Masterchef finalist fears for Newport bistro during cost-of-living crisis

Owner of Geshmak bistro says she is driven by passion to keep the business alive, but feels ‘exhausted’ during the current economic climate

Owner of Geshmak bistro, Francesca Keirle in her kitchen
Masterchef finalist Fran Keirle gave up a career in teaching to pursue a passion for food (Photo credit: Ben Jones)

Francesca Keirle, owner of a newly opened bistro in the heart of Newport, has worries for the future of the business following uncertainty caused by the cost-of-living crisis.

Keirle opened Geshmak Bistro earlier this year, and has slowly built her customer base at the prime Charles Street location.

However, multiple factors, including staffing issues and the rising cost of energy bills has caused Keirle to worry about the longevity of her business.

A recent ONS survey has revealed 49% of food industry business owners believe both production and suppliers have been affected by the recent increases in energy prices, and 45% believe that their performance will decrease.

As soon as I start turning a profit, that’s going to be sucked into the void of energy

Keirle fears that she will be unable to maintain the business with the kind of money she is currently bringing in. “As I start turning a profit, that’s going to be sucked into the void of energy,” Keirle said.

Rising electricity bills have led to the closure of the independent Secret Garden cafe, situated on the same street as Geshmak.

Keirle believes the food industry faces challenges due to the nature of the business: “I’m on a countdown to get [food] cooked and then put into a saleable condition.”

After reaching the final 12 in the 2015 series of BBC’s Masterchef, Keirle was inspired last August to take the plunge and give up a career in teaching to pursue a passion for food.

With no prior knowledge, the ex-teacher taught herself many aspects of the business along the way including ordering and food management. “The only thing I had was passion and the palette,” Keirle said.

But after reducing opening hours due to a mixture of exhaustion and the need to free up time for planning, Keirle has a stark warning for aspiring independent businesses: “Think very carefully about how long [you] can afford to not make money for, because it is a long period. I think it’s going to get longer.”