La Table Des Saveurs has been a business on Roman Road for just over three years. Since opening, La Table Des Saveurs has become a great friend to Roman Road Trust by providing facilities during events that have taken place on Roman Road Car Park. Despite these busy-spells, it can be difficult for independent businesses. Salim Kebir, the owner of La Table Des Saveurs talks to Roman Road Trust about these difficulties but also shares his joys and love of the local community that surrounds Roman Road.
RRT: What do you like about Roman Road?
SK: I really like the local people and the community of this area. I get to know such a wide range of people from the traffic warden to the people waiting for the bus. I also have great relationships with my business neighbours who are always there to share experiences and difficulties. I enjoy speaking with my regular customers and watching the community from my window.
RRT: How did you find out about Roman Road Trust?
SK: I first became involved with Roman Road Trust when the Common Room was built in 2014. The Common Room is directly opposite La Table Des Saveurs so Tabitha and her team came in and asked if they could use our facilities whilst they were working. I guess I became a friend to Roman Road Trust. I am happy to help out. Sometimes we will provide water and a toilet but other times we are the key-collection-point.
RRT: How did you come to be involved with Roman Road Trust?
SK: When the weekly Yard Market started in March 2016, Roman Road Trust asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. Of course I said yes and La Table Des Saveurs became the designated place for facilities for traders and event staff. On the days of the Yard Market, I also gave discounts to traders meaning I had a lot of people coming in on those days. We have also provided our facilities during the Roman Road Christmas Fair which happens each year. La Table Des Saveurs has became the home for Roman Road Trust and traders during events.
RRT: How has Roman Road Trust supported your business?
SK: Roman Road Trust has enabled my business to be known by local people. When I help out at events, they send out an email to all traders to let them know that La Table Des Saveurs is providing facilities and discounts. It is really good to let people know that we are not only a business but are also involved in local community events. The events have provided some very busy days which I am thankful for, but once over we notice a massive drop in customers.
Roman Road Trust has also helped me to apply for an A3 licence which would allow La Table Des Saveurs to become a restaurant. Unfortunately, my first application was refused but the trust has helped me to reapply and provided a contesting and supporting letter. Hopefully in the New Year we will have an A3 licence which will allow us to become more like other businesses near us.
RRT: Why is it important for you to have an A3 licence?
SK: There is a lot of competition around here. Since the car park became tariffed on Saturday and Sunday I have seen a 60% drop in my takings on a Saturday and 40-50% drop during the week. The price of parking coupled with competition from other shopping centres such as Westfield Stratford means that people do not want to come here. The A3 licence will allow me to progress my business to a restaurant. If people have somewhere to eat then they are likely to want to shop here too.
RRT: Do you think it’s important for businesses to engage and be involved with local events and local people?
SK: Of course. As we are a small business, we do not have the resources for a marketing and advertising strategy. This means it is even more important to take part in local events as they provide free advertising. Through the Yard Market and Roman Road Christmas Fair, I have got to know people and people have got to know me and La Table Des Saveurs. Big businesses are successful because they have the resources, but it is the word of mouth which is most powerful for small, local businesses.
RRT: Do you think the car park is better used as a car park or would it be better as a dedicated space for community events and markets?
SK: I would prefer it to be a place for the community. I wish it could be market that ran three or four times a week! It is not very busy as a car park anymore. I used to have to queue from 7.00am on a Saturday but now it is almost empty most days. I think anything that brings more people here is a good thing. I know that other businesses are also struggling and would appreciate things happening in Roman Road.
RRT: How important do you think it is for the business community to have a voice?
SK: We are all struggling so it is important that we are listened to. However, I do not feel as though I am listened to by the council. A lot of us have issues with business rates but I am not sure anyone is listening to us.
RRT: What do you think Roman Road needs the most?
SK: Roman Road needs people. We need to attract people to come here by having more events and reducing or removing parking charges. People prefer to go to shopping centres where everything is under one roof. I think Roman Road needs to offer cheaper parking and more places to eat to bring people here.
RRT: Are there other ways Roman Road Trust can support businesses such as yourself?
SK: It would be great if Roman Road Trust could help me to promote my business. Although Roman Road Trust promotes La Table Des Saveurs during events, it would be great to have professional help with digital marketing and our online presence.
If Roman Road Trust could help lift the parking charges and have a say in how business rates are decided then this would be very beneficial to smaller businesses on Roman Road.
Roman Road Trust should bring back the Yard Market and have more regular events on the car park as this brings people to the area and is great for local businesses.
RRT: What do you think the future of Roman Road is and where do you see La Table Des Saveurs in the future?
SK: There are two possibilities. Firstly, if the car park stays tariffed then I do not think La Table Des Saveurs will be here much longer. It is not worth it. If our application for an A3 licence is not approved then the situation will be worse still. However, if the parking charges are lifted, rates reduced and the licence approved then La Table Des Saveurs will be able to stay open.
RRT: What do you like most about Roman Road Trust?
SK: All those who work at Roman Road Trust are very nice people and are always happy to help. I’m very grateful for how Roman Road Trust built up the Yard Market and helped us to apply for an A3 licence. If I need help then Tabitha has always been there to give advice or point me in the right direction. Roman Road Trust has never said no because I believe they care about my business.
Roman Road Trust has made La Table Des Saveurs feel very important and central to their events. I’m still surprised when people know my name! I have had a lot of good days because of the events and it is a shame that the Yard Market is no longer running.