Norfolk restaurant chain Zaks plans 30 neighbourhood restaurants in five years

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Franchising

Norfolk-based Blue Sky Leisure, which owns the Zaks restaurant brand, is to launch a franchise scheme for the concept with the aim of opening 30 diners in the next five years
Norfolk-based Blue Sky Leisure, which owns the Zaks restaurant brand, is to launch a franchise scheme for the concept with the aim of opening 30 diners in the next five years
Zaks, the Norfolk-based American diner restaurant group, has revealed details of a franchise scheme which it hopes will see 30 new diner restaurants open in the next five years.

Blue Sky Leisure, which owns the Zaks brand, made the formal announcement yesterday on Independence Day in an event titled 'Zaks: Re-born on 4 July'.

The popular restaurant chain, which now has three sites in the Norwich area, was founded in 1976 and was acquired by the Timewell family-owned holiday park company in 1999.


Chief executive Ian Hacon told BigHospitality that Blue Sky Leisure had been keen to grow the concept given the popularity of American-themed restaurants but had not wanted to do so if it meant bringing new private equity investors into the business. 

"We have transformed the procedural side of the brand and made it future-proof over the last six or seven years. We have made the brand expandable - we have a clear vision, we have documented our procedures and we have got good people in place.

"Franchising just seemed to work for us. There is not really a lot of competition in the franchised sector for this type of offer and bringing third-party capital into the business or massively leveraging with finance were not options for the family," he explained.

Location, location, location

Hacon said he was hoping to begin expanding by welcoming franchisees from the nearby area first but revealed he was already in discussions with a businessman from a small town in Kent and would be happy to open the first franchised site even further afield if it was the right fit for the business.

"The casual dining market is in massive growth, as is our particular segment. I see on BigHospitality a new burger restaurant popping up every week in London.

"We are not going to attack London straight away; we will focus on the provinces. We want to stay local, as neighbourhood diners.

"He who shouts the loudest or has got the deepest pockets is not necessarily going to be a successful franchisee in terms of getting past the post with us," he added.


There are currently three Zaks restaurants in the Norwich area - Zaks Waterside Grill & Bar on Barrack Street, Zaks Mousehold Diner near Mousehold Heath and Zaks Poringland Diner in the south Norfolk village.

The restaurant brand has remained popular in the area partly because of its neighbourhood ethos - all the restaurant's meat and fresh produce are supplied by local producers, something the company is hoping to replicate at franchised sites.

However, the brand's 100 per cent beef burgers will continue to be made to a secret recipe in Norwich.

"Each of our diners needs to be unique to their location and need to integrate into that location," Hacon said.

"The fit-out won't be standard and franchising will help us with that while an area manager with responsibility for a few restaurants in the same area would not be able to," he added.

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