The allure of pizza, the aroma and the flavours make our mouths water and what better than to wash all this down with a serving of cold cider. Tempted? The Stable, the Dorset born British pizza and cider brand are reputed to sell the best pizzas in town and have recently secured their seventh sire in Falmouth which is proof to their ever expanding popularity.
Chief Executive Simon Emeny was very positive about the Stable’s success in Britain. “Our business here is evolving quite significantly. We’ve identified the stable as something close to our values as they have bars in all their restaurants, stock a range of ciders, cask ales, craft ales and they all have an amazing atmosphere.”
Fuller’s, the independent family owned and run brewery bought a 51% stake in The Stable’s as they believe in their future and see considerable potential for The Stable’s expansion in South England. Spending over £7.5 million on this deal, they also acquired the Bull Hotel in Bridport, Dorset where the pizza and cider restaurant first opened their doors – yes, you guessed it – in the hotel’s stable.
As more and more restaurants open in England, the lines between casual restaurants and premium pubs like Fuller’s are blurring. Founders of the Stable, Richard and Nikki Cooper are enjoying the fruits of their labour and are looking to conquer the capital with their brand. Many skeptics are wondering if they can manage to pull it off, especially after seeing Jamie Oliver’s restaurant group – the Union Jack leaving a huge gap with their departure from the restaurant realm.
The famous chef’s own line of restaurants couldn’t make the cut and decided to call it a day early this year and many are speculating whether The Stable can fill the big Boots of The Union Jack’s presence. Of course, the owners of this restaurant group are very positive and hopeful about taking on the challenge and conquering the capital with their pizza and cider, and their reputation has spread far and wide.
Launched in 2009 in the town of Bridport in Dorset, the company has grown over the years and expanded to open branches in Bristol, Bath, Poole and Weymouth. Although there are other brand that are competing in the pizza field like Pizzaface in Brighton, the Great British Pizza Company in Margate and London’s Homeslice to name a few, The Stable is proving to be the forerunner in this race with a total of seven units to be operational this year and with grand plans of taking that number into the double digits by the end of next year.
Those are ambitious plans and one most likely to succeed given the demand and popularity of their cuisine. You’d be wondering on what makes The Stable such hot property. Well, there are a combination of various factors that bring about a unique approach to pizza and cider serving in Britain. They have a rustic look that works well with the handmade wooden furniture that gives it a very unique appeal. Wood of various types has been used in the principle building with reclaimed fixtures that reveal the structure’s earlier use.
The stable offers up to 80 carefully selected different ciders which gives the visitor a varied selection to choose from. Throw in the warm and welcoming ambience and the mouth watering pizzas, and that’s a combination that’s hard to resist. Richard and Nikki Cooper have worked hard to make the stable what it has become today. The restaurants are family friendly and have a ‘pub appeal’ to it as you order your food and drinks from the bar itself.
All branches carry their own license to be able to serve liquor and although they can serve drinks without the accompaniment of food, the sales between food and drinks are fairly balanced. You would think that drinks would have the higher percentage, but it is testimony to the quality of food that there is such an equal ratio.
New branches are scheduled to open soon on Newquay’s Fistral Beach, drawing in the crowd who love lounging on the beach and with summer on its way, this spot looks like a great location to feed those hungry souls who have been basking in the sun. Another branch is scheduled to open in an old customs house in Falmouth, keeping in with its tradition and look. The place itself carries the same ambience and look as the other branches, and each branch seems to have a unique history of its own. These moves make it seem that The Stable is focusing its expansion plans in its West Country heartland.
However, the owners reveal that a time has come to discover the potential of the East. They are currently looking at locations near Central London like Fulham, Richmond, Shoreditch, Islington and Kingston. Although close family friends and advisors have suggested Central London locations like Soho, Nikki Cooper is not too keen as the property market there provides its own challenges.
The Stable has a look that is unique to the West Country with their pizza names betraying the local geography and heritage of the company. While most companies change their names of the menu items to suit the locale, the owners feel that Central London can adapt to their south-west feel. “We’re not going to change much for the London market,” exclaims Nikki Cooper, who runs the Stable with her husband.
Their pizzas have unique names like The Bristol Blaster and the Clifton Suspender which attracts curious visitors on their taste and ingredients. Even their cider proudly comes from the South-west and this has a loyal fan base amongst its customers. Their venture has been often compared to the British pizza-led venture by Jamie Oliver, the celebrated chef who’s restaurants- the Union Jack closed down three out of their four operating restaurants early this year.
While most may take this as a bad omen of the market they are hoping to cater to, the owners see it as a positive sign. They see it as a sign that there is less competition for them. What is surprising is the couple’s lack of experience in the restaurant industry. While many people in the restaurant industry claim that it is a tough field, with many restaurants not making through the first year, they have proved critics wrong. They walk where others fear to tread and it is the challenge of taking the bull by the horns so to speak, that they are looking to take their chain into the next level.
Their branches are expansive with each holding between 100 – 160 covers which means that they can accommodate a very good sized crowd. Even while looking for locations to expand, their requirement is to have a large amount of space to operate effectively. Their strength lies in their volume, and in most cases they can get into profits in as soon as a month. This is incredible by the restaurant industry’s standards where most companies struggle to break even in the first year, let alone the first quarter itself.
Both Richard and Nikki met while working in London’s music industry where they held high paying roles with a lot of responsibility. They made the decision to move to a location where the pace of life was a little slower and the atmosphere was better to bring up their new family. They bought The Bull hotel in 2005 and since then, there was no looking back. They soon had a roaring success on their hands, and within a short space of time they were able to raise the capital to open the first Stable restaurant in the rear of the hotel.
They have since managed to expand their business by taking on two private investors and a loan from Satander which helped in their expenses. Although they have ruled out private-equity involvement, they are looking to apply for two more loans from the bank to fund their expansion plans. From starting out in a small hidden location, albeit with lovely unique architecture, they are now slowly looking at more central locales to bring their brand out in the open.
They may be competing heads on against the bigger players, but from we have seen. They can certainly hold their own. Their earlier strategy was to start new branches in hidden away older buildings that they could procure at a reasonable cost, but their unprecedented success with their Bristol branch has made them rethink their strategy. Now they are willing to pay more for a central location to bring in the customers and to bring more visibility to the brand they have built
Although their pizzas are pricier than their competitors, the products used in their pizzas are of the highest quality, and they use local suppliers which give back to the community. They refuse to compromise on quality by using cheap processed products, and it is perhaps the reason why, amongst others, that The Stable has risen in popularity over the years to become leaders in the pizza restaurant industry. Quite obviously, they are doing something right.