Pandemic still hurts some restaurants, others thrive – The Minnesota Daily

Two years later, the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused some businesses around campus to expand, while others are making sacrifices.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many University of Minnesota area restaurateurs to make changes to their business over the past two years. While some businesses are returning to pre-pandemic levels, others are still struggling to stay afloat.

Over the past two years, some restaurant owners near campus have seized opportunities to grow their businesses. At the same time, COVID-19 continued to negatively impact other businesses, forcing them to make changes to keep their restaurants open.

Afro Deli come home

Abdirahman Kahin grew up in Cedar-Riverside, the neighborhood where he helped open the first Afro Deli in 2010.

The African fusion restaurant closed its Cedar-Riverside location in 2016 after a contract dispute with the African Development Center. Despite the closure, Afro Deli has expanded to three locations in Downtown West, Stadium Village and St. Paul. After buying out his business partner in 2021, Kahin said it’s time for the company to return to Cedar-Riverside.

“It’s so special because that’s where Afro Deli was born,” Kahin said. “I know the neighbours, I know the streets… I feel like I belong here. It’s an honor for me to come back. »

The newest Afro Deli location opened on June 8 and moved into a space that was previously occupied by Campus Cafe. Kahin said he was able to purchase the space after the cafe closed in 2020 due to difficulties with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Afro Deli began a partnership with Minnesota Central Kitchen in early 2021 to feed those in need across the metro. Kahin said he believes his business can provide about 2,400 meals a week in the Cedar-Riverside community.

Afro Deli uses a rented commercial kitchen in St. Paul to distribute free meals to anyone in need in Minneapolis, Kahin said. Afro Deli’s kitchen has fed thousands of people in need in the Uptown and St. Anthony neighborhoods and will now expand to Cedar-Riverside.

“We tell everyone they are welcome here,” Kahin said. “If you have any thoughts or concerns about the community, you can talk to me…and I’ll be ready to help you in any way I can.”

Kahin said he hopes the new Afro Deli restaurant will help bring the neighborhood together.

The Cove keeps fighting

After getting married in Hawaii, Lee and Lana Sayt decided to open their own poke restaurant in 2017. Since then, the co-owners of The Cove in Dinkytown have been forced to make substantial changes to keep their doors open.

The two discovered poke during their travels in Hawaii and decided to make the popular Hawaiian dish a big part of their new restaurant. At The Cove, the dish is customizable, and customers can choose the types of protein, rice, and other ingredients in their bowls.

Lee Sayt, who is an alumnus of the university, said The Cove became almost instantly popular due to being one of the neighborhood’s first poke restaurants. However, as more local restaurants began serving poke bowls, The Cove lost foot traffic, forcing the restaurant to focus primarily on dining in its third year.

COVID-19 has forced The Cove to make even more changes, Sayt said. The loss of sales combined with staff shortages have contributed to the restaurant severely limiting its opening hours and menu.

Since the pandemic began, The Cove has been closed on weekends and off-peak lunch and dinner hours due to the cost of opening, Sayt said. Additionally, the restaurant removed some items from its menu due to inflated prices.

“We had to be innovative, more profitable right now,” Sayt said. “That was our main goal. Unfortunately, we did not have the means to look for new products. Right now we’re just trying to stay afloat.

The Cove uses sustainably sourced fish in its food, a factor that has kept product and menu prices high for the restaurant. Although business has picked up in recent months, Sayt said it has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels when the restaurant was booming.

Sayt said he considers his family’s restaurant “lucky” because of its ability to stay open, but hopes “some normality” will return to The Cove and other businesses in the near future.

Tamu Grill & Catering rebrands and reopens

Cedar-Riverside’s Viking Bar was under construction to become Kilimanjaro Grill & Catering in 2020. When the pandemic hit, the Kenyan restaurant’s opening was delayed for over a year.

Kilimanjaro opened in November 2021, but was limited to dinner hours on Saturdays. Over the next few months, owner and head chef George Ndege slowly opened the restaurant, relying mainly on catering orders for businesses.

“It was gradual. We added hours, then we reduced our hours,” Ndege said. “Now when we open, it’s just my family working here. It’s a family business.”

Kilimanjaro will open July 9 and serve dinner hours seven days a week, Ndege said. However, the name of the restaurant will be changed to Tamu Grill & Catering to avoid confusion between Ndege Restaurant and Kilimanjaro Cafe in Cedar-Riverside.

Ndege hosts a local radio show called “African Rhythms” and said he hopes to use the restaurant to help attract and promote local musicians to the community.

The restaurant will eventually host live performances by local artists and Ndege will also promote performances using its radio programme. The aim is to revive a space that has become empty in recent years, Ndege said.

“The building was just an eyesore for this community because it had been vacant for a long time,” Ndege said. “It’s just my pleasure to bring it back to life.”

Source link

About Raul T. Casey

Check Also

FYI Philly discovers new restaurants Nonna & Pop’s, Grandma’s and La Chingonita

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Alicia Vitarelli and Ducis Rodgers host a new FYI Philly, August 6 …