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Miguel Morales is founder of Reineta in Ealing

Producing the goods at Reineta despite lockdown

“We are a young business, just one year old, and it has been challenging. We have been trying to find new ways to survive but we have done little things which seem to be working,” said Miguel Morales, founder of Reineta.

It is a café and a grocery store selling fresh, organic produce – and also provides a catering service. It has only been open a year and, as high streets reopen, is the first business in our series looking at how local companies have found a way to survive, or even thrive, during the coronavirus lockdown.

Reineta only opened in Ealing’s Dickens Yard in June 2019 and the effect of the pandemic has been enough to kill off other new businesses across the country before they had really got started.

To make things more difficult, Miguel said Reineta did not quite fall into the right categories to get government grants to help out. But he and his staff decided they wanted to keep the café open and continue to offer a service to the community.

‘People would stop to buy our homemade ice cream’

The business stepped up selling its goods online and delivering them to local homes. And it also played on the quality of the produce and the staff’s homemade cooking.

Miguel said: “We produced a document with all of the products we sell to let people know what we can deliver, especially for those who were self-isolating: Food baskets, groceries.

“We are in a residential street and people going for a walk would also stop to buy our homemade ice cream, fresh juices and fresh coffee.

“And, of course, we continued to sell our groceries. We removed all of the tables and chairs from the café, threw the doors wide open and only put groceries in the store, which people could buy safely in a socially distanced way.

“We also decided to start cooking dinners for people to take home. What had given us the idea was that we had a suckling pig for a private catering event which was, of course, cancelled when lockdown began. We decided to roast it and offer portions to our regular customers and it proved really popular.”

‘We have managed to move and to change’

From then on, Miguel and his team at Reineta began to do dinners for collection and also Friday night roasts, providing meals for more than 100 people – who have to book in advance. Each week, something different is on offer.

“Because of lockdown, people were finding they had nothing special for dinner,” said Miguel. “It has been an opportunity for us to let people know we are here.

“One week we produced 60 pans of paella, which would serve well over 150 people. The food is exactly what you would get in a restaurant, the only difference is you have to collect it in a container and take it home to eat.

“So, we do our Friday roast night every week and, with the groceries and home deliveries, we managed to continue surviving.

“As a young business, we were not absolutely settled, so we have managed to move and to change.”

‘We’ve been pretty lucky’

Miguel added: “People came to us and have got to know us now; and many have said they will stay with us. We have a lot of regular customers now, which is really nice. I feel like we are a lucky example. We are a day-by-day success.

“We are a family business and the peculiarity of this situation is that we have two senior employees, and me and my wife, and just one of us getting ill would have stopped it all. None of us has had a problem with our health but, if one did, we’d have to shut down and quarantine. And it would be quite concerning if that happened, so we’ve been pretty lucky.

“There is a great community feeling in Ealing and I hope even more customers will come to see what we offer, now that the high streets are opening again.”

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