TOP food operator Heathcotes has opened its first Blackpool restaurant as part of the £1.5m restoration of the Winter Gardens.
The former Backstage Bistro in the Victorian complex has been transformed into the Empress Grill, part of the Heathcotes Outside portfolio.
It follows on from the launch of Mazzei’s Coffee Shop which Heathcotes opened in the Winter Gardens in February.
Glass panels mean diners at the Empress Grill can look out into the newly renovated Floral Hall while they eat, with the former fittings replaced with designs inspired by the Art Deco era.
Manager David Cura said the Preston-based company was delighted to have a permanent presence in the resort at last.
He said: “We have been in Blackpool for a number of years providing catering at the Tower for example and we operated the bistro here last year for the dance festival. But this is a unique venture, specially tailored to the Winter Gardens. The client base is very diverse so we are developing a menu which has flexibility.
“Our first drive is to have a show and dine package for people coming to the venue for concerts and shows.
“We are trying to provide the right offer at the right price for both the local and the visitor market and believe we have created a stylish but relaxed environment for people to enjoy.”
The Empress Grill is open to the public but will initially only be serving when events are being staged at the Winter Gardens. It hopes to build up to seven-day opening in the next 12 months.
A total of 12 staff have been taken on with 110 covers at present, but both staff numbers and capacity are expected to increase.
Heathcotes Outside managing director Gary Bates said: “We are extremely proud to have been part of the design process of The Empress Grill restaurant. We feel together we have created a destination restaurant that will have a wide appeal.”
Coun Gary Coleman, cabinet member for regeneration and urban development on Blackpool Council, said: “Heathcotes Outside are renowned operators and to have two concessions in the Winter Gardens is a great testimony to the work done to improve this fantastic building.”