Like many people, we’re so glad to see the back of 2020, despite it being the big year that we rebranded from Spice Village Tooting to Royal Mahal in South West London. What was meant to be the most exciting months of our journey, soon became the most challenging period of our company. With goals in mind, fire in our heart, and a passion to succeed, we began this journey with the aim to come out the other end stronger, wiser and a better version of ourselves. 

With constant changes in lockdowns and tiers, because let’s face it, even the governments around the world were out of their depth with Covid 19, we continued to adapt our strategy and pivoted to whatever means we had to survive. One week we were promoting our dine-in offers, the other shutting shop and transitioning to home deliveries only. One week we had huge Diwali and Christmas decor planned, the next we’re cancelling all customer bookings. 

After only a month of launching, we implemented new social distancing measures to the restaurant, added sanitiser stations across the floor, and created barriers and sections for the safety of our customers. For obvious reasons, we were also highly concerned with the safety of our staff too, who have worked tirelessly and passionately over the last few months. Their health and safety was of utmost importance to us so we operated in two teams who never mixed and had temperature and health checks on a daily basis. Our brand new printed menus were removed, and we modernised quickly and effectively by introducing digital QR code menus along with daily deep cleaning of the entire restaurant. It is safe to say that 2020 has kept us on our toes and shown us the importance of being agile and resilient.

If the global pandemic has taught us anything, it is to be grateful for where you are and what you have, for others have it much worse. And we soon realised that we were the lucky ones, despite the daily hardships we faced. We were healthy, our family were safe and we had fresh warm food to eat everyday. It’s at this point we shifted our focus to look outside of Royal Mahal and extend our help to others in need where possible. 

As the famous adage goes, ‘in crisis there is opportunity’, and using this we found opportunities of how we can really help those in need with the resources accessible to us. We’re proud to say that throughout this tumultuous period, we’ve been able to work with some fantastic non-profit organisations, powerful campaigns, and local food banks to help our local community in any way we can. 

We were also fast to get behind the brilliant ‘Free School Meals’ campaign pioneered by Marcus Rashford to battle child food poverty, something we felt strongly about. We can only imagine the level of pain parents must feel being unable to provide for their children, at no fault of theirs. No child should go hungry, and no parent should be made to feel helpless because of a pandemic no one foresaw. We quickly pivoted to setting up free school tiffins/meals for parents to come and collect from the restaurant during the October half-term. The messages of gratitude and smiles we received were simply priceless.

Prior to that, we worked closely with CritcialNHS who have been doing a fine job in helping our national heroes by providing meals to the NHS staff throughout this period, who have and still are working day and night to save lives. Here, we went a step further and also distributed meals to all emergency services such as the police and firemen, who have kept our country and communities safe regardless of the risks they faced too. We are forever indebted to these fine people for their selfless service to our nation!

When Christmas was banned in London, the time of families coming together and the day of sharing love and appreciation for our near and dear, all we could think about were the old and the vulnerable that were sheltering at home all alone and the homeless who had no roof over their head. Once again, we were reminded of how fortunate we were to live with our family in the same house, all healthy and safe. This drove us to our Christmas campaign, ‘Your Place, Not Ours’ where we offered free takeaway meals for all those who were vulnerable, elderly and homeless, and as a result we provided over 150 free meals. By offering a small gift of food, we felt as if we were sharing our food with our family. It is safe to say that we couldn’t have asked for a better end to the year 2020 than to see the happiness on their faces. 

How can we forget the fantastic job Tooting Community Kitchen and Al-Khaleel Institute have done to date of feeding the homeless and needy. We are sad to say this but happy to share that we have been able to provide over 5000 free meals in the second half of 2020, and found a small way to contribute to the good work of these organisations. 

We share this to encourage others to look selflessly outside of their circumstances. No matter how bleak 2020 has been, we find solace in knowing that we were able to dial down our worries, for they were not greater than those around us. In helping others, we found happiness and a sense of peace and satisfaction. The year of 2020 will never be forgotten, not because it was the launch of our own brand, but because it taught us to continuously be grateful and humble, and to remember that we’re all in this together.  

Here’s to hoping 2021 will be a better year, because let’s face it – it has to be. Until then, we shall hope that we can soon enough welcome you all back into our restaurant and serve you your favourite Indian & Pakistani food.