After a few challenging periods of uncertainty, we’re actually starting to see some good things that emerged from the Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
For some of us it was a new fitness regimen, for others it was reconnecting with family or picking up a new hobby.
For John Israfil, it was an opportunity to try something new and exciting - a dessert-focused hospitality venture called Kerbside Creamery.
That idea didn’t just survive Covid, it developed and grew from a small, self-run business into a fully-fledged restaurant embedded within the new Eastern Creek Quarter - with a few steps in-between.
As well as the iconic desserts for which they’ve become so well known, they now offer an American-style mix of Subs, Sandwiches and Burgers, each unique in their own right. But despite its success, Kerbside may never have existed were it not for some pandemic-era misfortune.
“I’m actually a civil engineer,” Israfil says.
“I’d worked in the industry for three years, but I got let go at the start of the pandemic. Then I was trying to figure out how to make money while I was looking for a job.
“Hospitality has a pretty low barrier for entry, so I thought I’d give that a crack. But it was never supposed to be a vocation or anything long-term.”
How things change.
While some new operators aim for the stars straight away, Israfil took a more practical approach to the venture, seeing it as a stop-gap measure before his return to engineering.
Of course, the pandemic had an influence in shaping the Kerbside approach.
“We started with a small marquee, like you see at market stalls,” Israfil recalls.
“The thing is, the markets weren’t on at that time because of Covid. Luckily, Councils were actually letting vendors trade from the front of their house. I could set up a marquee out the front of my place.”
From a driveway in Cecil Hills, both the business and its reputation grew quickly. That only accelerated once life started to return to normal.
“We grew from that marquee to two food trucks, then Eastern Creek Quarter reached out to us to collaborate with one of their restaurants - Tasty Manoosh.
“They weren’t struggling, but they wanted to raise awareness. The only problem was the location - they weren’t in the main strip so they were struggling to be seen.”
Eastern Creek Quarter, one of Western Sydney’s newest and biggest homemaker centres, could be seen as a risk to some retailers. It’s not close to public transport, and despite its size, relatively low visibility means many drivers may not even know it’s there - which can directly affect the foot traffic so many hospitality outlets rely on.
But thanks to continued growth and the arrival of a number of reputable retailers, things are moving in the right direction.
“Our collaboration was really popular, so when the centre had a vacant shop front they called and asked if we wanted it,” Israfil says.
“I can’t complain about the foot traffic. The only thing we knew was food trucks, where we’re the traffic. I’m grateful for the reception we’ve had so far.”
Some of that traffic and reception has been bolstered by a good social media presence, with the eye-catching menu items brought to life in Instagram Reels and other platforms.
While Kerbside have certainly put themselves out there, they know that social media influencers and foodie culture also have an important role to play.
“It can be difficult to gauge how much of our traffic comes from social - or at least our socials,” Israfil says.
“The only thing we don’t know is if (new customers) are coming from other people posting about our food or if they’re coming from our own posts. But either way it’s definitely an important part of the business.”
While it’s been hugely beneficial in advertising the location and menu, social media has also helped the Kerbside venture stay in touch with their most long-term customers, from back in the driveway at Cecil Hills.
“We still see the same customers, definitely, even if we don’t see them as much.
“Now we’re getting to know the locals here and seeing some of them almost weekly. A lot of new, regular customers who want to try everything on the menu or want to get something they’ve enjoyed in the past.”
“But (thanks to social media) we’ve had people come from as far away as the Central Coast to try our food, which is really humbling.”
Though the store and staff are full of warmth and charisma, make no mistake, the food is the star - although it’s been a trial and error process to get it just right.
“We started with more items than we needed, we had to drop a few off,” Israfil says.
“We’re not doing things that no one else is doing, but we’re doing it in a different way that people really seem to be enjoying.
“We got an independent chef to help design the menu. If we didn’t like anything we either tweaked it with him or afterwards, a bit of trial and error. Tasting and tasting."
Facing the Future
For a venture that was never supposed to be a long-term option, the future looks incredibly bright for the Kerbside brand. But while the opportunities seem limitless, John is taking a pragmatic approach.
“We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” he admits.
“We get approached by a lot of people talking about taking over vacant sites and stuff like that. It’s great, but we can’t say yes to everything.
“When we opened here we brought in all our staff and haven’t had the trucks back out since. But we’ll be getting back out to events soon - hopefully in the next couple of weeks.
“There might also be another shop in the near future, but we’re just taking it one step at at time.”
You can find Kerbside Eatery online or visit them in person at the Eastern Creek Quarter, on the corner of the Great Western Highway and Rooty Hill Road South.