Devon restaurant owner's plea to save family business

-Credit: (Image: Louis Bennett)
-Credit: (Image: Louis Bennett)

The owner of restaurant at a Devon beauty spot has issued a plea as he says his restaurant is facing serious challenges. He says some nights he has barely any customers and fears he may have to close.

In March, Louis Bennett moved his restaurant Creeping Thyme from the centre of Bovey Tracey to Seale-Hayne, a former agricultural college which is now a business centre near Newton Abbot.

Prior to his move to the new site, Louis told DevonLive that he was looking forward to running his restaurant from a much larger premises. But three months in, he says it isn't going how he had hoped.

He says he has made tweaks to the menu and opening hours but still has some evenings with only a very small number of customers. As the restaurant's chef, Louis says this is making food planning and preparation difficult, especially as food prices soar during the cost of living crisis.

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He said: "You go from one evening doing 20 covers and the next day you might do three or maybe no one. It's difficult, especially as a chef. I try to make everything fresh and use Devon produce but it's difficult with the cost of food going through the roof these days.

"To be able to prep the food is nearly impossible. Tonight we've had a last minute table booked but now I've got limited portions of things so, if you want the full experience, I can't really give it unless people are booking the tables. It sucks.

"There's about 100 businesses there and it's always growing so it's bustling in the daytime but I didn't get any trade unfortunately. I tried lunchtimes, I tried tweaking the menu but unfortunately nothing really took.

Creeping Thyme at Seale Hayne -Credit:Louis Bennett
Creeping Thyme at Seale Hayne -Credit:Louis Bennett

"Now we just open evenings so we're doing Wednesday to Saturday evenings and Sunday lunch which seems to be working better. We're not a big business, it's just me and my family. We don't have that financial backing so we have nothing to fall back on."

He says some people may be unaware of how close the restaurant is to Newton Abbot, which he believes could be affecting the trade levels. He said: "We are only five minutes from Newton Abbot. People think it's really far but it isn't. I do think that's probably affecting how busy it's been."

As the weather gets warmer, he says he is hoping to make more use of their outdoor terrace, which overlooks the picturesque Seale-Hayne. Louis said: "The weather has been terrible so we've got this lovely outdoor terrace that we haven't been able to use properly. Maybe now with the sun coming out, we'll get more people coming out, even if just for a drink or nibbles."

Despite the challenges Creeping Thyme has faced in recent months, Louis says the customers that do stop by have left rave reviews, with some having already returned as many as four times. Louis says that the food is of a high standard as the restaurant has won multiple awards.

The view over Seale Hayne from Creeping Thyme restaurant -Credit:Louis Bennett
The view over Seale Hayne from Creeping Thyme restaurant -Credit:Louis Bennett

He said: "I don't want to sound big-headed but I suppose our niche has always been me. I trained at the Ilsington Hotel and then I moved across the moors to The Rock Inn so I've only ever been in this area. We've always had rosettes and we've got a rosette here at Creeping Thyme which shows the standard of food. We won four awards within our three years at Bovey.

"I remain hopeful but if it carries on being so quiet I don't know how long we'll be able to carry on going for. It's a hard slog for everyone in the hospitality industry at the moment."