Struggles inspire appetite for growth at family restaurant

Al Sorriso, a family-run Italian restaurant in Albrighton, is one company that has taken full advantage of Government support to help it emerge from the pandemic with a new appetite for growth.

Al Sorriso
Al Sorriso

Owners Luciana Palmieri and Mark Smith successfully applied for the small business grant and used it to cover bills and rent when it was forced to close and, in more recent months, to help them make a number of décor improvements, creating an outside dining area and kick-starting a new marketing drive.

“We had only been open in the village for six months when Covid-19 struck and we had to temporarily close the business. It’s not a nice feeling and we were planning for the worst,” explained Luciana, who bases many of her signature dishes on recipes inspired by her mother.

“Our thinking quickly changed to…right, we’re going to survive this and come out of this stronger. Accessing the grant was fantastic and gave us some much-needed breathing space and the chance to create a takeaway offer that has really taken off during lockdown.

“Initially, this was just a few options, but due to demand we increased the menu to include Sunday Dinners, a street food night and cocktails. The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme has also been a godsend and means we have been extremely busy since we reopened.”

The husband and wife team are now turning their attention to growth and celebrating one year in business in September.

Luciana has used some of the downtime to bring a number of authentic Italian favourites to a new menu that features Zuppa di Cozze, Tagliolini and Tagliata de Manzo.

They have also appointed Eleven10Creative to develop new branding, marketing material, a new website and create exciting social media campaigns.

“We want to be recognised as a destination dining venue in Wolverhampton and Shropshire and the new menu and identity will help tell our story and what makes Al Sorriso different.”

Edward Goddard, managing director of Shrewsbury-based Morris Leisure, said: “We have received support from the Government’s Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund for two of our caravan parks in Shropshire.

“We are very grateful for the Government’s grant, furlough and rates holiday schemes, but this support didn’t cover all our costs throughout the lockdown and we are delighted that the parks are now open again.”

Morris Leisure owns six touring and caravan holiday home parks across Shropshire and Snowdonia in North Wales – Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Bishops Castle, Llanberis and Betws-y-Coed.

The next unemployment figures, due on September 15, are expected to show the impact of a series of redundancies that have already been announced particularly in the retail sector.

The Labour Party is also warning that its research indicates that the West Midlands is at risk of being hit hard by redundancies because it has a high proportion of manufacturing workers.

Almost 12 per cent of the region's workforce is in the manufacturing sector, including businesses supplying the car industry which has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis.

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