Opening in style: Chamas and Mirage

- The Head Chef of two of Beverley's most popular venues describes how they're fighting back against COVID closure

John and Mirage/Chamas Owner Ali

The past fortnight has been an extra-special time for us all at Elliott’s, because we’ve seen two fantastic Beverley eateries get fully functional again: restaurant Chamas and the Tiger Inn pub.

We’ve written extensively about some of the steps all organisations can take to get back in business, and have also taken a particular look at the HORECA (hotel, food, retail and leisure) sector in another recent blog. We’re now delighted to be able to share some direct experience from two of our highly valued clients, in the hope it inspires others like them.

Here, in the first of a series of blogs exploring best practice case stories, we talk to John Naylor from Chamas and Mirage about their experience, and in our second blog we focus on the Tiger Inn’s landlord Allen Slinger.

Back in business

On opening in 2017, Chamas proved an instant hit with its Brazilian rodizio-style dining experience of a continual, unlimited service of skewers of meat alongside a self-service gourmet salad bar, for a fixed price. Customers of all ages flocked to enjoy the convivial atmosphere and delicious prime cuts of beef, pork, lamb and chicken.

The pandemic dealt the restaurant a blow, in common with all HORECA businesses, but there was a particular sense of achievement for the Chamas team in getting up and running again. John is Head Chef for both the Chamas Brazilian restaurant and its sister business, the Mirage cocktail bar and bistro, both in Beverley’s Wednesday Market. Mirage managed to re-open its doors as soon as the Government gave the green light, on July 4, but with Chamas there were some additional hurdles to clear.

“The two venues are quite different. Mirage is fairly straightforward and some minor adjustments – like switching to table-only service model – were all we needed to get ready to re-open its doors,” said John.

“Chamas took a bit more careful thought, because it’s all about the theatre and atmosphere surrounding the food. The open, self-service buffet was one of the things our customers like best, something we’re known for, and the service is all about different cuts of meat being presented to diners, table-by-table.

“Our challenge was to ensure we didn’t lose any of that ‘wow factor’ and ambiance that our customers value so highly, while also keeping them safe.”

So, how did they go about that?

John explained: “Well, the main issue was around our huge salad bar. To get around that while still offering customers something great, we’ve switched to sharing antipasti plates, served table by table. Our passadors are continuing to serve hot choices to the table and we’re still offering salad but via a silver service approach, which has actually enhanced the service, I think, and the interaction between our waiting team and customers.

“Janette from Elliott’s was instrumental in helping us come up with the salad bar solution. Initially, I wanted to look at a kind of carousel and she looked into the viability of that and ultimately advised us against it as we couldn’t meet the necessary catering and COVID hygiene standards with it – but then when owner Ali Tekce came up with the idea for a silver service waiter option as a sensible alternative, Janette and her team were able to research and source the attractive containers we needed to make that happen. She put an incredible amount of work into finding the right solution for us and, as always, nothing is too much trouble and the Elliott’s team will stop at nothing to achieve the right outcomes.

“It worked really well for me to be able to ‘blue sky it’ in terms of what would work from a food and customer experience perspective, and then to have Janette acting as a kind of critical friend, sense checking and challenging my thinking.”

Good hygiene, front and centre

 Less exciting, but vitally important in present circumstances, of course, are the additional hygiene measures that sit behind the re-opening. And there, too, with a little help from our Elliott’s team, Chamas and Mirage are leading the way.

John added: “We’ve worked with Elliott’s for a number of years now and they always bring lots of different ideas to the table, to help us operate at the top of our game. Given the COVID-19 pandemic we’re now facing, their support and advice has been not just helpful but absolutely essential.

“First of all, they encouraged us to do a COVID-secure risk assessment and identify what issues we felt we had to overcome. Then, as I’ve become accustomed to doing, I bounced these off Janette with her knowledge and experience in the hygiene field, and together we formed a system we felt would work.

“She suggested a number of new things, in terms of equipment and processes, that would give us that important extra protection. One of those things was to introduce individually sanitised cutlery envelopes to eradicate any risk of cross-contamination.

“She also recommended a higher grade of hand sanitiser, that is guaranteed to wipe out any COVID germs. We’ve moved our tables around a bit to ensure maximum social distancing, and our waiting staff are also wearing visors as an added layer of reassurance.”

John and his team have always taken good hygiene very seriously, and have had rigorous processes in place from the outset, but he says our input has helped them re-open with an additional air of confidence and positivity.

“We were a little nervous when it came to actual opening day because we didn’t really know how customers would react, so there were lots of emotions going on,” he said.

“However, with the help of Elliott’s, we’ve just focused on ensuring that our customers feel safe, because we could offer the best product in the world but unless each customer feels safe entering our building, we’ll lose them.

“It was a bit of a minefield when it was first announced that we could look at re-opening, and we weren’t clear what we had to do and didn’t have to do, but Elliott’s helped us navigate our way through that and select a number of options that suited our business. As a result, we’ve been able to re-open with absolute confidence and our customers have welcomed the efforts they can see we’re making to protect them, which is great.

“As well as the practical steps, Elliott’s helped us do some additional training with our team to make sure they know exactly what they need to be doing and feel confident and positive. As a result, we feel we’ll be OK. Our team are very, very happy to be back and footfall has already been higher than we expected.

“The support Janette and her team give us is genuinely unparalleled. She operates just like a member of our management team and we can rely on her delivering the goods 100 per cent.”

“Although there is still some uncertainty out there, we now feel we’re in the best possible position to make this work.”

Janette Elliott, our Finance and Marketing Director, said: “I’ve always been very impressed with John’s approach to hygiene management and this strength has really come to the fore under the current COVID-secure guidelines. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to draw on our wide range of resources to support him with a successful re-opening strategy, and am thankful to my team for yet again going the extra mile to assist another client in getting back to business.”

If this blog has got you thinking and you could do with some no-obligation, expert advice on what’s going to work best for you and your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing or calling us on 01482 327580.



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