“I don’t usually eat meat, but I sneak off to come have a mutton bunny at this location often and it’s definitely in the top of my list,” says satisfied customer, 56-year old Saqren Reddy.
I am at last year’s winner of the Bunny Chow Barometer, Hollywood Bets. This is not my usual haunt but certainly worth a try during the run up to the Bunny chow barometer. Generally, I prefer eating at establishments which put food first – maybe it’s the hordes of desperate gamblers that have detoured Hollywood from becoming my local curry spot?
This time round, I’m at the Springfield Branch where the staff is very polite and friendly and the beans bunny is winner! (Even though the flavour and texture of the curry that I enjoyed at their Argyle Branch was slightly better and the gravy was a bit thicker and richer).
My curiosity was sparked by a concerned Desmond Naidoo of Durban Curry House who, when asked about the upcoming Bunny Chow Barometer in September, remarked: “Hollywood is the one beat.”
Hollywood Bets has a very different business model from that of the humble Curry House on Stamfordhill Road.
“Our Hollywood Team alone has 2433 full time people. More importantly, Hollywood has created almost 2000 new jobs in the last six years. One of our core Hollywood values are creating a family culture and sharing in each other’s successes,” comments Deneshan Pillay national food and beverage manager for the Hollywood group.
The business which started the Hollywood concept was, in fact, born out of the publishing industry through group subsidiary Winning Form.
Winning Form opened its doors for business in 1987 and today they publish eight titles all revolving around betting. Top Turf Pocket Guide is the largest horseracing form guide in South Africa, selling twice as many copies as its closest competitor. Hollywood opened its first betting branch in Argyle Road, Durban, in 2000, following with the opening of the present flagship, Hollywood Park in Springfield Park, a stone’s throw away from Argyle Road.
Pillay says that, in 2001, they decided to add on a restaurant for their patrons at their Springfield Branch.
The mastermind behind starting a food division was the CEO, Suren Rampersadh. It was his vision to start the Hollywood Food and Beverage department, according to Pillay.
They soon became famous for their curries and the concept grew. Now they run dozens of restaurants all over South Africa all under the Hollywood Betting banner and brand.
The two Durban kitchen now produce an average of 1000 bunnies a day and the Hollywood bets retail operation extends to more than 70 branches across the country.
The betting industry doesn’t always have the best image and Hollywood Bets is quite aware of this. The company’s website states how they are committed to helping change this. “We first had to change the perceptions of bookmaking. As a result, our brand has broken the mould from the ticket-strewn floors, white plastic furniture and shabby facilities of old. Everything that we have achieved since our inception has been innovative in terms of setting a new market trend, which is what happens when you start out with practically no fundamental experience, but are fuelled with an unfaltering passion to succeed”.
Pillay says his personal favourite bunny from Hollywood is the Beans Bunny. He only started to enjoy eating beans curry when he started working for Hollywood two years ago. ‘It was obviously such an honour to win the bunny barometer last year and this has only encouraged our restaurant component to become even better’.