12:13 16 February 2022
A fried chicken restaurant set up by five of Hatfield’s childhood pals will open at The Galleria this Friday.
Eli’s pop-up started as a containment project. Two of the five founders were laid off from their full-time jobs and created a business that could operate – and thrive – under lockdown.
Starting from a ‘ghost kitchen’ in The Wrestlers pub, which had temporarily closed due to the pandemic, Eli’s delivered brioche burgers, spicy wings and cheese crisps to the socially distanced population of Hatfield.
A year and a half later, Eli’s is expanding; now it’s ‘neck to neck with some of the biggest brands in the hospitality industry’ in the Hatfield shopping centre.
From Friday (February 18), of Eli will straddle fast-food giants McDonald’s and Burger King, a competition “that’s going to be fun,” said co-founder Danny Wheeler, 26, who grew up on Stanley Drive.
At the start of the lockdown, Danny, along with his pals Andrew Dempsey, Sean Egan, James Godfrey and Charley Crane, were keen to bring the London street food scene to Hatfield.
“We used to go to London a lot to try good street food. But when we came back to Hatfield and got into some food chains, we wouldn’t be treated like valued customers,” Danny said.
“There wasn’t really the same kind of vibe that you get in London where they asked your name and where you were from.
“We haven’t really seen any community-driven brands in Hatfield, so we thought there was a gap in the market.”
The boys pitched their business proposition to the wrestlers, who let them use their kitchen.
“As soon as we started we had a lot of support because our parents, our friends and most of our social circle are also all from Hatfield,” Danny recalls.
Since then they have also done a pop-up in Shoreditch, London.
But Eli’s main priority right now is Hatfield.
“We hope we can achieve this and that the community appreciates what we’re trying to do,” Danny said.
“We tell our staff to try to talk to people by their first names. Little things like that will try to set us apart from the big boys.”