Deopham diner reaps the rewards of brave expansion
08:30 08 August 2014
With pubs and restaurants struggling for trade since the recession, you would have forgiven a 30-year-old diner hidden away in a small South Norfolk village for struggling to attract new customers.
However Nick’s Diner in Deopham has bucked the trend after taking a bold decision to double the size of its premises –and is now reaping the awards with a 35pc growth in turnover in its first year and many new and happy customers.
Sara and Craig Armitage had been customers at the restaurant for 10 years when they noticed it come up for sale.
With Mr Armitage’s background in pub catering – having managed the White Lodge in Attleborough for many years – and Mrs Armitage being a change management consultant, they decided it was the perfect time to try something new.
However the difficult economic climate, plus the restaurant’s quiet location off a main road with no passing traffic, meant attracting customers would be a tall order.
“If we’d taken more advice, we probably wouldn’t have done it,” Mrs Armitage, 47, admitted after taking on the site three years ago.
“However because we’re quite impulsive and really passionate that we could make it successful, we decided to go for it.”
The restaurant has a proud motorsport heritage, with ex-Formula One racing drivers Mika Hakkinen, Johnny Herbert and Martin Donnelly known to eat there when they drove for the nearby Lotus team.
However Mrs Armitage said: “The thing we didn’t want to do was go in and change everything immediately. Instead, we did it gradually. Whilst our menu remains largely the same, we gave it a more modern look and freshened things up somewhat by putting our own spin on the dishes.
“To coin a phrase, we initially used: ‘Same old Nick’s, with a few new tricks.’”
As such the couple kept the restaurant’s name - but made large-scale refurbishments, including extending through to the diner’s old living quarters to double the size of the restaurant.
That now means Nick’s will often serve around 80 people on a Saturday, allowing it sustain its growth through the difficult economic climate.
“We felt we had to try and cater for as many people as possible,” said Mrs Armitage.
“It is in the middle of nowhere, so people are not going to drive past it.
“People’s salaries are decreasing and they are only coming out for special occasions – they don’t come out like they used to.
“We don’t have a pub or post office in Deopham, so it’s also important for the community.”
The business is very much a family affair, with Mr and Mrs Armitage’s son Harvey working as a chef.
They now plan to build a three-bedroom bungalow as an extension so they can devote more time to the venture.
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