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Roasters, the only independent food outlet on a large retail park, situated in Tamworth
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Samantha Panton explains Roasters recipe for success

Samantha Panton

Roasters, Tamworth

The Panton family converted their budget household goods shop into a distinctive town-centre eatery in 1992. Their home-town success in Tamworth, Staffs, has seen them open what is probably the only independent food outlet on a large retail park. Samantha Panton explains their recipe for success is all about different channels.

On the Ventura Retail Park in Tamworth your Roasters café has Costa Coffee as a neighbour. How did an independent business end up there?

The retail park was developed by a local family called Aucotts and, very unusually, they wanted a local name among all the national chains. They approached us in 2009 because Roasters is so well known in Tamworth. It was a fantastic opportunity, so we set up a separate company, put together a business plan and opened on 6 Octo-ber 2010. We believe we were the first independent food retailer to be on a retail park in England at that time.

How did you make your reputation?

Roasters was set up at 35b George Street, Tamworth’s main shopping street, in 1992. The concept was to serve “fast food fresh” as we were inspired by some of the food outlets we’d seen on family holidays in the US. Rather than customers picking up a sandwich in cellophane or a cardboard wrapper, they order their sandwiches and we make them right before their eyes. Everyone now talks about bringing theatre into retailing; we have been doing it since we started. We specialise in roast pork, hence the name, which has nothing to do with roasting coffee beans!

Originally you weren’t food retailers…

From 1983, the family business was John’s Bargains, which everyone of a certain age in Tamworth still remembers. It was run by my parents, John and Angie, who’d started out on the markets selling household goods. From the age of about six years, my sister Traci and I would have to get up at 3am every Sunday morning to drive with our parents to Skegness, which had one of the best markets in the country. After we got the shop in town, we’d work in there for pocket money. Sorting out thousands of sheets of Christmas wrapping paper always sticks in my mind.

Why the change to food?

Once the likes of Wilko and Argos came to Tamworth, we couldn’t compete. We had run a small sandwich shop for a couple of years, which did OK, so we closed that down and converted the housewares shop into a café. Since 1992, we’ve seen all sorts of changes and been through recessions in 1995 and 2008, but the concept hasn’t changed. What we have done, however, is to give ourselves different revenue streams to protect against the ups and downs of trade.

How have you diversified?

We started in 1995 by doing outside catering for private parties, christenings, wakes and so on. We operate across a 25-mile radius. That led us into corporate catering the following year and now 60% of our business out of George Street comes from this. We have about 150 corporate accounts which range from companies we serve three to five times a week to the ones that just call on an ad hoc basis. Since opening at Ventura, we have added a branded van and have started doing lunchtime deliveries to various workplaces. Since last year we have been delivering a two-course lunch four days a week to UPS’ driver training centre in Burton-upon-Trent, 25 miles away.

What are the differences between the high street café and the one on the retail park?

The first thing is that it costs us £2,000 a week just to have our name on the door at Ventura! We are also totally dependent on the footfall at the park. If the stores are quiet, we are quiet. Also lots of people drive a long way to the park and they don’t know us. People are always asking us where our branches are around the country. Since online banking became popular and the opening of the retail park drew people from the town centre, newer or younger Tamworth residents had not heard of us, despite us trading in George Street for 26 years, so we have to look to constantly attract and appeal to new customers.

Are you still a family business?

Very much so. Dad still does the invoices and Mum still pops in a couple of days, but Traci and I are the driving forces now. She concentrates on the food, bringing in new lines, and I concentrate on running the operation, doing staff training and so on.

What’s given you all the most satisfaction about the change in direction?

We have won lots of local awards but being named Tamworth’s Business of the Year in 2017 was very satisfying. And earlier this year we served Prince Edward when he was in Tamworth to unveil a new church window as Roasters did the catering for the private reception afterwards.

Roasters

35B George Street, Tamworth, Staffs B79 7LJ
Unit M, Ventura Retail Park,Tamworth B78 3JD
Founded: 1992

roastersrestaurant.co.uk
Twitter: @RoastersTamworth
Facebook: @roastersrestaurant

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