From caravan burgers to a Norwich institution: The rise of Zaks restaurant
The sale of Zaks, one of Norwich's best-loved restaurants, has sparked lots of happy memories of those who have dined there over the decades. But how did it all start?
Zaks has been a part of people's lives in Norwich since 1976. It all started when local musician and entrepreneur Harvey Platt had the idea to bring a slice of America to Norwich after visiting San Francisco to meet up with his former musician buddies.
Mr Platt had the opportunity to purchase an old café caravan situated on Farmers Avenue near Castle Meadow in Norwich next to the old cattle market which is now the Vue cinema (Castle Quarter) and that's where the story began.
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Zaks opened in May 1976 serving the now-famous chargrilled burgers in the 'Original Zaks Caravan' wrapped in tin foil and cooked fresh to order in the American tradition. It became the meeting place for people after a night out in Norwich and has a fond place in people's memories - for many Zaks was Norwich's original street food.
From the success of the original caravan in 1978, the Zaks restaurant opened its doors in Mousehold Heath in Norwich in 1979. In the mid 1980s the caravan closed but in 1988, Zaks Waterside opened on the banks of the River Wensum in Barrack Street opposite the Norwich landmark Cow Tower.
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A decade on in 1998, Mr Patt passed over the reins of the Norwich restaurants to the family-run business Blue Sky Leisure and added Zaks Poringland in 2005 and Zaks Thetford in 2015. All restaurants are going strong apart from Thetford which closed last year.
The reins have now been passed to its former leadership team (who ran the business collectively from 2005 to 2016), Ian Hacon and Chris Carr, acquiring the business for an undisclosed sum in a friendly acquisition.
Mr Hacon, who originally trained as a chartered accountant, spent 15 years working at Zaks' parent company, Blue Sky Leisure, including nine years as chief executive.
Chris Carr has more than 25 years' experience in the hospitality sector, and he led Zaks for 10 years up to 2016.
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