Delroy runs Rhythm Kitchen in Walthamstow.
Tell us a bit about the business – how did it get started and how has it grown?
Rhythm Kitchen was established in 2010. It came about because we used to do these big family barbecues and we thought it would be a great idea to open a restaurant.
Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford was being built around then. We sent a proposal to them and ended up opening our casual dining restaurant located in the World Food Court when the centre opened in September 2011. We were the only independent business in the shopping centre. Things went really well and we soon wanted to expand. So we opened at another shopping centre – Lakeside – in 2014 and tried that for a while, but it wasn’t really working.
We knew that to grow the business we really had to be on the high street. We heard about Jerk Hut on Hoe Street in Walthamstow going up for sale and we knew it had traded well there. So we went into talks and eventually opened Rhythm Kitchen on Hoe Street in May 2018.
The premises was in a really accessible part of Walthamstow and we knew that the restaurant had the potential to trade really well in what was becoming a more and more diverse community. The demographics were changing and with it the demand for a restaurant where you could sit down to eat. They were in short supply at that time. Also, I’ve always lived in Waltham Forest.
So you have a personal connection with the place?
As I say, I’ve always lived in Waltham Forest and went to a school here in the 80s. From an early age I wanted to be a chef. I spent two years at the college doing my training and worked in the industry for a few years after that. But I got disillusioned with catering after a while and then worked in the TV industry for about 15 years. I became a director of an independent production company. But I never lost my love for cooking so that’s how the Rhythm Kitchen came about.
How would you describe Waltham Forest?
It’s an up-and-coming borough. It previously wasn’t seen as a place to go and live but it’s definitely on the up. The transport links are better, there’s also the cost of housing, which is better than other places in London.
Are there advantages to businesses being here?
The local community is helpful. It’s a community-driven restaurant which means we can get more involved with our customers. If you pitch a restaurant in the right location, it will be a success, even if it takes time to develop. We might be busier if we were a bit closer to the station but we’re in a pretty good spot.
What makes Rhythm Kitchen unique?
We have over 100 rums, so we must be the place with the largest rum collection in Waltham Forest. So if you like rum, we’re a family run business, with what must be the largest rum collection in the borough! My family and I also make our own jerk, curry and bbq marinades by hand.
How many people do you employ?
Across the two sites – Hoe Street and at Westfield, we have about 40 staff, some part time. We have 10 working in Walthamstow, most are locals – the furthest away someone lives is Islington.
Why is it important to hire locally?
It keeps money in the community. It’s easier for our employees and makes the business what it is really.
How do you support the local community?
I’m going to be working with the youth offending services in the coming months, to run a talk at the restaurant about my business journey for young people. I want to talk to them about the opportunities that may be available to them that they don’t necessarily know about or have had before.
What have been the challenges of the Covid-19 lockdown?
The major challenge has been cash flow and paying the overheads. We had to close for six weeks but opened up for delivery through Uber in mid-May.
What are the future challenges and how will you overcome them?
We need to give people the confidence that it’s ok to come out to eat, so we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure social distancing measures are in place. We’ll consolidate what we’ve been doing and hopefully we’ll see people continue to come.
Why should people shop and eat locally?
Local business are important for diversity. They tend to employ local people from the area and they’re inspirational for the community because they give people the sense that someone local can start something up and be successful.
You don’t just want household name businesses on the high street, you need that variety. Small and big businesses need to work together to create the right mix. That will help inspire people to live in the area.
Where do you like to visit locally?
I love to be in Lloyd Park and take walks around the Hollows near Whipps Cross. Shopping at Walthamstow Market is one of my favourite past-times. It’s a traditional old-school market that you don’t find in too many places in London anymore. Markets have to change with the times, but it’s great that not all places are big shopping centres and can offers something a bit different.