Pandemic pizza: Malaysian family cooks up solution to virus woes

Pandemic pizza: Malaysian family cooks up solution to virus woes
Inside a wood-fired oven at the Jemapoh Pizza Kayu Api restaurant. (AFP)
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Updated 28 November 2020

Pandemic pizza: Malaysian family cooks up solution to virus woes

Pandemic pizza: Malaysian family cooks up solution to virus woes
  • Restaurants were allowed to keep operating and, after Raudhah’s shop selling headscarves saw a fall in business and some of her siblings had their pay cut, the family decided to open the pizzeria

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian family have cooked up a tasty solution to their economic woes during the pandemic by opening a backyard pizzeria that has proved a hit in their sleepy village.
Millions of people around the world lost their jobs this year as governments introduced economically damaging lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
But one family in a Malaysian village managed to turn a bumper profit during the downturn by opening up an eatery serving wood-fired pizzas from their home.
Based in Jemapoh, 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, the business offers pizzas with herbs and spices, and cut pineapples mixed with meat or tuna, along with a heavy layer of mozzarella and cheddar cheese.
“We did this to get some pocket money,” said Raudhah Hassan, 35, the eldest of several siblings and mastermind behind the business.
“But — praise be to God — what we did has become the talk of the town.”
Pizzas have been flying out of the family’s makeshift kitchen since late April, a month after authorities implemented curbs that confined people to their homes and saw the closure of most businesses.
Restaurants were allowed to keep operating and, after Raudhah’s shop selling headscarves saw a fall in business and some of her siblings had their pay cut, the family decided to open the pizzeria.
“We were stranded here. We said, we have to do something,” explained Raudhah, who runs the business at her parent’s house with the help of other family members.
The family built a stone oven in their backyard to roll out a few dozen pizzas in time for the holy month of Ramadan in the Muslim-majority country, when the faithful typically enjoy lavish meals to break their fast.
The business quickly became a hit.
“Some pizzas are too salty, but these are really nice,” said first-time customer Nurliyana Hidayah.
“I will come here again.”
The family have now added a shop to their home and hired about 20 people from the village to make up to 800 wood-fired pizzas daily, five days a week.
More than 800,000 people have lost their jobs in Malaysia this year as the virus pushed the country into recession, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in October.
Malaysia has largely lifted the toughest of its restrictions and most businesses are operating again, although it has been a battling a virus resurgence in recent weeks.


German startup to help Saudi hotels utilize empty spaces

German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 21 January 2021

German startup to help Saudi hotels utilize empty spaces

German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • COVID-19 pandemic has brought slump in average hotel occupancy rates in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A German start-up established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates is now working in Saudi Arabia.

NeuSpace aims to assist operators in coming up with new ways to generate revenue from their empty spaces.

Anne Schaeflein, a co-founder of the Dusseldorf-based company, told Arab News: “For hotel properties still in the completion phase, we feel it is best to evaluate the perspective, and to diversify pre-opening.

“To be empathic to the existing (or planned) infrastructure and environment of the location, we run a feasibility study and look at how the space could be best used from an ROI (return on investment) as well as community perspective. Turning function spaces into day nurseries, delis, and bakeries,” she said.

Anne Schaeflein, Collaborative Founder NeuSpace. (Supplied)

According to the company’s website, it aims to address the needs of hotel investors, operators, and the wider community surrounding the property.

“We deliver quick solutions to retain some of the hospitality jobs, and add others, and offer attractive living space for communities, all within one to four months, depending on the individual projects,” the company said.

A report in November by global hotel data analysis company, STR, found that the average occupancy rate in Saudi Arabia was 34.7 percent, down 38.7 percent on the previous year. As a result, the average revenue per available room fell 35.5 percent year-on-year to SR172.70 ($46.05).

Looking to the future, real estate consultancy firm, Colliers International, has forecast that average occupancy rates in Riyadh and Alkhobar will be 55 percent, 51 percent in Jeddah and Madinah, and 37 percent in Makkah.

On innovative solutions, Schaeflein said the startup’s concept was formed around the key pillars of value preservation, creating new housing space, and innovative housing concepts.

She pointed out that the company looked at how areas such as roof gardens or social spaces could be used by the wider community, or how pools and spas not being used by guests could be utilized by local residents.

NeuSpace also studies how back-office services and facilities could be offered to residents to better utilize staffing levels. This could include offering dog-minding services, turning rooms into office or retail areas, or renting out restaurant and entertainment spaces when footfall was low.