New London Food Businesses Rising From The Year of the Pandemic

When the first lockdown happened, it felt like the whole world stopped and everything seemed impossible. Fast forward to today, a whole year later, things remain tough especially across the hospitality sector. Albeit a silver lining finally coming in sight, there is still a lot of uncertainty looming over us. But it’s not all doom and gloom. “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity” – as difficult as things have been, a couple of new independent food businesses have emerged through 2020 and are standing strong today. There have been some amazing achievements that came out of this pandemic and I think it’s important to recognise the hard work that everyone has been putting in, celebrate the wins, and spread positivity out there.

This article features the stories behind some of the food ventures that launched in 2020 where they talked about the challenges they faced, what inspires them, etc. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do. Last but not least, please continue to show plenty of love and support to all the small businesses!

*Header photo credits to Ban Be


Lorenzo Kusina

Photo credits to Lorenzo Kusina

Filipino cuisine remains foreign to many, including myself despite growing up in the Far East. But it’s something I’m more than intrigued to discover more of. Whilst I haven’t personally visited Lorenzo Kusina, I have popped by their street food establishment, Bao Kusina, at the Acklam Village Market on the weekends. The queue for their stall speaks for itself. It was an easy intro into Filipino flavours, with the Calamansi drink leaving the most impression.

From being furloughed to becoming a business owner and bringing a life-long dream alive, the story of Lorenzo Kusina is such an enjoyable and inspiring read.

What is the story behind your business?

Lorenzo’s Kusina was built on the idea of showcasing Filipino food. Our journey began at the beginning of the pandemic back in March 2020 in our humble home kitchen. The pandemic was truly a blessing in disguise, because although I was put on furlough, I also had a lot of free time on my hands – then Lorenzo’s Kusina was born. It has always been a dream for me to introduce Filipino food on a wider scale – starting small with a few of my friends and eventually recognition from all parts of London.

What inspired you to start up a food business?

I grew up in the Philippines and I was always surrounded by food. Food is and always has been a big part of our culture back home. My grandma and dad were the chefs I grew up knowing and I was exposed to a lot of different food and a lot of flavours. The spark really developed when I studied Culinary Arts at Westminster Kingsway. My passion for food kept on growing as I started working within the culinary industry, working my way up to head chef at Romulo Cafe and then Sushi Samba. Being furloughed from Sushi Samba was just the extra push I needed to finally start my own business which would allow me to put my own unique twist on it.

What were you most scared/worried about launching your business in the middle of a pandemic?

I was mostly worried about whether Lorenzo’s Kusina would actually be successful. I was scared about people actually liking the food or whether they were even willing to try it. On top of this, launching a business in the middle of a pandemic was naturally worrying as we wanted to get the food to the people whilst also maintaining the safety of everyone we came into contact with. Although it was a big risk to take, the rewards were that much sweeter. I made a sacrifice of leaving my full-time job to open my own business and I can wholeheartedly say it was worth it.

What has been the biggest milestone of your business so far?

The core idea has always been to introduce Filipino food to people on a wider scale. The biggest milestone has definitely been the diverse range of customers we have been attracting recently. We have seen people driving in from all parts of London and even outside of London from all cultures and backgrounds to try our food. It makes me proud to finally see my dream being brought to life. This is a testament to my team at Lorenzo’s. I sacrificed my full-time job to make this business come alive with my two brothers who have no experience in this industry. Training them alone every day by teaching them about the flavours and the skills needed in the kitchen and all within a short time frame, we’ve definitely come together and built something worth being proud of.

How has lockdown changed your business plan?

Thankfully our plans haven’t been affected or changed by the lockdown. We have been able to adapt our work around the current situation and this remains the key reason why we are only offering the options of delivery and collection. As lockdown eases, we are planning to expand our business to suit a more social setting.

What has been the most challenging thing to navigate through so far?

Keeping up with the demand! As a business experiencing rapid growth without the help of takeaway delivery platforms and solely by word of mouth and using Instagram, we’re still pushing hard to keep up and it’s definitely been a challenge to say the least.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt operating a business through lockdown?

My area of expertise lies within the chef world. Since starting Lorenzo’s Kusina, I had to learn a lot about the business side of things too. It has been an interesting experience learning about how to run a business from scratch especially in tough times during this pandemic. The hospitality industry – specifically the takeaway side – has been popping during lockdown and learning about the volume of how many people actually take out/eat out and spend money on food has been eye-opening from a business owner’s perspective.

What are your goals for the business in the near future?

Our main goal at Lorenzo’s Kusina is for people to recognise and understand Filipino FLAVOURS, not the dishes, but the FLAVOURS. Our vision is for people of different cultures and backgrounds to familiarise themselves with the flavours of the Filipino cuisine that we offer i.e. calamansi, adobo, ube and many more. It’s an exciting time for Lorenzo’s Kusina as we are still in our growing stage and the overall feedback has been positive across the scale. There is so much more to learn and I am looking forward to what the next steps in our journey entail.

Location: Park Royal (available for delivery & collection on JustEat / website)

Website: https://www.lorenzokusina.com/

Instagram: lorenzokusina

Everything is halal at Lorenzo Kusina and Bao Kusina


Ban Be

Good halal Vietnamese restaurants have not been easy to come by at all. Vietnam was the last destination I travelled to before the pandemic happened, the last time I was spoilt with a proper good fix of Asian food. Right before the third lockdown, I came across Ban Be, a Vietnamese takeaway restaurant serving a fully halal menu and I just knew it’s calling me. Ban Be was very kind to set us up for dine-in. The depth of flavours from the beef pho broth just transported me right back to Asia. As if that’s not enough to leave an impression, Ban Be came up with their own innovative winter rolls, coming up with great flavour combos to replace any pork ingredients commonly used in Vietnamese cuisine.

What is the story behind your business?

Bạn Bè means friends in Vietnamese. We are four friends of Vietnamese heritage and share an obsessive passion for food. We chose to start with a small menu and really focus on perfecting each dish one at a time. We love our food, and we also love finding ways to make it better. We’re constantly asking ourselves things like how we can use better ingredients, find better ways to cook and serve up our food. Our menu puts the spotlight on our Phở noodle soup, Spring, Summer and Winter (Bò Bía) Rolls. We chose these dishes as they are some of our favourite family recipes and represent a huge part of the Vietnamese food culture. We’re based in East London and we love our city, it’s our home and we feel very fortunate to have foodies of all cultures eating our food. We are Vegan, Halal, Gluten-free as well as toddler-friendly.  

What inspired you to start up a food business?

We all love eating, especially Vietnamese food! Linh’s family recipes were the best any of us have had outside of Vietnam and we thought there was a Phở + Rolls shaped hole in Stratford and the surrounding areas, so we set out to fill it.

What were you most scared/worried about launching your business in the middle of a pandemic?

That no-one would want our food! 

What has been the biggest milestone of your business so far?

Serving Linh’s family recipes, which have been learnt from her mum, passed down through the generations and developed over the years, to actual customers, and being one of the top-rated restaurants on Deliveroo in Stratford.

How has lockdown changed your business plans?

We set up during the pandemic and we have learnt that flexibility is key. The reality of lockdown meant that serving our food in a restaurant was not an option. So we made it our mission to find ways to bring the quality and experience associated with dining out to the comfort of people’s home.

What has been the most challenging thing to navigate through so far?

Everything from power cuts to treasure hunts for our fresh herbs! But what we have found is that every challenge is a learning opportunity, and we are lucky to have these in the early days so we can keep on improving and growing. 

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt operating a business through lockdown?

Be open and flexible to learning from each other and from our customers.

What are your goals for the business in the near future?

With a small team, our immediate aim is to grow the Bạn Bè family. Looking a little further ahead, we are would like to work with and support the local community. We would like to volunteer with local food banks and work with nearby schools. We are continuously learning about environmentally friendly and sustainable practices, and embedding these into our processes.

Location: Stratford (available for delivery on Deliveroo)

Instagram: banbeldn

Everything is halal at Ban Be


T’s Fried Scoop

Fried ice cream might sound crazy to some, but it’s quite a common treat during my childhood, especially found at food stalls at the Lunar New Year markets. I haven’t encountered any outside of Asia until discovering T’s Fried Scoop at the Truman Brewery Upmarket. Not only did it brought a little nostalgic taste but I really enjoyed how Natasha, founder of T’s Fried Scoop, added her own take and flair to it. Essentially, it’s an ice cream scoop wrapped with dough and coating of your choice, and then deep-fried till golden. Pictured is the vanilla ice cream with a cornflakes coating, topping with chocolate sauce and icing sugar. The coating offers a really good crunch and a terrific mix of hot and cold sensation in your mouth. The dough has this almost cake-like texture and goes so well with the whole concept.

What is the story behind your business?

After deciding that I wanted to go into food and discovering a Mexican version of “fried” ice-cream, I took the risk of setting up my own version of fried ice-cream. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Mexican, Chinese and overall Asian versions of the fried ice-cream, I wanted to create my own that had something to make it moreish.

Keep in mind, I have no background chef experience or cooking.

I came up with lots of names, such as Frying Scoop, Natasha’s Fried ice-cream, ScoopFry, but I didn’t like any of them. I didn’t want to just focus on fried ice-cream, as I have other future plans with my fryer… I eventually came up with T’s Fried Scoop. As my name is Natasha, some people call me Tasha and my relatives call me T. I made it simple and hid my name, but still have it there because it gives the name a personal touch: T’s Fried Scoop.

What inspired you to start up a food business?

I’ve always wanted to do street food! I didn’t want to do something that people already knew and just expand on that, I’ve always wanted to bring something new and be the first too. But it only had to be in food, as I love eating.

What were you most scared/worried about launching your business in the middle of a pandemic?

Honestly, it was lack of funds, fear of making any money to fund myself or the business. Currently, I’m managing to fund rent and staff wages and if I’m lucky stock too!

What has been the biggest milestone of your business so far?

We were mentioned in TimeOut magazine, Thrillist and Daily Mail, all within less than 1 month of starting the business (yay!) Also, we were honoured and shocked that Selfridges wanted us to trade at their Christmas Market.

How has lockdown changed your business plans?

Dramatically…I can’t do delivery like other food places, as this delicacy has to be done live and has to be consumed within at least 5 minutes. I rather give people fresh food, on the spot and not compromise with taste. Your first, second and one hundredth experience of having a fried ice-cream should always be a good one. Hence why, I can’t adapt well enough with lockdown. Luckily, despite Truman Brewery being shut, I can trade at Walthamstow Market every Sunday and serve fried ice-cream there.

What has been the most challenging thing to navigate through so far?

Markets! Getting into a market is very tough! They do not want to take a risk on you, especially if it is something new and you don’t have prior experience. I want to expand my days operating, but it’s all down to if a market would want you there.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt operating a business through lockdown?

Marketing is key! To stay relevant in people’s mind is super important. I’ve interacted with a lot of people over Instagram and the interactions are all genuine, as I know what some of my followers have been up to. It makes them feel that I appreciate them for their support (which I hugely do!)

What are your visions and goals for the business in the near future?

Where do I begin! Expanding my fried ice-cream to operate at least 5 days a week in London, pop-up in Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle. Most importantly, I do want to get some branding elements out there – you just have to wait and see what I mean by that!

You can find T’s Fried Scoop at Inverness Market (Camden) on Fridays, the Truman Brewery on Saturdays and at the Walthamstow Market on Sundays.

Website: http://tsfriedscoop.com/

Instagram: tsfriedscoop


Smoke Daddies

Photo credits to Smoke Daddies

Whilst we start rolling our eyes on more new halal burger joints, the concept of smoked meats is a very much welcomed one. Opening the end of one lockdown only to be hit with yet another lockdown has been a tough one. It’s heart-warming to see the amount of local support Smoke Daddies has been receiving during this difficult time. I can’t wait for the lockdown to be over and get my hands on a succulent smoked brisket bun and reuben sandwich from them!

What is the story behind your business?

For most of my adult life, I’ve always wanted to open my own restaurant. I used to work for a restaurant chain prior to opening Smoke Daddies but then Covid happened and changed the entire planet. We all learnt one of two things about companies in this period- those who care about people and those who care about profits, unfortunately, my employer was the latter. 

What inspired you to start up a food business?

For too long the big chains have dominated, it’s time for the small guy to create something. I’ve always wanted to have a restaurant where I can serve great, honest and fresh food. 

What were you most scared/worried about launching your business in the middle of a pandemic?

Scared? Wouldn’t say we were scared but conscious of a few things- The fear of failure! But we have worked very hard to get to where we are now. We did not get a single penny from the government in the forms of grants or bounce bank loans etc, we have used all our own savings to fund this place and we’re super proud of that! Suppliers and delivery partners always give the big chains huge discounts and concessions whereas the independent businesses pay more for goods or services, we knew we had a huge mountain to climb! 

What has been the biggest milestone of your business so far?

The friendships we have made along the way with our amazing guests! Balham and Southwest Londoners have been amazing and showered us with a lot of love, it’s the drive that pushes us forward! 

How has lockdown changed your business plan?

It’s made us more resilient. It’s no secret that the hospitality industry has been badly affected. We’ve seen this as an opportunity to fight harder in what we strongly believe. Our food!

What has been the most challenging thing to navigate through so far?

The work never stops! A brisket takes 12-14 hours to smoke, the pastrami in our Reuben takes a week to make. Whilst everyone is fast asleep, our smokers are still smoking the meats for the next day.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt operating a business through lockdown?

The first lockdown wasn’t as bad as this lockdown, lockdown 3 or 4? It’s hard to keep track of the lockdowns now! But the biggest thing that we learnt is how amazing the community is. We’ve made some fantastic friendships with locals! The local people have supported us throughout and this has given us the motivation to persevere throughout the lockdown.  

What are your goals for the business in the near future?

We opened up at the start of the December lockdown, we are hopeful that once things are eased, we will get to normality soon. We can’t wait to invite our guests into the restaurant and show off our full menu! We’ve been keeping a few menu items a secret.

Location: Balham (available for delivery on Deliveroo or for collection)

Website: https://www.thesmokedaddies.com/

Instagram: thesmokedaddies

Everything is halal at Smoke Daddies


Arome Bakery

You may or may not have already heard of my story of arriving at the doorsteps of Arome Bakery’s pop-up but unable to get my hands on any pastries due to a private event at the time. Fast-forward to 2020, I was absolutely stoked about their opening in Covent Garden. You can count on them on delivering quality pastries, paired with a strong cup of coffee too if you like.

The journey hasn’t been easy. The timing of their opening was quickly followed by a string of unpredictable restrictions and eventually lockdown. There is a lot to learn and adapt in such a short amount of time but I think we can all agree that they’ve done very well coping with the challenges that the pandemic has presented.

What is the story behind your business?

It all started when 2 friends who shared countless meals at home and in restaurants came up with the idea of a pop-up bakery. Thankfully, the response was pretty positive throughout our 3 months in Soho and that led us to consider a permanent home for Arôme. 

What inspired you to start up a food business?

Simply to bring happiness to people in the form of amazing pastries!

What were you most scared/worried about launching your business in the middle of a pandemic?

Financial pressure aside, we were very much worried about the livelihood of our team. Because of certain criteria in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, none of our team members can be put on furlough and that unknowingly added more pressure on the business to perform well during this difficult period.

What has been the biggest milestone of your business so far?

Seeing more familiar faces day in and out while having the time to get to know our regulars. We know of a family who visits us daily from Wednesday-Sunday without fail. That’s quite a feat!

How has lockdown changed your business plans?

Having to move online sooner than we planned to. Even though we only opened our doors in December, a lot of our customers expected us to offer nationwide delivery right from the get-go. We currently offer delivery and click+collect via Slerp but we’re also working hard to launch a weekly London-wide delivery from our own website.

What has been the most challenging thing to navigate through so far?

Definitely working out the supply and demand throughout this entire period. From the opening to jumping into tier 3 just 2 weeks in. Not long after, it was tier 4 and finally, the lockdown came. As we plan our bakes a couple of days in advance, it was a challenge to gauge how much to produce throughout the different stages.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt operating a business through lockdown?

That food is one thing that really brings people together. We’ve had customers telling us that Arôme has become their weekly meeting point or that we’re the highlight of their week. It’s very comforting to see that we can be a hub to these people and to know that our pastries can bring a smile to people’s faces.

What are your goals for the business in the near future?

As we are pretty new, our focus for now is to deliver good quality products consistently to our customers while staying innovative for new creations.

Location: Covent Garden

Instagram: aromebakerylondon

Arome Bakery does not serve halal meats but plenty of vegetarian-friendly pastries are available.


Deviant Cookies

I didn’t think I could fall in love with cookies so much until Deviant Cookies. These super thick and gooey cookies are to die for. There isn’t a flavour I didn’t like, from their luscious Biscoff Cookie, Red Velvet, classic Chocolate Chip, to the SE Gold which got a stroopwafel stuffed in each cookie…all and each of them stole my heart.

Being online-based, the business model is different from a traditional restaurant business and practically pandemic-proof. But it’s still a lot of work involved. The unfortunate loss of job due to the pandemic led to the birth of Deviant Cookies and it’s only going to be onwards and upwards from here!

What is the story behind your business?

I’m Chloe, the founder of Deviant Cookies, I’ve been a self-professed cookie addict since my youngest years and have now been able to turn my passion into a small business.

Over the years, me and my boyfriend tried cookies from all over the globe, shipping them in from France, Belgium – you name it! Yet it was the thick, American-style cookies that I couldn’t stop dreaming about. After some self-reflection and changes in direction Deviant Cookies was born.

What inspired you to start up a food business?

When I was at university I worked at a company called Street Feast which was full amazing street food businesses, that was definitely where my passion started. During lockdown I was made redundant from my dream job and I just thought it’s now or never, I’ve always loved baking and eating sweet treats (who doesn’t though?).

What were you most scared/worried about launching your business in the middle of a pandemic?

I was really ready to try something new and I just put it out to the Universe. My mentality was to have no expectations of anything, just try to enjoy the journey, and I definitely am!

What has been the biggest milestone of your business so far?

I think my first sale was my biggest win. I was so over excited for the first month of my business, I just thought it would take ages to gain any sort of traction, my poor boyfriend had to deal with the squealing of every time I made a sale – haha!

How has lockdown changed your business plans?

I looked into this style of business model before lockdown and it kind of just fit. All you need is a kitchen, creativity and a website and you’re good to go.

What has been the most challenging thing to navigate through so far?

I think the hardest thing is keeping momentum, starting a small business isn’t easy. I also work a full-time job to support myself financially. After working 9-6 it can be tough to push yourself to work on your business but it’s essential if you want to grow.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt operating a business through lockdown?

Always be adaptable, if something isn’t working change it and do it fast.

What are your goals for the business in the near future?

It would be amazing to have my own shop somewhere in London, I’ve got it all mapped out in my head.

Deviant Cookies offer UK Nationwide delivery. Minimum order of 6 cookies. Order online on their website.

Website: https://www.deviantcookies.co.uk/

Instagram: deviantcookies


Other 2020 new food businesses in London to check out:

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