JAMES Huynh owns Royal Wootton Bassett restaurant Oriental Aroma, which hosts regular fun educational events in aid of Prospect Hospice

“BUSINESS is not just about take, take, take,” said James Huynh.

“It’s nice to give a little bit back to the community.

“It’s very important, especially in a close-knit community like Royal Wootton Bassett. People have the understanding that if local businesses support local needs in the community, then people will support you as a company.

“That’s been the case.”

James has held to this philosophy throughout his time in charge of the restaurant in Royal Wootton Bassett.

“Going back to 2007, when the RAF were still at Lyneham, we were approached by Lyneham Infants’ School, who asked if we would do something for Chinese new year. It was being covered by the school, and so I thought, ‘Why not?’

“We taught them about Chinese culture, Chinese food and the 12 animals of the lunar calendar. The children absolutely loved it and the school so appreciated what we did.

“It was from there onwards that we had other people coming to us and asking us to visit them.

“Year after year, it just developed into an occasion.

“The reason why I did it for Prospect, on a smaller scale at the time, was that a very regular customer – I won’t give his name – suggested that Prospect would be a suitable charity to work with.

“I insisted that if anybody approached me, wishing to do a charity event, there would be a share of donations to Prospect.”

Later, a member of James’ immediate family was cared for by the organisation, which deepened his respect for it even further.

“It wasn’t until then that I really began to appreciate and understand how well Prospect is run, how much care they provide and that they have so many volunteers.”

Over the years, the restaurant has raised more than £60,000 for the hospice and further sums for other causes by hosting a variety of charity events, and it is the venue for the mayor’s annual charity evening.

James, who admits to being in his early fifties, grew up in Swindon.

“My parents are retired now, but coming to this country they were always in the restaurant business, the food business.”James himself trained in industry, but found himself in charge of the restaurant in 2006 through what he describes as family circumstances.

“I have always liked a challenge. It keeps you active.

“If I could turn back the clock, I don’t say I would be eager to jump into doing it all over again, but there are no regrets. It’s good to learn.

“At the end of the day, you share the happiness of the people, of the customers. There are diners – regular diners – who send you messages of appreciation and highly praise you.

“You do the charity events such as the school visits and you see sheer happiness in the faces of all these children - their laughter, their joy.

“At the end they show their appreciation and it gives you satisfaction.

“Every year, schools come back to us because they know they can rely on us.”

James’ sense of businesses being part of communities even earned the restaurant international news coverage.

“Going back to 2009, I think it was, when the whole country was in recession. As a businessman you have to think of a way to make things manageable in times of hardship.

“I thought long and hard, and I thought, ‘Let’s do something extraordinary, that’ll really make headline news and bring people in, even if their pennies are tight’.”

That something turned out to be special evenings on which people were invited to eat for free. Later, they were invited not only to eat for free but to enjoy a free Chinese beer. Ultimately, there were evenings when customers were paid £1 each to enjoy a free meal.

“It got to the stage where it really went crazy. I thought, ‘I could have even bigger queues down High Street. Let’s pay people to eat for free. That was where it really took off. I had the likes of CNN, ITV and BBC Radio approaching me to interview me about how it was all working.

“They were curious to find out what this crazy man was doing!”

The idea ended up not only helping people for whom times were hard but also luring plenty of new customers.

Another aspect of his business philosophy is keeping up with changing demand, which is why there has been a complete menu for vegans since September and regular all-vegan evenings since November.

There are also plans, albeit in their infancy, for a new vegan venue in Swindon.

James’ great pleasure, though, is the restaurant’s work in the community, especially with children.

“That’s when I really get that great feeling inside. Nobody wants to do something for free, at the end of the day, and I don’t think I’ve done it for free.

“I’ve done it to satisfy myself, and because I get such great appreciation at the end I choose to do it every year.”