Middletons Steakhouse: our story
It’s fair to say we’ve come a long way in five short years since we turned the old Crown Inn into the first Middletons Steakhouse & Grill.
The first Middletons…in Middleton!
Now we have five restaurants in addition to the original one at Middleton, near King’s Lynn: Norwich, Milton Keynes, Watford, and Colchester, with a 200-seat flagship due to open in thriving Leicester later in 2016.
That first Middletons, opened in June 2011, arrived on the scene as the UK steakhouse revival was in its infancy.
But now, the sector is vibrant across the country and our combination of quality food, keen pricing and a classy environment has proved an increasingly popular recipe for our customers.
One of our delicious steaks
Middletons Leicester is our most ambitious project yet, transforming an iconic old bank in the heart of the city into a spectacular, high-ceilinged restaurant.
Like many a successful business, the seeds were sown in the midst of recession.
Our managing director Steve Hutton, who has worked in hospitality since his first job as a 12-year-old pot washer in his mother’s contract catering business, was operating a small chain of gastro pubs in Norfolk when the global banking crisis struck in 2008.
“We knew that traditional pubs were a dying breed, and we started to look at opportunities for a branded operation that, if it was successful, could be expanded,” he said.
“We owned the Crown Inn at Middleton and took the decision to completely change direction with it.”
Steakhouse protoype is born
Middletons Steakhouse & Grill was born, a prototype restaurant near King’s Lynn that would ultimately prove the template for a growing chain.
“There was quite clearly a gap in the market here for a dedicated steakhouse – for good steaks and good burgers,” said Mr Hutton.
As well as the steak, our restaurants specialise in a signature mixed grill, seafood, burgers, cocktails and classic desserts.
We serve seafood too!
“Back then I could see that steak was back on the increase but the offer had to be about more than just steak, and our mixed grill is actually our biggest selling dish, while lobster is right up there,” added Steve.
The aim was to become a high street brand recognised for high quality, well-prepared meats, served at competitive prices in surroundings described as “casual dining plus”.
Within a few months, it became clear that the rehabilitation of the steakhouse – and our own particular take on it – was complete, and could be taken on the road.
“After six or seven months we saw business steadily increasing every single week. Most restaurants, when they open, see a curve of peaking with the interest and then tapering off. In King’s Lynn, we’re still on an upward curve after five years,” said Steve.
Nevertheless, opening a restaurant in Norwich in December 2012, a £750,000 refit of an old baptist chapel, was a “huge gamble”.
Our Norwich restaurant
“It was incredibly ambitious given we were running an 80-seat restaurant in an old pub and this was 200 seats in the high street,” explained Steve.
“But it was an overnight success – it’s done three times as well as we expected at the start, and it’s got there pretty quickly.”
Middletons is part of the new breed of British steakhouse, with a focus on the provenance of prime meat, quality surroundings and customer service.
“There’s been a revolution in food in the past 20 years – provenance is huge and it gives people confidence,” said Mr Hutton.
“Provenance of meat and animal welfare forms a huge part of our business; you can only sell good meat if it comes from an animal that’s been looked after and fed the right food.
“All our meat is British and Irish from a supplier I’ve been working with for more than 10 years, and prepared at our own butchery in Middleton.
One of our butchers at work
“We opened our own butchery to have control over our cuts, and also to keep our price point keen and honest – the cost of meat goes up, and by butchering our own meat to keep our costs down we can avoid penalising our customers.
“It’s very important to us not to go down the discounting route – we believe in honest pricing, rather than inflating the cost and then offering discounts and vouchers.”
The success of Norwich allowed for further expansion, first in Milton Keynes, and then Colchester and Watford, our first outlet inside the M25.
Inside our restaurant at Colchester
Maintaining the consistency and quality of our food and service as the number of restaurants grow is crucial to further expansion.
“We have a training and development chef, a company executive chef, and area chefs dedicated to creating and working from a food bible to ensure every dish is cooked in the same way and presented in the same way,” said Steve.
“Our restaurants, though in very distinct and unique buildings, have the same timeless, classic feel. Never underestimate the importance of giving someone a nice place to eat.”
So on to Leicester, our most ambitious project yet in a city thriving thanks to the discovery and burial of Richard III, and the global buzz surrounding the fairytale Premier League success of Leicester City.
A grand facade for our Leicester restaurant
“The city has seen huge European investment since Richard III was buried there, and we’ll be in a good location between the visitor centre, High Cross shopping centre and the market,” said Steve.
“It will be a spectacular place, an iconic old bank with high ceilings and real history. It’s a monster project but it will be sensational when it’s finished.”
One thing’s for sure, the Middletons story is far from finished…