: Um, well, still with me… Yeah, I can't tell you what's gonna happen in two years. This line of business ends with me and finishes with my father, his retirement. So regardless of whether the business is still there or not in the future, the meme page will… Well, it's not a meme page. I don't understand why people say it’s a meme page. It’s more than just that. It’s about my family, my business, my children.
I wanna get into merchandizing, that's what I’m gonna get myself into once I get a spare minute. Because obviously I work full time during the day for a financial planning company, so I have lots of ideas, <laugh> there as well. And, I do the restaurant in the night. I go to uni as well. And, I have a family. I have three children. So whatever happens with the restaurant down the track, the page will always be there as well.
I'm thinking of changing the name of the page from Rajshahi to “Twisted Indi." That’s what I'm gonna call it ‘cause I love the name, ‘cause I'm a bit twisted anyway. I'm not your conventional Indian. I have tats all over my body. I do all that sort of stuff, so I'm not your conformed Indian person where I'm a bit more modern, flexible, controversial.
Q: On that note, do you have any further advice you can share, maybe about the page, something that you’ve learned?
Arti: Well, I don't take a crap from anyone on Instagram—anyone—because obviously I put my family on there, as you can see. There’s a lot of trolling on the internet so I don’t tolerate the bad side of memes.
Some of the memes I’ve shared haven’t sat right with people, like the “Family Guy,” Donald Trump one, with Peter Griffin as Trump saying “butt chicken.” Yeah, I'm not a fan of him. I never have been. I never will be. So I don't believe in what he stands with either, but I like to make memes about those touchy subjects sometimes, because it's just my way of addressing tough concepts, with humor.
The only meme I regret putting up there was that “Dahmer” meme. I took it down after, out of respect for the families of the victims. I put that one up and then, yeah, later took it down. With any meme, I just put it up, have the experience and move on. But that was the only regret I had, so I took it off.
Q: Well, we’re so glad you were able to talk with us Arti and no regrets! Your page speaks to no regrets for sure. Curry on!
Arti: Thank you. Yeah, I love the page. Stay tuned for Twisted Indi.
click here to read this article in the November 2022 Meme Insider issue.