united we stand

Podcast: Zoe Adjonyoh on turning her catering company into a community kitchen

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Catering, Coronavirus, UnitedWeStand

Chef and author Zoe Adjonyoh believes more support is needed for small enterprises such as her own that are looking to pivot and refocus their business as a result of the Coronavirus crisis.

Speaking on BigHospitality​’s latest UnitedWeStand podcast, Adjonyoh, who owns Hackney-based catering company and supper club Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen in London, said she had seen all of her bookings for the next six to nine months cancelled in almost an instant.

“It was horrific,” she says. “Even before the lockdown was ordered we were seeing bookings for weddings and corporate events cancelled. The next six months is where the bulk of our income from the year comes from, and suddenly all of my different income streams vanished. It was terrifying, and a lot to take in.”

The future was Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was looking bleak, and as a result of her business model, Adjonyoh found that she wasn’t entitled to much by the way of Government support. At the same time, she also realised that more help was needed to protect the vulnerable in her local community. So in a bid to address both issues, Adjonyoh launched a crowdfund campaign, raising money to pivot her business into a community kitchen used to prepare hot meals for vulnerable individuals in her local area of Hackney and Bow.

“It was about working out the minimum amount of money I needed to raise to help me pay my rent and my bills, and allow me to cook for three to four days each week. Initially I was thinking I’d be able to do around 200 meals a week, but it’s going to be closer to 500.”

Adjonyoh speaks positively about the response to the crowdfund, which managed to raise nearly £13,000. However, she says more needs to be done by the Government regarding the loan and grant schemes to support small businesses like Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, which are working to refocus their brands as a result of the Coronavirus crisis.

“The whole process of accessing information from the bank is incredibly difficult in the first place. And once you do get through, my experience has been finding out that I’m not eligible because they’re using the same criteria they had before the pandemic hit.

"They haven’t changed how they’re assessing applications, and just giving the money to the people who would have been eligible for that money beforehand. And the fact of the matter is we wouldn’t have needed to ask for a loan had this crisis not happened.”

#UnitedWeStand​ has been created by William Reed hospitality titles BigHospitality, Restaurant magazine and Morning Advertiser and is supported by Arla Pro, Britvic, Coca-Cola European Partners, McCain and Unilever Food Solutions.

To download this podcast via iTunes click here​.

Related topics: People, UnitedWeStand

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