Keeping it simple… and successful

Greg Clark

After leaving his previous job, Sean Marlowe knew what he wanted – a burger bar. So he went out into the world to discover what makes the best burger possible, and how he could bring it to Tunbridge Wells. And he succeeded! Here, Hannah Patterson meets up with the burger king to hear about his bar’s first few months

It’s 8am when I meet Sean Marlowe of Marlowe’s Burgers for a coffee. His eyes are blurry and he’s sipping the drink like it’s his life source.

I ask him if it was a late night celebrating the fact that he’s off on holiday for a week later that day, but no – it was a very late night at work.

Although his relatively new eatery has been open since April, Marlowe’s Burgers has been in development for a significantly long time, and he’s not unfamiliar with the dedication required to successfully run a hospitality business in this town. So how did it all begin? The answer is simple – Sean loves burgers.

“I was extremely lucky as I had the opportunity to travel and spend a lot of time in the States, especially Vegas, so I got to try a whole range of burgers and work out what I wanted to create myself,” he says.

So, out of all the burger bars in all the world, why should you go to Marlowe’s?
Although Sean won’t give much away in terms of his recipes, he can tell me that the real secret to a brilliant burger is in the beef.

“The beef we use is real quality. It’s 100 per cent pure grass-fed organic and aged for 28 days. We have options for those who are vegetarian or don’t eat red meat, but if you’re going to ask me in my personal opinion why our burgers are good – I’m going to say the beef.”

But another secret is the bun – a predominantly milk-based brioche variety. The difference is that the milk gives it an extra fluffy texture. It is evidently delicious, as Sean looks slightly wistful when he speaks about it.

There are five staple burgers on the menu with a whole lot of extras that can be added on top, but you can always expect some new and exciting offerings on the specials board, and there’s a new burger especially for Tunbridge Wells Food Month.

Named The Royal Hillbilly, it looks appealing – roasted red pepper, goat’s cheese and pestamole, all piled on top of a beef or vegetarian patty.

“As it was for Tunbridge Wells Food Month, we wanted to leave the new burger’s name up to the people of the town. We’ve had a great response and some brilliant suggestions.”

When asked about his involvement with Food Month, Sean speaks candidly about the importance of supporting local business, and the real struggles they face in the town.

“The expectation is high. There is no tolerance for inconsistency or low standards, so the pressure is certainly felt, especially as a new business.

“Of course, there’s a positive side to a town which wants nothing but the best, but it’s important to support also. Other restaurants in the area have been so supportive and have offered a whole wealth of advice and knowledge. You’d be a fool not to listen to them.”

As many other businesses owners have said before him, Tunbridge Wells is a difficult town
to predict.

“Before I opened or found my ideal location, I set myself up at various spots around the town and tried to track footfall. This was back when I had the time to do so.”

And what did he learn?

“There’s no pattern, certainly no obvious one, and footfall cannot be predicted. There will be hype, then it will die down, then it will rise again. You can’t try and guess – only ride the wave.

“I’ve been told by other business owners to ignore everything that you would typically not expect to ignore. Setting up a business here is the easy part, comparatively at least, but you cannot rest on your laurels. Keeping a business going requires constant dedication.”

Sean’s business is a popular one, and he’s clearly doing something right. Marlowe’s Burgers is in it for the long haul, and he’s passionate about making sure local businesses get the support they deserve. It’s evident he wants to listen and learn, so what’s the best advice he’s received so far?

“Don’t take anything personally. Keep your head in the game and work hard.”

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