After retiring from the military towards the end of 2015, paratroopers Tom Walker, Ed McAdam and Sam Westlake found themselves searching for a second career. The former officers had become friends during their posting in south Wales and were keen to work together on a business venture.
It was food and drink that satisfied all their interests, with Westlake in particular being something of a foodie, so when the opportunity came in the shape of an old grain store in the New Forest town of Ringwood, in Hampshire, going by the name of Framptons, they grabbed it.
Market towns target
The three partners gutted the Framptons site and set about expanding and re-imagining the space, taking its original features, and creating an all-day café, bar and restaurant. “The place we inherited was an all-day operation in a high street location, so it lent itself to continuing as an all-day offer”, says McAdam. “We really want people to come in for coffee in the morning, have breakfast, have a business meeting, a cocktail or beer, watch the rugby, or come with the dog or a pram. It’s an open house, not tying itself to a particular theme. We want to be a hub for the community.”
With follow-up sites in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, which opened in 2016, and Bath, which followed a year later, what Framptons lacks in site numbers it makes up in geographical stretch. Part of the trio’s business plan has been to target high streets in affluent market towns, which is why, instead of clustering
their openings, they have struck out in places that fit their target demographic and spending habits.
“Ringwood is an historic market town with some wonderful buildings,” McAdam says. “It’s on the up, with lots of new money, commercial premises, good schools and the potential to expand.”
That said, they are also open to more secondary towns where rents are more affordable, which could speed up future expansion. Each site has its own characteristics and customer base. Ringwood’s clientele is a mix of locals and travellers, either passing by or holidaying in the New Forest or Dorset coast, which makes for a varied trade, leading to more of a wet-led operation than the other two sites.
Bath, by contrast, is not considered to be a boozy city by the trio, despite its student population and spikes in drinks trade during rugby matches, with Framptons having a greater focus on brunch and business meals.
The venues incorporate original features where possible
Tailoring the offer
Framptons might be the only up-and-coming all-day offer that isn’t going down the craft beer route. While the trio have nothing against it, they say that craft beer has yet to take off in a meaningful way in both Bath or Tunbridge Wells, meaning that they have had to create a more middle-ground beer offer. The beer list differs from site to site, with the likes of Birra Moretti, Heineken and Amstel on tap. The Bath site serves Krusovice tank beer while New Forest has the largest cask ale offer, with a five-strong selection.
Beyond beer, the drinks offer is more comprehensive and sophisticated. Each site has a strong cocktail list as well as a large gin selection and the company also serves English sparkling wine alongside prosecco and champagne. Coffee is taken seriously, and is sourced from Caravan Coffee Roasters while hot chocolate comes from Melbourne-based cacao artisan and chocolate ‘brew house’ Mörk.
The food offer follows a similar tack, with each restaurant aiming for a broad appeal with female-friendly lighter options as well as more substantial meals, with seasonal menus changing each quarter. Menus differ at each site, with the trio keen to try out different variations of dishes in different locations, its three-strong burger offer being a case in point.
Burgers at Tunbridge Wells are a Tottingworth Farm beef burger, a falafel option and one made with buttermilk chicken, while in the New Forest a smoked confit duck burger replaces the chicken option and, in Bath, the falafel burger is swapped out for one made with bacon and blue cheese. The same goes for its sandwiches, with the menus at and New Forest and Tunbridge Wells completely different (sandwiches aren’t served in the Bath Framptons).
Locality is something that is shouted about on the menus, with each featuring either a map of the local suppliers it uses or their distance from the restaurant (the closest is 520 yards) and the trio are at pains to create or modify dishes to reflect the location. At Tunbridge Wells, its Pantiles crumpet – named after the area in the town – is made using whisky-smoked Kentish beef short rib; in Bath, it becomes the Bath crumpet, made with Somerset beef.
Local approach: The menus at Framptons make use of locally sourced produce
Style-wise the team tries to use some element of the building’s prior use, with Tunbridge Wells – a former Barclays Bank – incorporating some interesting original features, such as a money lift. “We are at the stage of establishing exactly what we want it to look like,” says McAdam. “Though the buildings are different, you should be able to come in and get that Framptons feel.”
In addition to its three sites, the company has also in the past worked with brewer Bath Ales for its The Lodge pop-up at the city’s famous Christmas markets, with it creating a food menu for its alpine-themed stall.
So how does the founders’ military background inform their style as operators? Though the disciplines are worlds apart, McAdam believes there are skill sets they can bring to the trade – as well as the camaraderie of going into business with former para mates.
“For me, working with those guys before, having trust and teamwork and a similar ethos and values, negated some of challenges of going into business together,” says McAdam. “Going from the military to running your own business is a shock – your finances, friends and livelihoods are all in one pot. In the military you know you’re getting paid each week, it’s all very segregated and controlled. It’s very structured, you know what’s left and right.”
“Running your own business is very fluid. You can spend every day looking at things, you’ve got to learn to prioritise. Discipline has certainly got its place in the industry, it’s just a case of tailoring it. Some of our staff are only 17 and just doing their A-levels, if you press them too much, there’s only so much they can give. In terms of instilling values and standards it’s really useful. You want staff to embody what you’re about.”
After growing fairly quickly to three sites, with little industry experience, the team is keen to take stock and work on improving the small things. One area will be a target to source produce from within a 20-mile radius, with more seasonality in menus.
They will also remain on the lookout for further opportunities, with an aim to reach 10 sites overall in the next few years. “We are very conscious about managing that growth, because one thing we have learnt is the risk of growing too quickly,” adds McAdam. “You can have one in every five sites pulling on the rest. We don’t want to be in that position.”
This feature first appeared in MCA, Restaurant’s sister title for eating and drinking market insight. For more details, visit www.mca-insight.com.