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Flaming good food from Shahi Masala

From Michelin-starred dining to fast food, Birmingham’s restaurants offer it all. But did you know that many of them share a common ingredient – ART?

ART borrowers include a diverse range of restaurateurs, food manufacturers and suppliers, offering everything from innovative haute cuisine through ethnic specialities to traditional family favourites.

“In spite of the recession, we have seen restaurants and the food sector continue to flourish and new businesses opening successfully over the past year,” says Steve Walker, Chief Executive of ART. “It seems that food is the last luxury people want to give up. There’s an amazing variety of styles of food and cooking represented among our borrowers, which shows just how diverse local tastes have become in recent years.”

ART borrowers in the food sector have included the award-winning Purnell’s run by celebrity chef Glynn Purnell, which has just been named AA Restaurant of the Year for England; fresh fish supplier to fish and chip shops, CY (We Supply) Ltd; and authentic Indian snack manufacturer Sai Products. Restaurants supported reflect the diversity of Birmingham and its growing culinary reputation and include French, Italian, Chinese, Indian and Somalian,

ART has recently reported a record year for lending, with 50% of its loans still going to start up businesses. One of these is Shahi Masala – a family-focused, buffet-style, Halal restaurant, which set up in April 2009 and has quickly established itself as a new focal point for the community.

Owner Mr Malek explains: “My wife and I love dining out and used to travel all over the UK looking for good food. Our idea was to cater for the different tastes of family members or groups of friends, so that they could easily enjoy eating out together. We decided to offer a choice of Indian, Chinese and Italian dishes – and it seems to have hit the mark. We are serving well over 100 people a day and are attracting local diners, as well as people from outside the area, regardless of their cultural backgrounds.

The Maleks wanted to find premises that stood out, so when they saw that a corner pub in Ward End had closed, they approached the landlord about buying it. A substantial investment was needed to both buy and refit the premises, but Mr and Mrs Malek did find a bank that was willing to put up most of the money needed. ART came in as a partner in the financial package contributing the final amount.

“ART’s loan enabled us to complete the refurbishment,” says Mr Malek. “After that we set about selecting the specialist chefs we needed and we were ready to open. We offer healthy, freshly cooked, food at an affordable price and are very pleased to be so busy throughout the week as well as at weekends. It’s hard work, but so gratifying to see it pay off. The business has exceeded all expectations.”

Steve Walker comments: “This is not the only business that we have seen at ART which has succeeded in getting up and running during the current recession. The key is knowing your market and being realistic in your planning and financial forecasting. Although the banks are being more cautious in their lending, the good news is that there is still money around for both start ups and existing businesses with good ideas.”

February 9, 2010 1:11 pm

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