Vegetarian restaurant group out to become a national brand

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

1847 vegetarian restaurant group out to become a national brand

Related tags: Vegetarianism

For the past five years vegetarian restaurant group 1847 has been gradually extending its empire, now the team is set to turn its fine dining offering in to a national brand.

The restaurant – named after the year the world’s first vegetarian society was formed – has sites in Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol and will launch in Brighton this week.

It is the brainchild of Damien Davenport – a former general manager at Malmaison Hotels – who wants to take the veggie fine dining revolution nationwide.

“There’s definitely a gap in the market,” said Davenport.

“I can probably count on one hand the number of good vegetarian restaurants in the UK that are aiming at the same scene as us – and they’re all independents.”

While 70 – 80 per cent of the Vegetarian Society’s membership is South-East based, Davenport said he saw ‘real potential’ for future openings in York, Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds and Edinburgh.

“When you look around those cities you don’t have much choice as a vegetarian in a full-dine restaurant environment,” he said.

“We’re looking to expand to up to ten sites by the end of next year.”

Carnivores welcome

A key part of 1847’s business plan is appealing as much to carnivores as it does the veggie market.

The restaurant avoids advertising in its window that it is vegetarian, and now meat eaters form ‘a big chunk’ of its customer base.

“My worry was that people would look at the signs and say ‘oh god they sell nut roast’, and that’s not what we’re about at all,” said Davenport.

Sample dishes include twists on carnivorous classics such as Beet Bourguignon and ‘Fish’ and Chips made with ginger ale battered halloumi.

“I don’t think it’s good enough for us as a business to only target vegetarians,” Davenport said.

“I want us to be known for good food and drink – the fact that we’re vegetarian is a side point.”

Investing in staff

Staff training is Davenport’s ‘big thing’, and he ensures that each restaurant employs apprentices across front and back-of-house.

“That’s something that really drives me,” he said.

“If I seriously sit here and say I want ten restaurants in the next 12-18 months then we really need to look at how we can develop our own staff.”

The restaurant is aiming to tackle the notoriously high staff turnover of the hospitality industry by working with local colleges and offering apprentices higher paid positions at the end of their training.

“We’ve grown from 22 to 53 staff this year, so we’ve got 53 great people that we should be working with to see how we can keep them,” Davenport said.

“There’s no point us training them for a year if they’re going to go and work somewhere else.”

1847 will launch at 103 North Road Brighton on 13 November.

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