A LEADING Bradford businessman has insisted that his restaurant chain will survive despite going through a torrid time during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mohammed Aslam was speaking after he appeared in court on a charge of speeding when his solicitor revealed the difficulties the Aagrah business has faced. 

The court was told the company has been going through financial difficulties which forced it to close a number of branches.

Afterwards, Mr Aslam agreed the restaurant business has faced significant challenges during the pandemic, especially during lockdowns, but he insisted the company was now well placed to prosper in the future.

In court two weeks ago, Mr Aslam’s solicitor told Leeds Magistrates’ the Aagrah Group was “not in good financial health”, having lost £2 million and closed two of its restaurants in Sheffield.

However, Mr Aslam, 68, said the business is now “stronger than ever” after restructuring.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Mr Aslam is Executive Chef and Managing Director at Aagrah GroupMr Aslam is Executive Chef and Managing Director at Aagrah Group

Pleading exceptional hardship, his solicitor Ashfaq Chowdury told magistrates on January 15 the Aagrah Group, had been struggling.

Mr Chowdury told the court: “Mr Aslam’s income is nil at present, he is not drawing money.

“He takes £200 to £300 a month. It would be difficult to find a driver from his employees and has nil savings.”

The court heard Mr Aslam visits his various restaurants on a daily basis to oversee business and to keep it operating and “is the driving force behind the company which is suffering”.

It was also said Mr Aslam’s health has deteriorated in recent years, having suffered a heart attack and he is taking regular medication.

Mr Aslam was able to avoid a driving ban after admitting getting caught speeding while driving at 42mph in a 30mph zone in Castleford on March 20 last year, but was fined a total of £444.

Speaking to the Telegraph & Argus after the hearing, Mr Aslam said: “Like every business at the beginning of the pandemic we were worrying, and we closed the two branches in Sheffield as they were leaking money.

“We are stronger now than we have been for the past four years, we are doing better financially now than four years ago.

“We were leaking money, closing restaurants but that was two years ago, we are strong now. Aagrah is going nowhere.”

He also clarified he takes £200-£300 a week from the business, not a month as his solicitor said in court.

The Aagrah empire was founded in Shipley in 1977 and has grown into a highly successful, award-winning business with almost a dozen restaurants across the North.

It still has a site in its hometown of Shipley, in Saltaire Road, along with the Aagrah Midpoint in Thornbury and sites in Skipton, Leeds and beyond.

For decades it has been one of the district’s – and country’s – leading lights in the world of South Asian cuisine, with its authentic Kashmiri dishes honoured with multiple awards over the years.

Its managing director, Mohammed Aslam, 68, worked his way up from textile mills in the city and on the buses to become one of Aagrah’s leading figures, serving as the restaurant chain’s figurehead. For his efforts he has received an MBE and serves as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant for West Yorkshire.

The hospitality industry is one of the sectors of the economy that has been hit hardest throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with venues forced to close and bookings cancelled.

Along with its restaurants, Aagrah has the purpose-built Midpoint in Thornbury used for conferences, banqueting and awards ceremonies - many of which have been cancelled in the past two years.

It also has a catering service which will have also taken a blow throughout the pandemic with events such as weddings cancelled or considerably downsized due to restrictions.

Now, as restrictions are lifted, it’s hoped that customer confidence will grow meaning more bookings and that Bradford’s hospitality industry will be booming once again.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@telegraphandargus.co.uk