DESPITE the march of flexitarian eating, one fledgling North-East business is offering only the best if you don’t want to give up meat entirely. HEATHER BARRON speaks to the Tomahawk team about its sizzling success story

THE last three years have been a whirlwind for the young, but remarkably successful, Tomahawk Steakhouse brand.

Its flagship outlet, which opened in 2017 in Potto, proved such a hit that the team quickly identified a further five venues in the North-East over the following couple of years, with the sixth restaurant opening in Darlington in September this year.

Not ones to let the grass grow under their feet, the latest plan is to open in York before the end of the year, and further sites have been identified in Beverley, Knutsford, Hull and Wilmslow for 2020.

London is not out of the question, either – as Sarah Pike, Head of PR & Marketing, says: “We’re just going for it!”

There’s a really positive ‘can-do’ buzz about the company, headed up by North-East entrepreneurs, Howard Eggleston and Tom Sturman.

Following the recent, surprising collapse of the Jamie Oliver restaurant chain, the Tomahawk team are rightly cautious about knowing their market before they expand.

Lots of market research is carried out to identify a potential venue, with the company having a reputation for a quick turnaround, using the same “great team” every time to plan, design, and fit-out the restaurants.

Sarah says: “We have a good business model that works, and we apply it to each site. We’re careful not to over-stretch ourselves, and we maintain the high standard of our steaks by using the same suppliers, wherever we’re trading.

“The quality of the food is paramount, and we know we have a great product. Before we move forward, we talk to our suppliers to make sure that they can keep up with us.”

Don’t expect each outlet to be a mirror-image of the others, though. While the company takes great pains to maintain the same high-quality of the food, there is continual refinement and development of the branding and décor, often dictated by the town where the restaurant is located.

York’s rich history is having an influence on the planning of the new build, as is the infrastructure of the building.

“You can plan everything on paper, but you have to be ready for anything once you’re on site. York is a wonderful, historic city, and we are mindful of sympathetically incorporating the new restaurant into its surroundings.” 

Not to be mistaken for one-trick ponies, the company is testing itself with three different concepts, with the aim of offering customers variety and choice.

Apart from the now well-established Tomahawk name, they have dipped a toe into the Churrascaria dining experience with the opening of their Rio Brazilian steakhouse, in Jesmond, and two ‘steakeaway’ outlets – Tomahawk Roasthouse – in Jesmond and Yarm.

About the Rio brand, Sarah says: “We’re offering a different concept to the usual ordering individual meals from the menu.  Huge skewers are loaded with three or four cooked joints of either beef, pork, lamb or chicken, and specially trained Gaucho Chefs are on hand to carve exactly what the customer wants, at the table, in a traditional Rodizio style.”

There is no limit to how much the customer can have, and they use red and green paddles at the table to indicate to the waiting staff if they want more.

“Customers know it will be good quality, because it’s from Tomahawk - but it’s a bit more fun and casual.”

The rollout of these two new brands will depend on how well the Jesmond and Yarm sites perform, but, if past success is anything to go by, there will be many more Rio restaurants and Roasthouse ‘steakaways’ popping up around the country before too long.