When Rob Spooner’s restaurant was first featured on his local TV news programme, he had no idea just how much it would boost his business.
Rob opened a small restaurant on his local high street in Northumberland and was determined to offer good food at a good price to his customers. His decision to only use local ingredients was to prove a marketing dream.
Rob told us, “My vision was to use all the old recipes that my Grandma used to make, like pan haggerty and griddle scones, with only the best local ingredients. There were all these trendy wine bars and noodle bars opening up and, while they were fun, they seemed to keep closing and then reopening as something different every few months. I wanted a really old-fashioned place that was still modern, fresh and welcoming, but with a decent, solid base. I spoke to my mum and she told me that she had a hand-written recipe book from her mum, so I used that as my inspiration.”
An Appealing Concept
It wasn’t just the recipes that inspired Rob. He also remembered how his Grandma would cycle round the butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers to get her provisions and he wanted to bring the spirit of that back in his restaurant.He continued, “I decided to buy all my ingredients from Northumberland and the majority come from within a ten mile radius, although one of my cheese producers farms is so large it’s further out!”
When Rob launched his new restaurant, he invited the local newspaper to cover the opening night. This brought his ‘local, traditional’ concept to the attention of his local news programme and it was then that the place really took off.
Rob remembers, “The day after we were featured the phone didn’t stop ringing. It wasn’t just people wanting to book tables either – there were farms keen to become suppliers, a lady who had her own recipe book she wanted to share and even a magazine asking me to speak as an expert on Northumbrian food! It was really exciting, but it was also pretty tricky to juggle everything. Luckily, my mum and my girlfriend were able to come in to help out and I quickly took on two new waitresses.”
Making the Most of the OpportunityRob was keen to maximise the coverage he was getting, so when he was asked to speak on national breakfast television, he jumped at the chance. He had been asked to talk about his restaurant concept and to explain how he was helping the local economy.
He continued, “I am particularly proud to be able to give local farmers and artisan producers a new outlet for their delicious products. Before, they were relying on the major supermarket chains – which squeezed their margins and were so demanding – or their own farm shops. By having a ‘centralised’ outlet, they also have a place to meet other people in a similar field – we often have some of our suppliers having coffee and cake in the shop, which is great for customers, too!”
Rob has been able to build the business quicker than he thought possible thanks to his feature on television, although he is quick to point out that he needed to change his plans in order to maximise the opportunity and not loose momentum.
Rob said, “I made sure I responded to customers needs before I got carried away with being on the telly – although it’s nice to be recognised on the street!”