'Two near floods and now a pandemic - restaurants are harder than I anticipated' says operator of five months
The industry was tough enough before the coronavirus crisis delivered its devastating blow. Just five months ago, when Michael Jameson, co-owner of Manjit's Kitchen & Bar, took over the lease of a site in Kirkstall Road in Leeds, there was no way of knowing what was around the corner.
Speaking to The Caterer on Thursday he said: "We've lost our income stream completely so now we're looking at how to adapt as quickly as we can. This current situation is beyond entrepreneurial ideas. We seem to be moving into a national emergency and we are aware that people need to eat."
Ironically when Jameson opened Manjit's in the Autumn, he said he made a "conscious decision" not to focus on delivery.
"It was very much a strategy to get the premises up and running as a social venue, then we could neatly add it in," he said.
But now with both of his sites closed to customers, delivery is looking like the only way forward. It comes with new challenges. Firstly, he says, because third-party delivery operators take 20-30%, the onus of undertaking the delivery will fall upon him and his staff. "We're going to be small and we're going to be local," he told The Caterer. And in terms of the menu, while they hope to offer as many of their usual dishes, they are already starting to struggle to get hold of key ingredients such as paneer and flour.
"We have staff and are trying to keep hold of as many as we can," he said but is aware that his landlord wants his rent he can understand that too.
Jameson considers himself fortunate to sit and work within his community. "They are our customers and as a business, we are not led by profit as we end up doing things that we want to do, rather things that will make loads of money. I think those kinds of models will now start to appear," he said. "This is how it is, every day – things will be very difficult but there will be light at the end and people will emerge somehow."