Rogano in Glasgow has been a restaurant, café and oyster bar for more than 75 years - and its secret is that it has changed so little. Ed Robertson talks to general manager Ann Patterso
This weekRogano, GlasgowWhy?Scotland's AA Restaurant of the Year
Need to know If restaurants can assume a personality, then Rogano is surely one of Glasgow's grandest of dames.
According to general manager Ann Patterson, the site first became known in 1874 when it opened as a Spanish bodega bar called Rogano. In 1935, the bodega bar was closed and, after a refurbishment, Rogano opened as the restaurant, café and oyster bar familiar to customers today.
After changing hands a few times it was purchased by current owner James Mortimer in 2006. Meanwhile, thanks to sensitive refurbishment in 1983, the establishment has retained the same look and feel it had in the 1930s with an art deco interior.
A mural, pillars and glass canopies are all originals dating from the era, while Patterson says that many of the mirrors still used by Rogano were given by shipbuilders that had taken them from the Queen Mary, which they were helping to build in Glasgow's docks in the 1930s, to pay off their tabs.
Patterson adds: "All the people coming in wouldn't see any difference and won't notice the refurbishment; everything has been kept exactly the same as it has been."
The restaurant specialises in seafood while even the menus nod towards the restaurant's heritage. "We've got the original menus and our menus are copied from them with the same font," Patterson says.
Target market With three separate areas consisting of the restaurant, oyster bar and café, Patterson says Rogano can cater for virtually any market and usually does. "Ladies who shop will come into the café on their own to have a glass of Champagne and smoked salmon, while in the restaurant we often do anniversaries, birthdays and more formal events."
Meanwhile, the bar can be full of people ordering Champagne and oysters and huge amounts of cocktails. "We're known for trying to cater for everybody and, because we have the three different areas, we can do that - it is not a case of taking as many customers as we can and putting them where we can," she explains.
Why customers choose it While its reputation for seafood and Champagne are two of Rogano's main draws, its key unique selling point is one its rivals can only hope to emulate - its history. "Nowhere else in Glasgow has it; maybe others can try and copy us or be like us, but you can't buy what we've got. Rogano is original and exists as built," Patterson says.
The sense of tradition is reflected in Rogano's clientele. The restaurant serves a large number of regular customers, some of whom have been coming since the 1940s and 1950s and now bring their children and grandchildren.
How it markets itself
The restaurant used to have a no-advertising policy, instead relying on its heritage and reputation, which has seen it featured in films and television, as well as regularly appearing in tourist round-ups of Glasgow in newspaper features. However, Rogano now does limited advertising in the local press and six months ago embraced the social media revolution with its own Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Business advice Patterson claims that the secret to Rogano's success has been its constant focus on customers and keeping them happy, a ploy she believes any restaurant can mimic. She says: "There's so much competition out there that we have to look out for our own clientele. If you don't look after the client, they're not going to come back. We've been very loyal to them and in return they are loyal to us. We look after them and they support us, it is about recognising them and making sure they're happy."
Future plans For such a large operation, the immediate future remains remarkably modest, with two things standing out on the to-do list. Patterson wants to increase the focus on Rogano's heated outside area, which serves both smokers and outside diners when the weather allows between March and October.
She is also keen to replace the carpet in the restaurant, adding: "The carpet was copied from the Queen Mary and every few years we have to have it rewoven for us. "We will get it done in exactly the same style as before. Otherwise it's more of the same."
Patterson says the restaurant's success is best guaranteed by both its reliability and its determination to always do things properly. "As we're such a well-known restaurant with such a lengthy heritage, we have to remain true to it," she adds. "We're looking at the future but it's our past that has made us so successful and we can never let it go."
SPOTLIGHT ON CHAMPAGNE
With 100,000 oysters sold each year and the restaurant known as a destination for celebration, it is vital that Rogano's Champagne is second to none.
Patterson says that following numerous tastings, staff settled on Joseph Perrier Champagne as its house Champagne and with 7,200 bottles sold each year, Rogano has become the château's largest seller of its Champagne in the UK. As a result, Joseph Perrier supplies the bottles, which sell at £48.75 or £9.95 per glass, complete with Rogano's own label.
"We tasted a few and they were by far the best and although they're not the cheapest, we wanted a quality Champagne and we wanted an exclusive one," Patterson says.
"Champagne is one of our biggest sellers and it is very important [to have such a focus]. Customers know they are going to get a good quality Champagne and it is not an over-the-odds price."
And serving the Champagne is another way of reinforcing the strength of tradition in the customer's mind, Patterson adds. "It is served by a waiter in a black waistcoat and a starched white apron; it is all part of the package," she says.
FACTS AND STATS
Owner James Mortimer
Head chef Andrew Cumming
Staff 70 (35 full time and 35 part time)
Average spend per head (with wine and drinks) £65
Covers per week (restaurant and café) 950