Shah Amin, owner of Delhi 6 in South Shields, describes how the pandemic has impacted his multi-award-winning Indian street food restaurant based in the heart of the coastal town. Reminding us all that we need to do our bit to help keep the North East open and #BeatCovidNE.
Q. How has your business been affected by Covid-19?
In March 2020, the restaurant was closed overnight and it really was a very difficult time. I remember feeling like someone had simply turned the lights off and I wondered if they would ever come back on. Anxiety and stress have run high.
Although challenging, the furlough scheme and being able to adapt to the evolving situation, through offering a Covid safe delivery and collection service, has enabled us to navigate a period of great uncertainty.
Q. What challenges have you faced?
Honestly, survival and just staying afloat was our greatest challenge. We needed to support and retain our staff and pay the bills at a time when income was hugely reduced. I’m grateful for the Job Retention Scheme and the families it helped to support as well as being able to widen and adapt our services to provide a takeaway offering. Although the income generated wasn’t at the levels we usually make as a restaurant, at least something was coming in.
When we’ve been able to reopen, we’ve faced huge logistical challenges - ranging from seating arrangements and kitchen processes to entry and exit routes - in following Covid guidelines to keep our customers and employees safe.
Q. What changes have you had to make in response to the pandemic?
There have been so many changes I struggle to remember what my restaurant looked like before Covid. We installed perspex screens and table dividers to help maintain social distancing; we have a one-way route to enter and leave the restaurant; staff arrive at different times and maintain social distancing and must wear face coverings to keep themselves and customers safe while dining.
We completely re-evaluated our risk assessment to ensure it complied and was relevant to Covid-19 and the wide-ranging legal guidelines.
Q. How have you and your staff coped during lockdown?
It was very tough mentally. The uncertainty was very stressful. However, 12 employees and their families were relying on me to support them both financially and emotionally and I couldn’t let them down. I ensured we all remained as positive as possible and brought as many employees back to work to deliver our takeaway service as I could safely do so.
We’ve all been very supportive of each other, and we’ll never forget this period of time. My team has been incredible throughout and it’s so good to see everyone back at work serving some of the best Indian food around to our amazing customers.
Q. What has the response been since reopening?
It’s been great! The restaurant has been very busy since reopening. People are respectful of our Covid measures and are dining responsibly. I believe everyone has played their part in following the guidelines.
Q. Why are you supporting the Keep the North East Open campaign?
I feel passionate about this campaign and I’m supporting it because we need to protect both our lives and our livelihoods. Please take the jab when you’re called and follow the rules because this is our only sure-fire way of ensuring we live safely as we attempt to get back to normality. Together, we can stay safe and keep our region’s businesses and economy open.
This is our region, our communities, our local businesses and it’s up to us to look after them. Together we can Keep the North East Open.