Updated: March 11, 2022 08:06
Chatterbox staff: Left to right, Joao Fernandes, Morgan Donawa, Geraldine Taquiqui, owner Anthony Fernandes, Jerisiah Balboda and Sandeep Kumar (photo provided)
The Chatterbox restaurant on Reid Street was a lively place. The cafe leaked and the restaurant did a lot of catering for the surrounding businesses.
All of that changed when Covid-19 hit the world in March 2020.
“With many people still working from home, business is down about 70-80%,” owner Anthony Fernandes said.
He’s sure things will improve when more office workers finally return to work in Hamilton, but in the meantime he’s been forced to pivot to keep things going.
Instead of calling back, it’s forging ahead, adding an Indian buffet for lunch and a soup and salad bar. Bonefish curry, vegetable samosas and coriander lamb curry are just a few of the new Indian buffets.
“Before that, we were always on sandwiches and a la carte,” he said. “And we still do, but we wanted to offer something more.”
On Sunday mornings they always offered a popular codfish breakfast. Now they add to that a Filipino buffet.
Anthony Fernandes has added an Indian buffet to the Chatterbox Cafe menu (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
“We did it for the first time last Sunday and it was really popular,” Mr. Fernandes said. “Sundays are usually pretty busy.”
Fernandes said it was easy to get frustrated with the pandemic.
“But you can’t be frustrated all the time,” he said. “You have to put the frustration aside and move on. Luckily, we’re trying to level up with some changes. Hope this works. It’s a big risk. »
Mr. Fernandes is from Goa, India. He first came to Bermuda 22 years ago to run Chatterbox Café for then-owner Wayne Furbert. In 2017, he was able to buy the restaurant.
He now employs two chefs and four part-time Bermuda College students.
“They’re not in the hospitality industry,” he said. “One wants to become a doctor and the other does graphic design. They are all well lit. This helps them to hold a part-time job and relieves their parents a little.
The plan is to eventually extend the restaurant’s opening hours to 9 p.m. on weekdays, when the weather warms up a bit. There is now outdoor seating on Reid Street.
Mr Fernandes has also been affected by global shipping delays, shortages and rising food prices.
“Some dishes we can’t put on the menu, because we can’t guarantee it every day,” he said. “Lately we ordered flatbread for the paninis, but it didn’t come. So we had to substitute with another bread. Some customers get upset and others understand, so it’s a mix.
He used to offer free coffee refills and extra butter and jam to his customers, but he had to stop that. Every penny counts now.
“You have to pay for both cups now,” he said. “The price of coffee has gone up for me by 10 percent.”
Chatterbox Café is currently available for delivery on the Sargasso Sea and Five Star Delivery apps.
“People can order whatever they want,” Fernandes said.
For more information, visit chatterbox.bm or call 295-3263.