Covid - A Year On: Struggle continues for Islington eatery

Mandy Yin

Mandy Yin - Credit: Katherine Leedale

Despite the prospect of coronavirus restrictions lifting as we head into summer, many small businesses face a huge challenge recovering from the pandemic. 

Nasi Economy Rice, at 169 Holloway Road, is a Malaysian eatery and a sister business to Sambal Shiok laksa bar next door.

Its doors closed at the start of the pandemic due to the lack of outdoor facilities and the risk to staff of using public transport. 

Owner Mandy Yin told the Islington Gazette: “I took over the lease for the cafe in January 2020 and opened my new lunchtime-focused cafe Nasi Economy Rice on March 12, 2020.

"Our offering consists of quick, cheap and cheerful rice boxes, a value and volume play.

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"My target audiences were the nearby office workers, students, the local residents and football supporters heading to the Emirates stadium.

"However, the majority of these demographics are non-existent at the moment. Footfall on Holloway Road remains very low - at best 10 per cent of what it used to be pre-Covid.”

Mandy Yin

Mandy Yin - Credit: Katherine Leedale

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Nasi Economy Rice reopened in the summer as a takeaway only, with a reduced menu and staff. Despite these efforts, sales have been not been favourable.

The daily average takings for the last few months has been between £100 and £200 - well below the budgeted sales forecast of £600-£800, which was achieved in the two days it was open before the March closure.

The Eat Out to Help Out was beneficial in August, but it was short lived.

Mandy said a £25,000 government grant has been swallowed up repaying loans used to fit out and refurbishment Nasi Economy Rice in early 2020. 

"My landlord is a Jersey-based company with around 50 commercial tenants across London. I am part of a tenant collective and there is no way that I can pay any rent for this quarter with no income at all coming in," she said. "Even when the economy starts to open up again, my sales will not go back to pre-Covid levels."

Since last March, Nasi’s landlord has temporarily accepted 50% rent paid monthly instead of quarterly. Mandy is hopeful the business will benefit from either a £6,000 grant from Islington council or a government mandated commercial rent reduction model. 

Nasi Economy Rice and Sambal Shiok are currently closed and hope to reopen in the months ahead.

They are selling products online for nationwide delivery on the online market Pezu. 

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