The chef-patron at Birmingham-based Michelin-starred restaurant Opheem is creating a new facility for his successful Aktar at Home meal kit delivery service after announcing that it will continue alongside the regular restaurant service for as long as people want to eat the restaurant’s curries.
In a post on Twitter the chef wrote: "Go big or go home" that's always been my mantra! Works on the new @aktarathome kitchen is coming along nicely! This new facility will create 20 new jobs for fellow Brummies and contractors.”
The company says it is adding to the Aktar at Home product lines, which currently includes a curry box and vegan curry box as well as a Suday roast and meat box, and that it is recruiting more members for the team.
Extending meal kits beyond lockdown
The move comes as other restaurant businesses have pledged to extend their meal kit offer beyond lockdown as well as move into outside catering.
Gary Usher’s restaurant group Elite Bistros is to continue with its make at home meal service Elite Bistros at Home post lockdown with the chef announcing yesterday (6 April) that the business had received heads of terms on the company’s new headquarters for the venture.
Last month steakhouse group Hawsksmoor announced that Jo Fleet, former managing director at Flat Iron and Wahaca, will head up its nationwide meal kit distribution and London restaurant delivery operations as it looks to grow that side of the business.
Chef and restaurateur Tommy Banks, meanwhile, says he is about to relaunch the company’s website for its popular Made in Oldstead meal kit service, adding in new functionality.
“People accept low levels of functionality and service during a pandemic, but we need to be more slick,” he says. We are doing a big relaunch for with new products. We’re being pretty bold with it and I’m optimistic.”
The company currently employs 35 people to run its Made in Oldstead business and Banks believes it will continue to grow post lockdown. “Demand isn’t seeming to dwindle yet. When restaurants do reopen that when our big challenge comes but I do think it’s now part of a food culture and people will continue to buy food boxes now.”
He also says that the meal kit side of the business has created new opportunities for his team members and helped created roles in hospitality that offer a better work/life balance.
“Because the boxes go out on a weekend the actual job is more Monday to Friday, there is no weekend work, which is the complete opposite of hospitality. This has allowed us to keep hold of members of staff who might have left the industry or people with children who want better work like balance and more sustainable jobs.
“It’s a really good chef’s job. You don’t have the glory of the restaurant, but it suits a lot of people.”
Banks says that the growth of the meal kit sector will help the hospitality industry attract and retain more staff by offering new operations roles as well as a flexibility that historically hasn’t been available.
“It’s always been a big worry of mine how you create hospitality role for people in their 30s and 40s and once they start settling down and having kids. Other businesses such as Hawksmoor and Elite Bistros that are keeping boxes going will also be creating similar jobs and it will have a big appeal to people who will be able to reuse skill set with a more appropriate work/life balance. We will be able to employ some really high calibre people to do this, which is what will make it successful.”