October 25 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
A Norfolk entrepreneur is spearheading a revival in the British steakhouse by opening his third restaurant in less than four years.
Following the success of his first restaurant in his home village of Middleton, near King’s Lynn, Steve Hutton launched a second Middleton’s Steak House and Grill in Norwich in 2012 and his firm Gastro Pubs earlier this month made it a hat-trick by opening in Milton Keynes.
Mr Hutton, who has seen his staff expand from 35 to 150 since the first restaurant opened in the summer of 2010, said: “We have ambitious plans for the future. We will be opening another East of England site in the summer and at least two more next year, including a restaurant in Leicester.”
The catering graduate from Lowestoft College predicts his firm’s current £3m turnover will rise to £5.5m next year and his staff by then will “easily have doubled”.
Mr Hutton, who has worked in catering all his life, said: “When we launched Gastro Pubs in 2006 it was to run three pubs in East Anglia, including the Crown in Middleton.
“However, changes in the market place saw the fortunes of pubs decline and it became clear family restaurants were the way forward.”
Supported by an investor, he refurbished The Crown and rebranded it into Middleton’s Steak House and Grill in a £100,000 makeover.
He said: “Business built up quickly, with customers coming from as far afield as Swaffham, Wisbech and Ely; they even travelled to us from Norwich – and they still did after we opened a restaurant in the city.”
Mr Hutton said the BSE crisis had a terrible impact on steakhouses and they were only just coming back to the high street which was still dominated by Italian restaurants.
He said: “Our USP is that we provide a quality environment at an affordable price; our food is also high quality and we use an East Anglian butcher.”
The Norwich restaurant in Timber Hill involved an investment of close to £1m in converting a former sports bar and Malaysian buffet. However, it swiftly produced returns that exceeded business projections.
“We are currently serving 2,500 to 3,000 meals a week, compared to the 1,500 to 2,000 we had originally hoped for,” he said.
A similar investment has gone into their property in Midsummer Boulevard, Milton Keynes.
A £2m plan to transform Palmers department store in Dereham and a neighbouring eyesore into an upmarket supermarket and clothing shop has been confirmed.