CHEFS Mark Taylor and Jamie Evans are hoping that running a takeaway service will be just the starter for a main course of welcoming customers into their new venue later this year.

The best friends have run a thriving restaurant at The Dog Inn, Belthorn, since May 2019.

From there, they ran a takeaway service as the first lockdown eased.

Late last summer, they took on the operation of the kitchen at The Bank Bar and Kitchen in Church Street, Darwen.

But just as they were ready to open the doors, the November lockdown came into force and their plans were stalled. Once again they turned to ‘food to go’ to tide them over.

Lancashire Telegraph: Chefs Mark Taylor and Jamie Evans are looking forward to welcoming guests into The Bank Bar and Kitchen, Darwen

Mr Evans. 31, said: “Restaurants having to close has had a massive effect on us. We’ve adapted by offering takeaway – first at The Dog Inn, and now at The Bank.

“Because we’ve had to adapt and change so much during the pandemic, it’s made us better at what we do. We feel like we are going to come out the other side of this stronger and better than ever.

“Offering takeaways from The Bank has given us a chance to build our reputation in Darwen before we’ve even opened. We’ve already got a loyal following and repeat customers who order from us every week. We just can’t wait to open now.”

Mr Taylor, 30, said: “It’s frustrating seeing everyone’s doors closed and businesses shutting down. We’re lucky that we’re still here doing what we do, what we love.

“I’m looking forward to getting the doors open to the public. That opening night is going to be a party for everyone that no one’s going to forget!”

The team is also looking forward to reopening their restaurant at The Dog Inn, which underwent a £5,000 refurbishment last October.

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s growth boss, said: “The hospitality sector has been heavily impacted by Covid restrictions, so it’s very heartening to hear about businesses like Mark and Jamie’s that have been able to adapt to the current situation.

“Sadly not every hospitality business has been able to do that. Times are still tough and we will continue to lobby the government for extra funding for our hardest hit businesses.”