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New Thai Kitchen Café signed for before lockdown gets ready for first customers

Eric and Amporn Whitehead at their new café on Stricklandgate (photo © Ian Wood)

Popular local street food business Thai Kitchen in Lakeland will be opening their first permanent daytime location at Yard 2, Strricklandgate on 12th August.

The lease for the new venture was signed for just a few days before Lockdown began in March. During Lockdown the Thai Kitchen business lost 90% of their income as all their outdoor events and dinner parties were cancelled and Government restrictions meant the husband and wife team Eric and Amporn Whitehead were unable to open their new café.

Like many food businesses the couple diversified into takeaways, and in doing so created Kendal’s first drive-thru takeaway, setting up a ‘zero contact’ collection service to create a safe and secure environment for their customers.

A dish of prawn and asparagus stir fry from Thai Kitchen in Lakeland’s takeaway menu (photo © Ian Wood)

The takeaway was run from their site on Dockray in Kendal, people would phone in advance to order, pay online and were given a collection timeslot. These proved phenomenally popular with chef Amporn Whitehead and the family making over 170 freshly prepared and cooked dishes most nights. The takeaway will continue; open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings once the new café opens its doors.

Co-business owner Eric Whitehead explained the business impact Coronavirus has had and discussed the plans for the new cafe;

“It was heartbreaking for us and so many like us in the early days as we watched event after event pulled due to Covid restrictions. Our model was reliant on our street food offering at festivals and other venues, and it was this income that we intended to support us during the opening of our new café.

“Thankfully we were well placed to diversify into takeaways due to our preparation kitchen on our Dockray site and create our secure ‘drive-thru’ system. Our customer’s safety is a primary concern for us and we are extremely grateful to our loyal and new customers who immediately responded when we offered the service.

“During the Lockdown we offered a 10% discount and free meals to NHS staff and one customer told us a few weeks ago, ‘Thank you for all you have done, this is the only takeaway where I have felt safe during the past months.”

Thai Kitchen in Lakeland Thai noodles khao soi (photo © Ian Wood)

The takeaway was far more successful than we could have ever hoped, and the whole family were needed to keep up with demand, even our sixteen-year-old daughter is rolling her sleeves up and helping out. We’ve even taken on local full-time staff to cope with the demand, something I would never have expected before COVID.

It’s funny to think back that without Covid we wouldn’t have set-up the takeaway which will now be staying long-term. Safe to say the whole thing has been a rollercoaster and we are delighted that we are now ready to open the doors of our new café, an ambition we’ve been working on for some time, and with the extra time Covid has forced on us, we’ve been able to perfect the design and the menu.

“We are bringing street food indoors, but the menu will be slightly different to our established offering, as are focusing more on the traditional, grass-roots, Thai dishes that are loved in the home – something different for Kendal. Thai tapas, such as Luk Chin Ping, Khao Soi and Yam Talay are just some of the dishes we will be sharing with customers. ‘Thai Wrap’ and ‘Box to Go’ were great favourites on our street food scene and we are bringing these to our café. Primarily, it’s all about the food, food served the Thai way, for sharing and fun. Amporn and I can’t wait to open the doors on August 12th.”

The new café will be open between 10am and 4pm from Wednesday to Saturday each week, with two evening sittings every Wednesday at 6pm and 8pm. Pre-booking is essential for the Wednesday evenings.

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