Fried chicken pop-up founded by Hatfield friends to open in Galleria
- Credit: Eli's pop-up
A fried chicken restaurant set up by five childhood pals from Hatfield will open in The Galleria this Friday.
Eli's pop-up began as a lockdown project. Two of the five founders were made redundant from their full-time jobs and cooked up a business that could operate - and thrive - under lockdown.
Running from a 'ghost kitchen' in The Wrestlers pub, which had closed temporarily due to the pandemic, Eli's delivered brioche burgers, spicy wings and cheesy chips to the socially distanced population of Hatfield.
One and a half years later, Eli's is expanding; now, it's going "toe-to-toe with some of the biggest brands in the hospitality industry" in the Hatfield shopping centre.
From Friday (February 18), Eli's will be straddled between fast-food giants McDonald's and Burger King, a competition "which is going to be fun" said co-founder Danny Wheeler, 26, who grew up on Stanley Drive.
At the start of lockdown, Danny, along with his mates Andrew Dempsey, Sean Egan, James Godfrey and Charley Crane, were keen to bring the London street food scene to Hatfield.
"We used to go into London quite a lot to try the nice street food there. But when we came back to Hatfield and went into some of the food chains, we wouldn't be treated like valued customers," said Danny.
"There wasn't really the same sort of atmosphere that you get in London where they'd asked you your name and where you're from.
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"We didn't really see any community-focused brands in Hatfield. So we thought there's a gap in the market."
The boys pitched their business proposal to Wrestlers, who let them use their kitchen.
"As soon as we got going we got a lot of support because our parents, friends, and most of our social circle are all from Hatfield as well," Danny recalled.
Since then, they've also done a pop-up in Shoreditch, London.
But Eli's main priority, at the moment, is Hatfield.
"Our hope is that we can pull it off and the community appreciates what we're trying to do," Danny said.
"We tell our staff to try and talk to people by their first name. The little things like that will try to set ourselves apart from the big boys."