Arjun Varma, CEO at Chakra
We’re pleased to hear from Arjun Varma, CEO of Chakra, and long-time Kingston resident about his restaurant’s experience over the past few months.
“As someone who has lived in Kingston for so many years, this is an area which I’ve always adored. It has lovely suburban streets, one of the most wonderful shopping areas and best choices of shops in London, it has scenic views along the River Thames and a thoroughly vibrant dining scene.
It was for these reasons and more that I launched Chakra Riverside in Kingston, during the summer of 2018. It was an immediate hit because it was the kind of neighbourhood Indian restaurant that practically offered high end, quality food you’d find in London West End restaurants. It was an instant hit right down to the fact that we’re located right by the riverside and have al fresco dining facilities.
All of this came tumbling down as we went into the lockdown due to COVID and we were very much in uncharted terrain. We didn’t know when we would reopen, how our business would recover from the closure, but of course, we weren’t the only ones as the whole of the hospitality sector suffered.
The good thing is that we persevered. We delivered to our customers, we supplied scores of meals to staff at Kingston Hospital and it helped that the government started the furlough scheme and offered various grants to help businesses get back on their feet. All of that has been tremendously supportive of our trade and for us to keep going.
Since we have reopened after the lockdown, whilst the initial response was a little reserved from the public which is understandable, business is now better than ever. I think people missed not being able to dine out for a few months due to the lockdown and then felt that they wanted to go out and enjoy themselves. Even the government’s August scheme of “Eat Out to Help Out” was very successful for us. So much so that once it was over, we decided to continue it throughout September and it has really given our takings a real boost.
In addition, we have diversified in our offering. We have for example a gelato stand outside. We also have a lovely cake counter where people can come and buy delicious cakes and cupcakes – and on our newly launched a la carte menu, we have also launched a selection of Indo-Chinese dishes which have proven to be instantly popular with our clientele.
I think the lockdown and its aftermath was a bit of a learning curve. It may have shut us down for a few, nail biting months, but it encouraged us to take stock and look at the business in a different way. In the end, we’re all the better for it.”
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