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Chef shows how to turn lockdown into an opportunity

No events because of Covid, so caterer opts to set up gourmet burger drive-thru in car park

Maidstone has welcomed its first gourmet burger drive-thru in the car park behind the Lockmeadow Entertainment Centre as local businessman James Davis pivots his business during lockdown. Gourmet Griddle had a successful opening last weekend in the car park next to the riverside, seeing a queue of customers ready to try out the new offering.

A professional chef of 20 years previously based at Leeds Castle and the Oak on the Green group, Davis specialises in catering for festivals and sporting events.  As the majority of events have been cancelled due to the pandemic, he spotted the opportunity of bringing fast quality-made food to customers in the south-east who were looking for tasty treats to get them through lockdown.

Davis, who is from Maidstone and lives half a mile from Lockmeadow, says he started the business offering deliveries in the first national lockdown which soon became so popular it was hard to keep up with customer demand. It was evident fans loved the secret burger recipe, so when another lockdown was announced, he made the decision to stay local.

Davis says: “I decided not to continue the deliveries but to build the brand and stay local. Our focus now is the burgers as they’re so popular. The drive-thru is our newest venture. We have had a great start at Lockmeadow and who knows where this may take us.

“It is evident that our burgers (plus a bit of banter) are our biggest sellers. So we’ve captured this and taken a temporary base from Tuesday to Sunday at Lockmeadow. We aren’t a big company and like to feel that our fans receive a bit of humour along with good quality food.

“All our meat comes from local farms with high-welfare standards. Our butcher is within 30 miles, so our carbon footprint is tiny. Customers appreciate our approach to quality food, produced quickly to a high standard.”

Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) became landlord of the Lockmeadow in 2019 when it bought out the long leasehold interest of the complex.

Cllr Paul Harper, chair of the MBC Economic Regeneration and Leisure Committee, welcomes innovation of businesses during these challenging times. He adds: “It is encouraging to see that some businesses are able to re-focus their offering and are agile to maintain trade during lockdown. It makes good sense for the space at Lockmeadow to be used proactively and it gives Gourmet Griddle the opportunity to try to establish a base for the brand.

“Many businesses will be forced to adapt and change to survive going forward and the council wants to support them as best we can. Gourmet Griddle is a small example of how we can flex and adapt as a local authority to help businesses thrive where there is opportunity to, while working within the Government restrictions.”

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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