The location of Giggling Squid’s estate in smallish cities and the suburbs of larger urban areas has been a huge bonus during the pandemic – alongside the portability of its dishes, according to co-founder Andy Laurillard.

Speaking on MCA’s The Conversation, he explained that the business had managed to remain at breakeven point during the periods of lockdown, thanks to a boom in delivery and takeaway orders, which went up five-fold, from 11% of sales, to 55% of normal trading.

“That got us to breakeven with the furlough scheme, so we have actually got away with a completely different economic outcome to, I think, most people in the sector because of the luck of geography and the fact that our food, largely curries, for delivery, work really well in a box,” he explained.

The fact the business has restaurants in places where people live rather than work has been hugely helpful, with benefits also seen in the periods when restrictions were relaxed, Laurillard said. When its sites reopened in July last year, the four months of trading were “absolutely fabulous” because people weren’t travelling into the city centres, they were staying local.

Gigging Squid also benefited from a shift in the times people were choosing to eat out – due to the changes to their working pattern. “Because they weren’t commuting, people were coming out a lot earlier. People were sitting down for tea at 5pm, rather than 7 or 8pm after they had finished work. So we had some fantastic numbers coming through,” he said.

“When we were locked down again we went back into breakeven mode and finally from 12 April we started making some money again with outside seating,” added Laurillard.

He said that while the pandemic has still been very challenging for the business, he believes it has been nowhere near as challenging for Giggling Squid as for others in the sector. “We have been very fortunate in that sense,” he said. “As a result we’ve come out of the year actually ahead of our pre-Covid budget in terms of EBITDA, which is an astonishing result.”

While the business has seen a huge uplift in takeaway and delivery orders during lockdowns, Laurillard adopts a more measured long-term view. Based on the trends seen since the reopening of outdoor trading, with fewer delivery orders – except when the weather has been bad – he said that although he expects “a certain amount of elevated revenue from that channel retained”, he doesn’t believe it will be transformative for a business like Giggling Squid.

“I think it’s going to be a nice little extra,” he said. But the shorter term prospects are less clear, he added as there are still so many unknowns regarding when people will return to the office and how soon they will be happy to jump on public transport into the large urban areas.