Brixton-based Caribbean restaurant, Caribe, has impressed customers with its innovative and exciting approach to hospitality. Creating a one-of-a-kind experience with ‘restaurant kits’, tutorials, interactive social media content and more, Caribe spoke to Modern Hospitality about the ways that restaurants can excel in today’s climate.
In this article, owner, Keshia, shares her top tips for restaurants’ survival amidst lockdowns, as well as some of the creative ways that she has engaged her customers and used the Starling Bank app to grow her business.
Keshia’s inspiration for Caribe
Caribe offers stand-out cuisine that offers something different. After experiencing pop-ups and kitchen takeovers, Caribe found its home in Brixton. Keshia explained: “I always wanted to work for myself and showcase Caribbean food in the UK, in a different way that hadn’t been done before. The cuisine is so diverse and that isn’t represented in the industry, so in 2018 I set out to change this.”
Pivoting for success
The past year has seen Caribe’s business model have to change dramatically to succeed despite lockdowns and restaurant closures. This is something that Keshia has done exceptionally well, creating an engaged audience. She said: “In the first lockdown, I started doing deliveries. In the second lockdown, I began making DIY kits and in the third, I’ve started focusing on social media and my online presence. Hard work and consistency have been essential. If you can’t use your restaurant space, it forces you to pivot, which is why I’ve tried new things, as you have to keep going.”
Creating a valuable experience for customers
Keshia has been sharing cooking tutorials on YouTube, as well as doing live cooking sessions on Instagram. This has worked fantastically to engage her audience and grow the business. On the need to reach customers in their preferred ways, Keshia explained: “Times have changed and you need to have an online presence, no matter what kind of business you have. I didn’t have the time before COVID, so I’ve put time into this as a way of adapting and keeping people interested. I did one video with Jamii, as well as Notting Hill Carnival, beginning as more of a collaboration.”
Building a successful community through social media
Caribe’s social media presence is second to none and this has been a pivotal aspect of reaching customers without a physical restaurant presence during lockdowns. Keshia spoke about the support she has received as a result of putting time and effort into portraying her personality and business on social media. She said: “Because of where I’m from, there’s been great support and people are more aware that they need to support small businesses in these times. Since I started on social media, it’s been interesting to see people contact me, saying that they have seen recipes that I’ve shared, so it’s growing my reach well. You don’t just have to sell someone something… you can engage them in different ways and it’s enjoyable for everyone.”
While the hospitality industry has been unpredictable due to COVID, Keshia has found ways to overcome her biggest challenges, adding: “Finances have been a big challenge for those in the industry and managing money wisely is very important to invest into the right ideas. I’ve used tools on the Starling Bank app to help me manage money. We were only open for 6 months of the year, so things like savings goals and being able to see this visually helped me to make sure I wasn’t overspending. Starling Bank has notifications for spending that help you keep an eye on your balance, categorising what you spend money on and helping you to keep track of what is food, utilities or bills. There are also features such as overdrafts but I’ve mainly used it to have visibility of the things that I can control, despite changing circumstances.”
With food delivery becoming an essential part of restaurants’ offering to continue during lockdowns, Keshia explained her approach to this, adding: “We have been taking orders through Instagram or email and delivering them ourselves. We chose to do it instead of having a third party deliver the food, as I wanted to offer something different and create an eating experience that isn’t the same as what others do.”
Designing the perfect menu
Food selection has been a large part of Caribe’s business model, with a menu designed to celebrate the nuances in the region, as well as offering a more detailed understanding of the cuisine among the islands. Keshia said: “I do a lot of recipe research and look for those that are not necessarily known, but they are still familiar. As a creative and chef, I love to cook new things, so it’s exciting to add them onto the menu. I take inspiration from everywhere I go, for example, before the lockdowns I went to St Lucia and Barbados and I used this to inspire my menu.”
Keshia’s positive outlook was refreshing to hear, with her explaining: “If you can pivot to deliver something special, you will succeed. I have the pleasure of waking up in the morning and deciding what to do with my business. It’s fun, but there’s also the pressure of making sure it goes well. If a decision is good, it feels like a big win, but you also feel mistakes harder. I love what I do and there’s a great community feel which makes it so worth it.”
Caribe continues its mission to represent the islands as a collective, while sharing island eating culture at its best. To see the great work Keshia is doing, head over to Caribe’s website, Instagram or Twitter.