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Running a new small business during the coronavirus crisis

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(Main photo: 2 Beys Diner owner Sajjad Ur-Rahman delivers free hot meals to care home workers and clients)

The coronavirus crisis has caused havoc for many small food, drink and hospitality businesses. Declining customer numbers, temporary closure and high commission fees levied by delivery service giants are putting many independent restaurants, cafes and takeaways at risk of permanently shutting down.

Small and medium enterprise owners are striving to continue trading despite the many challenges brought on by the covid-19 lockdown. One such restaurant is the recently opened Birmingham-based 2 Beys Diner.

The diner is themed around the hit Turkish period series Dirilis Ertugrul, which is based on the life of Ertugrul Gazi, a 13th century founding father of the Ottoman Empire. This theme made eating at the restaurant an immersive experience prior to the lockdown, as customers would often enjoy trying out costumes and props based on the show while eating their kebab platters, burgers and cooked breakfasts.

(Prior to the lockdown, customers enjoyed the Dirilis Ertugrul themed costumes and accessories)

Due to the lockdown, this important feature is currently unavailable, and the restaurant has had to adapt to survive. With this in mind, BritShish interviewed the diner’s owner Sajjad Ur-Rahman about his experience running a small hospitality business during the coronavirus lockdown.

1. How long has your restaurant been open for?

“We’ve been open for just over a year now, we still see a lot of new faces, fresh customers still walk in and ask if we opened recently.

A lot of people on social media have been asking when we opened too, as they didn’t know we existed.”

2. How did you feel at the start of the lockdown? Were you apprehensive about the survival of your business?

“At the start of lockdown, I thought this was the end of my dream, I wanted to use 2020 to expand but the world had other plans, I considered throwing in the towel, I almost did it too.

After hardship came ease!

After a few weeks into lockdown we started getting sales from all over. We’re open shorter hours but our income has tripled.

Those who were forced to try us as there was limited shops open have been returning ever since, even though all the local eateries have re-opened.

I guess people are scared to try new places as they don’t like to be disappointed.”

3. In what ways have you adapted to the current situation?

“We abide by the government guidelines, collection and deliveries. Only 2 people in the shop at a time, contact free and always wearing PPE.”

(During the lockdown takeaway and deliveries have become an important part of the diner’s business model)

4. How have your customers reacted?

“Our customers are not happy as they miss dining in and having a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a hot meal, they’re always saying the 1st place they’ll visit after the lockdown is the diner.”

5. Has customer loyalty been an asset in these trying times?

“Customer loyalty has played a big part. They’re always recommending the service and food. We have also gained a lot more customers from the community work we’ve done to safeguard the elderly and key workers, by providing free hot meals and offering a shopping service for the elderly and vulnerable.”

6. What advice would you give to other small hospitality and food and drink business owners in similar situations to your own?

“Be patient, as the fruits of patience are a lot sweeter. Stand your ground, the wind will blow over. Business is a like a garden, if you want to see it grow you have to attend to it.”

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