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EXCLUSIVE: Owner of Highlands boutique hunts for new location to run fine-dining restaurant as a standalone business

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The owner of a boutique hotel in Fort Angustus is on the hunt for a new site for its fine-dining restaurant, to overcome the challenge of running two eateries from one kitchen.

Caroline Gregory, owner of The Lovat, closed the hotel’s 3 AA Rosette restaurant Station Road in Easter this year and is hoping to find a new location to reopen the business in 2019 as a standalone eatery.

Prior to the restaurant’s closure, the hotel, currently home to 28 bedrooms and relaxed eatery the Brasserie, was struggling to run a streamlined F&B operation, with two dining options operating from one kitchen with one team at the helm, led by head chef Sean Kelly.

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Gregory tells Boutique Hotelier it was ‘logistically and mentally challenging’, with the unpredictability of the business and lack of experienced chefs proving too difficult to maintain a viable business.

“Having to juggle bookings between the two dining areas was proving too difficult despite making vast changes with the time allocations,” explains Gregory, “we found we were having to compromise because we couldn’t give 100% to one dining option.

“We were also unable to fully market Station Road for fear of gaining too much notoriety and not being able to cope – so we always down played it.”

Now as a result, Gregory is on the lookout for a new location to reopen Station Road, with the potential for a new restaurant with rooms to be developed if the right site is found.

“There will be certain economies of scale and if we get a restaurant with rooms the overheads will be cushioned by the room revenue. We already have certain aspects like cutlery, crockery, glassware – we just need the venue, the food and a team,” she adds.

David and Geraldine Gregory of The Torridon acquired The Lovat property in June 2005, with daughter Caroline. They then retired in 2015, when son-in-law & head chef, Sean Kelly, bought their share of the business to create an additional bond with wife, Caroline.

Station Road has been in development since October 2011 and 3 AA Rosettes awarded in 2014 when the concept was fully born. The restaurant closed suddenly in June 2015 with the business lacking an experienced, skilled kitchen team, before reopening again with a new team in time for Easter 2016.

Gregory now hopes to find a new building for Station Road, something which is ‘quirky, simple, natural, with heaps of character and close to woodland for foraging’, to have it open by the end of 2019.

“It needs to stand on its own two feet and we have courage in our convictions and positivity in our capabilities – we have built the hotel’s reputation up from nothing so we can do it again with another business and don’t need The Lovat as a ‘sleeping blanket’,” she concludes.

Tags : businessfine diningrestaurantScotlandthe Lovat
Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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