An enterprising London black cab driver has launched a pie and mash delivery service after seeing his income plummet during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Fridays and Saturdays, 31-year-old Josh Kelly loads the back of his taxi with takeaway meals to take to customers across his Islington neighbourhood in the north of the capital.
Popham Pies – named after the housing estate by his house from where he runs the business – was born in November after Mr Kelly had endured months of absent fares.
“It’s pretty much my main job now because there’s just no work in the taxi at the moment – obviously with the lockdown no-one’s going anywhere,” he said.
“When lockdowns come to an end there is some work, but very little, still quite bad. So this was just something to sort of guarantee me a bit more money per week.”
He added: “It is tough when you go from working six, seven days a week to doing nothing. So I really had to come up with something myself.”
Mr Kelly, who has been a taxi driver for six years, said inspiration came from a fellow cabbie who opened his own food stall in Billericay, Essex.
He said he saw a “gap in the market” and was attracted to the idea of combining two long-standing parts of London culture.
“It’s traditional London and pie and mash in a traditional taxi, so I just thought it would catch people’s attention,” he said.
“It’s a very traditional London thing, just like the black taxi is, so that’s why I tied the two together.”
Mr Kelly sources the minced beef pies and mash from M Manze in Bermondsey, south London – one of the oldest pie shops in the capital.
Customers can order their Popham Pies packaged meals over Instagram, Facebook or Whatsapp, with a single pie and mash serving costing £5.
Mr Kelly said he is up to 1,600 followers across Instagram and Facebook and estimates he has so far delivered close to 1,000 pies.
He said customers have enjoyed the food and appreciated the service, especially since there are no other pie and mash options locally.
“A lot of people in Islington will know a taxi driver, or their friends or family are taxi drivers, and they know that we’re struggling, so I think when they see the two together they think ‘Well, I can order off him… we’re helping out’,” Mr Kelly said.
Normally used to interacting with his passengers, he said it is nice to meet customers who are both young and old.
He said one customer recently contacted him and mentioned her grandparents in their 80s.
“She was saying how they barely get out they house, obviously because of Covid, they’ve been shielding.
“And she said that she didn’t have any money at all, she’s getting paid next week. But I said it’s fine I’ll deliver this week and you pay me when you’ve got it.”
Mr Kelly said the impact of successive lockdowns over the past year has been “awful” for taxi drivers, who used to be able to work 24 hours a day if they wanted to.
“It’s gone from that to you might work 10 hours and end up with £20,” he said.
“I don’t even go out in the taxi any more, to be honest, because it’s just not worth it. Last time I went out I did four hours and I got one job which was £16 and that covered the diesel.”
He added: “Once the pandemic is over there probably will be a lot less cab drivers out there.”
Mr Kelly said he hopes to be able to continue the pie and mash delivery service, possibly recruiting other cab drivers to expand into other areas of London.
He also wants to capitalise on his following by launching Popham Taxis, a telephone black cab service, in April.