The Caterer

Hart's restaurant to relocate and downsize

14 January 2019 by
Hart's restaurant to relocate and downsize

Hart's restaurant in Nottingham will be closing to relaunch as a smaller operation within owner Tim Hart's boutique hotel across the road.

"We'd rather have a small restaurant that's full than a big one that's not," said Hart, speaking to The Caterer.

"We're full Saturday night and Sunday lunch but at the beginning of the week it's an 80-cover restaurant with 10 people in it, and I'd rather have a 20-cover restaurant with 10 people in it every night. That creates a better atmosphere, better economics."

Hart opened the restaurant on Standard Hill, which he operates under a long leasehold, in 1997. However, following a declining appetite for fine dining in the city, a month-long consultation process has been launched for the existing site.

The concept will relaunch within the hotel's bar, offering 15-20 covers from 10 March, but 20 to 30 of the restaurant's 43 employees face redundancy.

"There are some unhelpful trends for us in Nottingham. One is the fashion against fine dining, there's a lot of other ideas competing for peoples' discretionary income and they're spending money in restaurants but possibly not in restaurants like mine so much," said Hart.

"It's a big ship and we've had to think of different ways of sailing it with a slimmer crew. We've made quite a lot of progress on that, but still we reached the conclusion that we'd be scratching around for another couple of years without really getting ahead, and that's why we've made the decision we have."

He added: "If I was 30, rather than 71, I would be thinking carefully about a rebrand. The site is not ideal for that in the sense that it's not in the buzzy central area of Nottingham, which you might need for a more middle-market brand. Perhaps someone will buy it and they will be able to keep it going in some format. I'd be thrilled to see that because it would avoid redundancies."

Hart hopes to extend the bar so the new restaurant operation could operate 20-25 covers without impacting the drinks business. As well as the 32-bedroom hotel in the city, Hart also owns Hambleton Hall, a four-red-AA-star, 17-bedroom hotel in Oakham, Rutland with a Michelin-starred restaurant.

The Caterer interview: Tim Hart >>

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