Eroshan Meewella, who opened Kolamba with his wife Aushi in October last year, says the best Christmas present he could hope for is some stability for his business and the restaurant industry as a whole.
Speaking in the latest The Restaurant Podcast, Meewella says the early momentum built up by the initial launch of their Sri Lankan restaurant has inevitably been interrupted by the pandemic, forcing them to make changes to their business model.
Having initially operated a hot-food delivery service during the first lockdown, Kolamba has now launched a range of makeaway meal kits that are available for delivery nationwide.
“The meal kits reflect what we’ve had to do as a business over the year," he says.
"What we’ve had to do throughout this first year is constantly pivot and that’s been one of the challenges, looking at what the market wants and needs right now and adapting to that.”
The creation of the Kolamba At Home concept took around two months, with the restaurant announcing the launch of the kits just a week before the Government imposed a second nationwide lockdown across England.
Meewella says he’s happy with the initial sales, with the majority of kits being ordered by households based in either regional areas or the home counties.
“The food-at-home model is something that people are interested in, and it allows London-based restaurants like Kolamba the ability to push our brand throughout the country.
“We forget sometimes that the UK has a wide, food-interested market and now we’re able to reach those customers.”
“Judging by the initial response, it is something that people want. We are certainly planning on it being an integral part of our business model [in the future].”
At present there are two Kolamba At Home feasting kits available to choose from. One features a Ceylon chicken curry with basmati rice, dhal, beetroot curry, green bean curry, sambal, and date and lime chutney; the second is similar but swaps out the Ceylon chicken for a vegan jackfruit curry.
While more kit ideas are currently in development, Meeweela is keen to ensure the offering doesn’t simply replicate the Kolamba menu for the makeaway market.
“We don’t want to just recreate the entire restaurant menu,” he says. “Once lockdown lifts we want people to return to the restaurant and enjoy our food in Soho.”
In terms of looking to the year ahead, Eroshan and Aushi’s main hope is that there will be more consistency and operational freedom to help develop the business further.
“What we want for next year is just stability. One of the biggest frustrations has been the constant chopping and changing of Government measures, as it doesn’t allow us to plan for anything.
“And it means we’re also not able to staff up properly, which puts massive pressure our employees too.
“With stability we can hopefully drive the business forward; at the moment it’s all in limbo.”