Todiwala: Stop victimising the hospitality sector Cyrus Todiwala owns Cafe Spice Namaste at the edge of Royal Albert Wharf, Docklands.
Restaurant business badly impacted, says celebrity chef
TV CHEF and restaurant owner Cyrus Todiwala has said the government needs to stop “victimising the hospitality industry” for the spread of Covid-19.
Todiwala, who owns Cafe Spice Namaste at the edge of Royal Albert Wharf, Docklands, told Eastern Eye on Tuesday (14) his restaurant has seen several cancellations in the last week amidst the rise in Omicron cases.
Last week, prime minister Boris Johnson announced new measures as Omicron variant infections rose and said after face masks were compulsory in indoor public spaces, and new testing and self-isolation rules for contact
Todiwala said: “They [government] should not victimise the hospitality industry. The first thing everybody does is blame the restaurant industry or the hospitality industry for the spread of the virus. It is very naughty.
It’s not right. “We are extremely careful, all restaurants. We depend on people for our business. So why would we jeopardise anybody’s life?”
The hospitality industry – which includes restaurants, hotels and bars – has suffered heavily throughout the pandemic with many forced to shut down. Todiwala said, “We’ve been through the hard times now. We’ve suffered a lot since the last year and a half and so we just take it on the chin, and we’ll keep plotting on and hopefully we look forward to a better 2022.”
He said recent cancellations have not only impacted the business, but also himself and his team. “It impacts on everybody, because this thing brings everybody down. They [his colleagues] feel low and the buzz is gone again.”
Asked what plans he had in place if the new Covid crisis carried on beyond 2022, Todiwala said he would have to rethink the process. “We’ll have to look at diversifying the business because all along we never had to look at the takeaway business before. We never had to look at sending food to people’s homes before. And now we are; we are looking at all those options because we have to be able to at least survive and just break through. We have to pay salaries, rent, lots of things.”
It has just been over a week since Café Spice Namaste opened in a new area in the city (Docklands). Since 1995 – when it originally opened – it was situated in Prescot Street, Whitechapel, east London.
“I think this is a better area than the previous one for takeaway sales,” Todiwala said. “So, we will be doing that as best as we can.”
Asked what help he would like from the government, Todiwala said: “If the government goes in for another lockdown, then yes, there is going to be problems, we will need help.
“We have not even restarted earning any revenue and we’ve already been slapped for our rates, so it becomes very difficult.”
He added: “How do you produce the money to pay the council because within days you get a court notice. I think if the government looks into that a little bit more closely and allows us a little freedom, it will give us a chance to recover.”
Todiwala said he and his team have practised Covid safety measures, keeping up with the simple things such as wearing a mask, sanitising the tables and chairs after every sitting and keeping the tables socially distant.
The chef, originally from Mumbai, trained at the Taj Hotels and Palaces chain in India, and became the executive chef for 11 of the restaurants.
He arrived in the UK with his family in 1991. Todiwala has cooked for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and he was awarded an MBE in 2000, and an OBE in 2009 for his contributions to the restaurant industry.