By Tara O’Connor, local democracy reporter
With the restaurant doors closed for at least a few more months, a Croydon businessman came up with a way for diners to enjoy the full dining experience without leaving their cars.
39-year-old Suleman Raza opened Spice Village at the Grand Sapphire Hotel in May last year, which was badly hit by the pandemic. He has branches of the Pakistani restaurant in Southall and Southend.
Over the weekend, the Imperial Way venue launched a dining cart service that uses a specially designed tray that fits into the front of the car.
“We designed a bespoke tray. When you walk in, we’ll take your order and bring your food to your car,” said Suleman, who has been in charge of the wedding business for five years.
“The response from customers was amazing. We received non-stop calls from people trying to make reservations.
“Before we were normal takeaway and have been working on this idea for a few months.
“A lot of customers missed the meal, so we thought about how we can make this Covid safe.”
The Croydon businessman came up with a way for diners to enjoy the full dining experience without leaving their car
Suleman said that while customers cannot dine, service will continue – the only caveat right now is that he only has six of the special trays.
The service now runs daily from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and guests can book a one-hour appointment – or the meal can be served to the car without a reservation without a tray.
The Croydon resident says it took a few tries to get the tray design right – the winning creation rests in the window on either side of the car.
“Since the car windows have to be open, we have set up background music in the parking lot,” added the businessman.
So far, the dish ordered has been the mixed grill, a platter of such kebabs, chicken and lamb tikka.
Suleman Raza with the new dinner in the car tray at Spice Village. Photo credit: Suleman Raza.
Other popular options include the restaurant’s masala fish and pani puri, a small puffed bread filled with a delicious mix of spices, potatoes, onions, and chickpeas.
Setting up Spice Village at the Grand Sapphire Hotel was a way to make money while large weddings couldn’t take place. This also means that eight employees are employed full-time, while the rest are on leave. Usually more than 100 people are employed.
Suleman says the company lost more than £ 2 million in profits in the past year and is hoping big weddings can take place again in the next few months.
The 39-year-old juggles running the business by helping his wife home-school their four children, ages eight to two.
“It was a devastating time for business, we have run out of reserves,” he said.
“We did everything to survive a few more months. We keep our fingers crossed, weddings can take place this summer. “
The venue is already fully booked almost every weekend from June to August.
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