The coronavirus diaries: DASH

Due to open the last week of March, DASH, a vegetarian healthy fast-food restaurant, was ready to make its debut. We had our new shop windows with branded decals, our ordering counter, coffee machine and kitchen downstairs all set up — we were in the most incredible prime position just seconds from Leicester Square.

The excitement and anticipation had built since we finished the work and with everything set to go, the opening was the only next step. Until the first wave of lockdown hit, everything was seemingly perfect. We were going from train station pop-up to business centre shop to now opening in one of the most visited places in the word only to be shut down before our doors could swing open. 

Money, sweat, probably a little bit of blood and a few tears all down the drain, we needed to make changes fast. We looked at ways we could continue to serve customers but being a walk in shop, limiting guests coming in, making sure everyone was socially distanced and having enough staff to maintain the rules was going to be difficult. We decided to stay closed until May, but opted to make some drastic refurbishments to the front of the shop in order to make sure our customers’ safety came first. It was a big expense considering we had just re-done the whole place and were paying rent on top of it, but knew it was the right thing to be done.

We ripped out the newly fitted large windows and turned them into counter space with sliding windows that allow for our customers to order, browse some food items, and pick up their purchases, all from outside the shop. The work took longer than expected, as usual with building work but with no real bumps along the way, we now could open our windows, sell our food and drink and try our best to thrive during such a difficult time for hospitality.  Customers don’t even need to set foot inside and can easily social distance without stress. Of course, we were still slightly hesitant, but this change took a little bit of the stress away from us, too. 

Slowly but surely it looked like we were going to be able to make it work. Now the issue at hand was staffing (none of our staff had started prior to covid-19 as we never opened on our proper date) and getting traffic up. With nobody travelling in or out of central London besides key workers, the goings were tough. Maybe a few people each day would come by, and with only one staff member there at a time, orders would be slower. We needed to figure out how we could bring back the team, but budget had been spend on the refurbishments so we were only able to bring back a few 

Slow traffic and low earnings came through May but once June came and we could take another step further, inviting some staff back, kicking into a higher gear and seeing more people in central London, it feels more promising. We have set-up on delivery apps, and although they do take a steep cut, some don’t like Slerp, so we are hoping this will widen our audience. We have also partnered up with some local publications who share about vegetarian businesses and up-and-coming spots for food and drink.

All of this is new for us, but we are hoping that all the effort we are putting in to continue to push the business forward will start to show through increased interest and traffic — and hopefully building a base and community around the brand. The next two weeks will be a game-changer for us as more businesses open up and people feel more comfortable venturing deeper into the heart of London. 

Submitted by DASH

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