Eileen Leahy catches up with Daniel and Lisa Hatton to chat about another successful year for their food and drink business, which has seen them open the Deer Park Café in Eridge and expand their offering in both Hattons on The Pantiles and their fine dining events company. They also exclusively reveal why they decided to call time on their other venture The Wine Rooms…
So Daniel, it’s been a while since we last had a proper chat…how have things been?
Gosh, yes it has been a while but we are happy to say that things are going really well!
Running your own business means there are always going to be challenges, however we believe it is about adapting to any changes that happen along the way. We are immensely proud that we are coming up to our eight-year anniversary of running Hattons on the beautiful Pantiles and we have, of course, been busy with launching our latest venture The Deer Park Café in Eridge back in May of this year and also have Hattons Events. We have finished a very successful summer season and the upcoming winter period is looking strong…
You recently sold The Wine Rooms on The Pantiles, why did you decide to do this?
It was a hard decision to sell our lovely bar back in October but to be honest it was the right time for us as a company. I always wanted multiple sites covering all aspects of the industry but I started to find it harder and harder and it was just starting to swallow me up. With four different limited companies, it was taking up every hour of my life just trying to keep everything moving in the right direction and I had to remember why I came out of the high-end kitchens in the first place. So my wife Lisa and I sat down and had the conversation on how we were going to move forward in business but more importantly as a family. The Wine Rooms was the only business we had that operated fully in the evenings, so it was the one that was decided on to let go. It is never easy to walk away from something that you put so much effort and time into – and that’s been so successful and much loved by our customers – but it was the right thing to do.
The Hattons Group is going from strength to strength. What do you enjoy most about working for yourself?
I have never been one to rest on my laurels and I also love the challenge! There’s no better feeling than when you walk into one of your sites and it is full of people enjoying what you offer. It gives you such a buzz and a sense of achievement. My passion is people and food but I also love working with our team, and seeing our customers, it’s as simple as that. Having your own businesses is not a walk in the park but it does mean that I can have flexibility and be at home more with Lisa, our son Elliott and dog Dottie! Lisa and I are very hands-on owners and we don’t mind getting stuck in, whether that’s us working in one of the sites or driving around or popping in to see the team and customers which is something that is so important.
Can you tell us a little about The Hattons Group’s USP?
Having such a strong team around us means that we can evolve and grow into different areas.
I love how we can showcase our signature dishes and sweet treats during the day – in both Hattons and The Deer Park – yet we can then transform both spaces at night so people can be part of the most intimate dining experience or come along to one our popular Supper Clubs. Working here is never mundane and that is so important and what keeps that all-important spark alive!
How many are in Team Hatton now and are they spread across your two sites?
The summer months are always our busiest time so we have more staff during this period. At the moment we have 33 team members between both sites. Obviously this can fluctuate depending on what outside events we have courtesy of our Hattons Events private dining arm of the company. The team around us are amazing, and we couldn’t do what we do without them. I think they love the fact that one day they can be at Hattons looking after our customers on The Pantiles, the next out in the countryside at The Deer Park and then at someone’s private house. They certainly never have time to get bored! We like to think we look after them well and that they like being part of Team Hattons. Harvey our Head Chef has been with us for six years, Henry our General Manager has been here for four years, as has Liam our Events Manager. So for a small café company we are extremely proud to have them around us.
The Hattons business has been such a great success story – what’s the secret of your success?
I don’t know the answer to that to be honest! What I will say though is that we have great customers, a fantastic team and we believe in our businesses. We really couldn’t do it without the support of everyone. We have a huge and very loyal following of people from Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding areas who are really supportive of what we do. We still see many of the regular faces from when we opened the doors to Hattons back in 2016 which is so special and means we are doing something right!
And can you briefly tell us a little bit about Hattons Events which sees you catering for private parties?
This was our first company which I started out of demand from my following when I had the Michelin star back in 2012. We had many customers approach me to cook privately for them in their homes to help celebrate birthdays and other special occasions. I absolutely love our events side as it is so bespoke to every client. Every event is different – from private dinners, to four-day weddings, product launches, music festivals and school balls – there is never a dull moment. It also keeps my hand in the fine dining world which is where I started my career.
Your supper clubs at Hattons are really popular. Are there any plans to continue these at The Deer Park?
Yes, absolutely. We have now held three at The Deer Park and they have all been a huge success selling out every time. The Deer Park lends itself to a perfect event destination, with its extensive outside area, cosy interiors, large car park and that it’s just short taxi ride from Tunbridge Wells and surrounding areas.
We have also held some live music events working with Paul Dunton from Local & Live and these have been wonderful. We have so such much planned for The Deer Park including a festive afternoon happening on December 9 where we will be colloborating with a few other local artisan companies. It will be a relaxed afternoon running into the early evening where people can enjoy some food, mulled wine, gifts, homewares – and maybe just a little bit of snow….
Can you tell us about any plans you have going into 2024?
Over the past month Lisa and I and our management team having been bouncing ideas around the table and we have our eyes on some exciting new projects – but obviously that is all a bit hush hush at the moment! After the closure of The Wine Rooms, Hattons is now our sole focus in Tunbridge Wells.
We are always looking at our food offerings and are looking forward to launching more Supper clubs, wine dinners and events in 2024.
And what are you planning to do when the weather gets warmer?
During the summer months we’d like to open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings as ‘that local Bistro’ focusing on simple, flavoursome and seasonal dishes that we all love and at affordable prices. Because The Deer Park only opened in May, we are very much using this year as a learning curve. Doing so will enable us to see what works best for the business. We have had huge success with our music nights there, the barbecues, the food offering and we have big plans for the outside…. But we will tell you about that another time!
And finally do you have a message for your loyal clientele?
We would love to say a massive thank you to everyone! We are part of a great community, and as ever we really appreciate everyone that walks through our doors – we couldn’t continue without you! We wish you and your families a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and we very much look forward to sharing some exciting new things in 2024!
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