Sri Lankan food chain secures disruption finance & aims to continue expansion

coconut tree oxford

The independent Sri Lankan street food chain, The Coconut Tree, has received government-backed funding to withstand business disruption.

The business has received a £60,000 loan from not-for-profit company SWIG Finance, supported by Triodos Bank and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Since opening its first bar and kitchen in Cheltenham in 2016, the award-winning company has expanded to Oxford, Bristol, Cardiff and Bournemouth.

The Coconut Tree belongs to five friends who first met at school just outside Colombo, Sri Lanka when they were 11. They moved to the UK to study and some ended up in Cheltenham.

Nicky Birthday at The Coconut TreeThe team  cook and serve (the MOST says our editor) delicious Sri Lankan street food in a stripped-back ‘street style’ interior, and it’s loved by thousands.

Food critic Jay Rayner said in a review: “The Coconut Tree manages that rare trick of being totally laid-back and completely on point at the same time. It also happens to tell a terrific story about Sri Lanka; one that comes with a small bill to finish. That’s a perfect happy ending.”

Having been turned away by the bank, The Coconut Tree approached SWIG Finance to gain access funding which will help safeguard 160 jobs and sustain the business during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Coconut Tree offers casual dining in authentic Sri Lankan style. Like many other businesses in the hospitality sector, social distancing measures put in place by the government have significantly impacted the business. The Coconut Tree has adapted to offer customers a takeaway service.

coconut tree with kitchen towelPrior to COVID-19, business had been booming. Their newest restaurant, located in Bournemouth, opened doors in December 2019 and depending on the outcome of COVID, plans are in place to continue with their expansion post-COVID.

SWIG Finance Business Manager, Nicola Mapp, said: “We were delighted to be able to support The Coconut Tree. It is clear that the business has solid foundations and we are optimistic that business will return to its level of pre-COVID trading once restrictions have been lifted”.

Business Owner, Mithra Fernando said “This funding will go a long way in ensuring that the business can continue trading in a post-COVID environment. Our Business Manager, Nicola Mapp, was very supportive throughout the process and was on hand to answer any questions we had regarding the application process.”

Matt Boggan, senior relationship manager at Triodos Bank UK, which provided a loan to SWIG to support funding such as this, added: “Making money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change is central to the bank’s ethos. Key to this is providing finance to help start-ups and growing businesses fulfil their potential, as these enterprises really have the ability to transform a community.

“We’re proud to be supporting SWIG, alongside another likeminded organisations. Its aim to make finance more accessible and inclusive aligns closely with our own values.”