The restaurant isn’t open yet, but the Happy Singh Eats kitchen crew is already making meals for staff at Surrey Memorial and other local hospitals.
The South Asian “fast casual dining” eatery, part of the Tandoori Flame chain, is slated to open this summer with seating for 232 on the Delta side of Scott Road, just north of Nordel Way.
Modelled on popular roadside cafés in India, the restaurant will offer dine-in and take-out options with live cooking at food stations where guests can watch street-style prepared in front of them.
“It’s going to be an Indian McDonald’s in terms of the price points,” explained Shraey Gulati, managing director of Ontario-based Tandoori Flame Restaurants. The family-run company’s Delta location opened in 2018 across the parking lot from where Happy Singh Eats will open.
The new restaurant was due open by Mother’s Day, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced construction to stop, pushing the opening date “by two months, maybe three, so it will be late summer now,” Gulati said.
Along with other local restaurants, Tandoori Flame was closed to dine-in customers but continued to offer take-out service for a time, Gulati said.
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We may not be open to serve the public just yet, but we’re so fortunate to have this opportunity to support our community’s amazing healthcare workers. This week, Happy Singh teamed up with Tandoori Flame (@tandooriflame) to use their kitchen, where we have been prepping meals for medical staff at Delta Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital. We are providing up to 100 individually wrapped meals a day for those working on the frontlines and keeping us all safe. It is our small gesture of appreciation for all that they do. You can help thank our healthcare professionals by practicing social distancing, good handwashing, and only leaving your home for essential items. Let’s all do our part to stay healthy and safe! – #summer2020 #happysingheats #balleballeeats #happinessinside #indianeats #dailyhive #surrey604 #indianfood #yvr #foodie #yvrfoodie #indian #surrey
“Within a week we shut that down too,” Gulati said, “because we didn’t have enough sales, but in the meantime we got approached by staff members. Somebody read an article somewhere about hospital workers working long days, 16-hour days, and they were getting only one meal a day. That’s when we decided to approach one of the hospitals and see if we could be any kind of assistance.”
Combined as one crew, cooks for both Tandoori Flame and Happy Singh Eats began making individually wrapped meals for staff at Delta Hospital, then added SMH, Vancouver General and other hospitals to a growing list.
“To date, all the employees were volunteering hours, and then we are starting to pay them, and since they’re there, why don’t we also open the take-out again, so that will return tomorrow most likely, for Tandoori Flame,” Gulati said Wednesday (April 1).
“On average, we’re doing 200 meals a day (for hospital staff), and I think tomorrow we should have around 300 going out, so that’s up to 1,500 meals so far,” Gulati said. “And we’re talking about possibly doing other things, to provide meals for other organizations in need. And now our restaurant in Brampton (Ontario) is going to do the same.”
The Happy Singh Eats menu will include kathi rolls, a chaat station, a Jr. Happy Singh box meal for kids, thali style meals, traditional curries, paranthas, samosa and dosa stations, pizzas, sandwiches and more.
“We bought the (Desi Junction) restaurant,” Gulati said, “and the idea was to go in and do a paint job, or small job, and turn it around and open a new restaurant. But as we went in and saw that nobody had spent money on it in 10 years, we said let’s launch this new concept and hope it expands. So we completely gutted it down, and a $300,000 job has become a $2-million project now.”
Meantime, on Thursday (April 2) Restaurants Canada said it estimates that 800,000 foodservice jobs have already been lost nationwide due to COVID-19 — about 121,500 just in B.C. alone — and they might not return if current conditions continue.
With restaurants now struggling to pay rent and other bills due in April, the association conducted a survey to shed light on the state of the industry. Responses from foodservice operators across the country revealed the following:
• Four out of five restaurants have laid off employees since March 1.
• Seven out of 10 foodservice operators will further cut back on staff hours or lay off more employees if conditions do not improve.
• Nearly one out of 10 restaurants have already closed permanently and another 18 per cent will permanently close within a month if current conditions continue.
“Not only was our industry among the first to feel the impacts of COVID-19, we’ve been one of the hardest hit so far, with nearly two-thirds of our workforce now lost,” said Shanna Munro, Restaurants Canada President and CEO. “In our 75 years of existence as Canada’s national foodservice association, these are by far the worst numbers we have ever seen.”