We opened Ida, our tiny, family-run restaurant in Queens Park over 13 years ago. We raised our children in the area and have long been a part of our ever changing and vibrant community. Ida was borne with the aim of serving locals with hand-rolled pasta and the kind of simple Italian food you might eat at the house of your favourite aunt.
In the years we have been open, we have been faced with a number of challenges, not least the global recession of 2008. As we clawed our way out of near-bankruptcy, we came pretty close to calling it a day, but we knew that, even then, Ida was more than just a restaurant.
Many of our customers have become close friends; they supported us during the lean years, and raised a glass with us when business began to pick up. There is not much those walls haven't witnessed: every kind of celebration from birthdays, engagements, weddings, book launches, family reunions, first dates, (last) dates, and those magical moments where friends gather and linger late into the evening for the pleasure of sitting together around a table.
When COVID-19 hit London, we were one of the first restaurants to close our doors to the public as we felt we had a duty to protect customers and staff. Pre COVID-19, our tiny dining room was always bustling with noise. Total strangers would often end up pulling their tables together and sharing a bottle of wine over candlelight. This way of dining however, does not lend itself to the new reality of social distancing. We have not been idle, however during lockdown; we spent four and a half months preparing thousands of hot meals for shielding residents, working closely with a local charity and Ida customers, using donated food from the Felix Project.
Now, the reality for us is that we are going to have to operate at less than fifty percent capacity. Without compromising the safety of our customers and staff, we want to open our doors to the Ida friends and family who have kept in touch with us with so many encouraging messages of support.
The idea of selling vouchers is to help our cashflow situation; we will use it to cover our basic running costs, restock our fridges and storerooms, pay our suppliers, and enable us to keep on our small but dedicated staff whilst doing as much as we can as a family. We are also committed to serving all members of our community by offering discounts for key workers and vulnerable residents.
To compensate for a general loss of revenue, as well as the months in which we have been closed, we will:
- Build and stock a small deli area including off licence sales
- Buy a vacuum pack machine to package meal kits
- Buy a heavy duty meat slicer for the deli
- Invest in dry and chilled storage such as fridges, freezers and shelving
- COVID-proof the restaurant by installing sanitisers and PPE
- Apply for outdoor seating licence
- If outdoor seating is granted, invest in tables, chairs, screens and planters
We have always maintained that Ida has the ability to be so much more than a place to come and eat. We have always been deeply committed as a family to ensuring that Ida grows alongside our tight-knit and established community and to do our best to support it any way we can. Reopening our doors means providing a meeting point for locals and those who come from afar, selling locally sourced products and creating an affordable and familiar local space for people to interact with.