A couple have spoken of the heartbreak at having to close the doors on their award-winning St Andrews restaurant after more than a decade.
The Nahm-Jim, once judged best Thai restaurant in the UK by the Sunday Times and featured nationally on television when it won high praise from top chef Gordon Ramsay, shut abruptly last week, with the loss of nine full-time and 20 part-tome jobs, after 11 years.
However, while the suddenness of the move may have shocked customers, owners Sandy and Bee Mitchell said they had been fighting hard for more than a year to avoid closure.
The first public sign came with a notice in the restaurant window saying the closure was due to circumstances beyond its control and a message on the website.
While increased competition and growing overheads were blamed for the downturn in the business, Sandy explained that, ironically, the exposure on television with Gordon Ramsay in late 2010 was the start of the problems.
“We suddenly found ourselves not only super busy but also that people’s expectation levels were so much higher,” he said. “This resulted in us having to employ more highly skilled Thai chefs and generally upping our game a bit in all areas which added to our overheads.
“The main factors, however, I would say that led to us losing money and ultimately going bust was a combination of an increase in overheads - rent, supplies, staff, staff accommodation, etc - and an increase in quality competition in town from other restaurants.
“In the last few years we have seen great restaurants such as Little Italy, Mitchell’s, Forgan’s and The Adamson, as well as places like Nandos, Dominos Pizza and all the other food outlets improving.
“The overall effect really meant that we had a 100-seat restaurant, which we used to be able to fill each night, only open on one floor aside from Saturday nights and sometimes Fridays.
“We tried hard to make cuts without compromising our principles on quality but eventually it got to the point where we had missed a couple of VAT payments and, despite our best efforts, were losing ground.
“When eventfully our main creditor HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) applied for winding up order, we had no alternative but to cease trading.
“This all happened very suddenly and telling our staff, some of who had been with us almost from the beginning and were like family, was one of the most difficult things Bee and I have ever had to do”
Contrary to rumours in the town, Sandy said the restaurant had not been visited by HMRC but had co-operated fully and followed its instructions with the aid of their accountants.
He said he was not aware of any other local businesses that might have been impacted by the closure but if any were, he would be talking to them when he returned from visiting family in Thailand, which was giving the couple time to reflect on their plans for the future.
He said they had been receiving tremendous support from the close-knit St Andrews community.
“We are very proud of what we managed to achieve at Nahm-Jim with the quality of food and it has broken our hearts to see it go,” he said.