Zaks’ original caravan was once a much-loved fixture on the Norwich scene and now the company is hitting the road with the help of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Covid grant scheme.
The locally-owned, authentic American diners began life in a converted caravan opposite Norwich Castle and its distinctive foil-wrapped burgers were a big hit with people heading home after a night out in the pubs and clubs.
Restaurants were opened in Great Yarmouth and Mousehold in Norwich before the 1970s were out, followed by Zaks Waterside on Barrack Street in the city in 1988. By then, the iconic red takeaway had closed, and the company continued to focus on its dine-in experience, including the opening of Zaks Poringland in 2005.
But now it is heading back to the road with two mobile units and plans for a pop-up restaurant which will seat 30 to 40 people, offering its famous chargrilled burgers wrapped in foil, alongside other classic items. Its Covid diversification plans are being made possible after it was awarded a grant of £41,000 from the LEP’s Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme.
Ian Hacon and Chris Carr were both involved in Zaks from 2005 to 2016 and they acquired the business earlier this year. Ian said the grant had been “absolutely crucial” in realising their development plans.
“It has enabled us to think much bigger and deliver something which is even better and much more flexible,” said Ian. “We can be nimble with one unit and more fixed with the other. If we find a suitable pitch, we can pop up there for more than a few days. This will also help assure the employment of our team and lead to the recruitment of further team members as we come out of restrictions.”
When the pair took charge in February this year, they inherited the original Lakenham Creamery caravan which had been bought and partially converted into a mobile takeaway unit. This has already been painted red and will be a “tribute” to the original one, which was located on Farmers Avenue, now the home of Vue cinema.
The grant will pay for its completion and the acquisition of a second trailer and a portable diner where customers can be offered the Zaks experience.
Ian commented: “We can go to shows, weddings, birthdays – all those private events. It gives us the ability to go viral, so we can pop up in car parks around Norfolk and Norfolk and promote on social media where we are going to be.”
With the history of Zaks stretching back to 1976, there is a lot of nostalgia around the name and there are plans to sell hoodies, baseball caps, and other branded merchandise online and from the mobile vans.
Glen Moore was the New Anglia Growth Hub adviser who supported the company with its grant application. “Zaks has been part of Norfolk life for over forty years and many of life’s celebrations have been held in its distinctive restaurants,” he said.
“This project will play a critical part in enabling its success story to continue, despite the Covid lockdowns, and we are really pleased to be able to make a contribution to that success.”
To find out more about the Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme, go to https://newanglia.co.uk/grant/business-resilience-and-recovery-scheme/