Island Grill invests $100 million in new King Street location
Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre) and Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie joined Island Grill CEO Thalia Lyn for the official opening ceremony for the store's new King Street location.
Island Grill plans to tap the demand for Jamaican meals in downtown Kingston, with its newest location on 91 King Street.
“Everyone is here, but we are the ones serving Jamaican [food],” said Island Grill CEO Thalia Lyn, referring to other fast food stores in the area.
Island Grill is also located in the Digicel building on the Kingston waterfront, but Lyn said the clientele there are different.
“King Street is a different set,” she said, noting also that the opening of the new store has allowed the company the opportunity to re-hire staff laid off due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The company shuttered three of its locations (Norman Manley International, Sangster International Airport and University of Technology) when the government ordered Jamaica's borders and schools closed in March to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
“We were able to bring back some staff which made me happy,” Lyn told Loop News on Monday, following the official store opening attended by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on July 2.
Island Grill King Street opening
Click the gallery for photos of the official opening ceremony
Island Grill, a brand under Chicken Mistress Limited, is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise with 18 restaurants across Jamaica and one in Barbados, employing over 850 workers.
The King Street store cost the company $100 million to build out (it includes space which is available for lease) and employs 35 persons.
Lyn said the store has been customised for social distancing, with places marked on the floor for separation of six feet between clients.
The restaurant is not offering a dining service at this time, so customers pay, collect their hot meal and leave. Customers are also encouraged to pre-order their meals.
Clients have their temperature checked, then are directed to hand sanitisers which release liquid without contact before placing orders.
Staff work closely with security personnel, who are tasked to maintain social distancing, which the CEO points out is difficult for the King Street crowd.
Nevertheless, no one is allowed into the store without a mask and they must keep it on until they leave, the CEO said.
Staff also keep on their masks all day and the restaurant is sanitized and cleaned every thirty minutes, Lyn added.
“Our people sometimes find it hard to have masks on all day but they are very good about it,” Lyn said.
As to when dining will be re-opened, she stated, “We are watching the situation.” For now, only take-out is offered.”
The CEO said the location is targeting value meals which are chicken-based and offered with new sauces developed in-house.
These include one with scotch bonnet pepper flavour, another with curry and also one with sweet chilli.
“Chicken is still the most affordable and the most popular. We are going for high volume low margin although we are not there yet,” Lyn said.
Lyn is also hoping to increase the Sunday dinner trade which can be pre-ordered.
“We are perfect for Sunday dinner. We are taking orders on the phone,” she said.
Lyn said Island Grill is now fully in the recovery phase, noting, “We are more than pivoting. We have wheeled and come again. We are wheeling and will keep wheeling.”