When the UK’s first lockdown was announced in March 2020, PAYST by Farang was merely a concept. The main focus for brothers, Sebby & Tony Holmes, was Farang, the award-winning Thai restaurant by Sebby Holmes. Since its launch in 2016, Farang has become a London favourite for those with a taste for the fiery flavours of Southeast Asia, with tables in high demand every day of the week. As we know, the pandemic put an immediate stop to this and the brothers needed to establish new ways to serve their customers.
“We have always been planning to develop a product for our customers to make in their own home and with no signs of life for the restaurant industry we had to refocus. We immediately re-designed the restaurant to serve as a drop-in larder, where customers could pick up our quality Southeast Asian produce and ready to cook Farang favourites to serve in their own kitchens, but we wanted to go further. Everyone knows we love our food and we wanted to share it with everyone, not just those in the capital. So PAYST was born - PAYST invites customers to quickly and easily recreate the authentic aromas, flavours and signature spice of Farang at home, wherever they are in the country,” said Head Chef, Sebby Holmes.
We spoke with PAYST Co-founder, Tony Holmes, to find out more about the brand’s launch last year.
What was your main motivation in developing PAYST?
We love the authentic flavours of Southeast Asia and so do our customers. People don’t always have the time or resources to get their fix from the restaurant so turn to the supermarket for the next best thing, a ready-made paste. We were disappointed with the selection of curry pastes available; most are long-life jars with little resemblance to the true taste of Thailand. This is where our fresh ready-to-use pastes come in. Our pastes are made using the finest quality fresh produce, sustainably sourced from the UK or Thailand. We use only natural ingredients and don’t use preservatives so you can expect a burst of aromas and flavours that will transport you to the streets of Thailand, all from your own kitchen and in just a few minutes. We made it our mission to bring these flavours to our customers all over the UK, with no compromise on ingredients.
How have you had to change during the pandemic?
Operationally, our kitchens at Farang have remained fully live throughout the pandemic, here is where our PAYST’s are made to be delivered into people’s homes, as well as our ready to cook selection and hot takeaways for our North London customers. We’ve had to split up our kitchen staff into smaller, COVID safe bubbles and our front of house teams have become shopkeepers overnight as we redirected service to the larder.
We accelerated our plans for PAYST so we could serve a wider audience and we hope it has offered some escapism for those stuck at home for the past 12 months. We usually rely on live cooking at festivals to showcase our new products, so this has been a learning curve. We have had to utilise our social media following and strengthen our online presence to get the word out, but we have seen great results so far!
Have you experienced any significant challenges throughout the process?
There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes to ensure we are able to continue to serve our customers. The whole food industry has been affected by the pandemic and this has meant we have experienced delays sourcing some ingredients - our supply chain has become a delicate operation! We have had to be creative in some cases when we can’t source what we need but our customers have been incredibly supportive.
Where have you seen the greatest demand from your customers?
The greatest demand without a doubt has been home delivery. Cooking at home has become the new going out! Our at home offering, whether it is hot takeaways, ready to cook meals, or PAYST, promise some diversion from the lockdown mundane. The flavours and aromas of Southeast Asian radiate and we hope they offer some relief for our customers - it works for us!
How have you managed to guide people to PAYST over the past year?
We have found Instagram to be an amazing tool for foodies and for spreading the word about PAYST. So many people find inspiration for their next meal from the images they see. We have been sharing recipe recommendations, video content and customer testimonials and have seen really strong engagement. We have worked with some foodie friends to share samples of the product and have received great feedback from them and their audience. We have also seen high returns from our valuable press coverage.
We are planning loads more content over the coming months when we can safely shoot Sebby in our PAYST kitchens.
What has been your greatest success?
Our greatest success was certainly accelerating the business to a home delivery service at the start of the pandemic. Our original plans saw PAYST launch at various food festivals across the country during spring/summer 2020. Launching completely online felt strange as we haven’t been able to have the same direct feedback from our customers, though in hindsight was the right decision. We still can't wait for the return of the food festivals though!
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