A look inside the Old Rock Shop Bistro as it celebrates 10 years in town
PUBLISHED: 11:29 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:29 01 November 2017
Archant Norfolk 2015
One of Cromer's most popular businesses is getting ready to celebrate its 10th birthday in the town.
The Old Rock Shop Bistro has been operating in Hamilton Road since it was taken over by Sam Grout in November 2007.
A decade on, and the Bistro is still going strong as Sam and sister Rachel keep the business open seven days a week.
Mr Grout, 31, said: “I started working in the café that was previously on this site back in 2003 and when the business came up for sale I took it over in 2007.
“We renamed the business to reflect the heritage of the building. If you know Cromer well, you may remember it as J&M’s Rock Shop, a tourist favourite that traded on the site for over 20 years.”
The cafe serves breakfast, lunches, cakes and pastries, as well as providing a catering service for businesses across the region.
The Grout team have also made sure to keep it local, and source their meat, fish, and many other ingredients from within Cromer.
Mr Grout explained how he came to own his current site. He said: “I was about 17 when J &M’s Rock Shop closed down and a café opened up in its place. One of my college friends worked for the new owners at their other coffee shop in Sheringham, I got an interview and started as their Sunday boy the following weekend.
“After a while the owner moved on to another project and the landlord took over the business leaving me to run it for him. We turned it into The Old Rock Shop Bistro in November 2005, I bought it almost 2 years later in 2007.”
To mark 10 years in Cromer the Bistro will be offering free coffee refills throughout November and are inviting customers to share their big birthday cake on November 2.
It was never written in the stars for Mr Grout to become a culinary genius, he said: “I didn’t have any family culinary history. Both my parents have always cooked, my sister and I always had proper meals growing up, despite both parents working long hours. These meals were cooked to keep us full and weren’t always beautifully presented!
“Some of my Dad’s creations resembled those of Mrs Cropley from The Vicar of Dibley. His homemade bread rolls were tiny but somehow would keep you full for hours!”
He added: “The business has grown a lot over the past decade and a lot of what we have learnt has been self-taught, you can learn a lot from how other establishments treat their customers and what those that do well do differently.”
However Sam has always had a love of food and drink, he said: “I’ve often said my work is my biggest hobby simply because I love eating out and everything that comes with it. Strong coffee, red wine and good food are what get me through!
“Enjoying food and drink were key to growing the business and my parents’ work ethic had a huge effect on me; I was handed a once in a lifetime opportunity but without the family approach to hard work I doubt we’d be stood where we are now.”
Mr Grout also discussed working with his sister. He continued: “I’ve worked with Rachel, my sister, since day one. To say she’s gone well beyond the call of duty would be an understatement with both of us working the kind of hours that we’d struggle to keep up with now.
“At the time we just did what was necessary to survive.”
He added: “I’ve also known Dave, one of our chefs since our days at infant school but I think we manage the balance between work and friendship surprisingly well!
“We’ve been fortunate with having excellent staff across the past decade, with several having worked with us for years.”
Mr Grout is also aware of the competition he’s up against in Cromer. He said: “There are quite a few cafes, fortunately each of the independent cafes offer something a little different, and with so many opening and continuing to stay open the demand is certainly there!
“We’ve always welcomed healthy competition; in our opinion the more quality establishments there are in a town the more people want to come and visit.
“Our own stance has been to take pride in making everything that we can ourselves. Our own chefs do all the baking and cooking on the premises using fantastic local suppliers. We do things that way because you know where things have come from and that the money you spend goes back into local businesses and wages.”
Mr Grout is also thinking ahead to the next 10 years at the premises. He said: “We’re always looking for areas we can improve on. We’ve recently added a new breakfast and brunch menu at weekends offering options such as Eggs Benedict and Scrambled Egg with Smoked
“So far customers have seemed to like what we’re doing. The specials change weekly so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do as move into 2018.”
With regards to the catering business, he said: “The outside catering element of the business seems to just keep on growing and I’m definitely looking forward to keeping that moving forward.
“We live and work in a town where a business lives or dies by its reputation so having so many bookings for special occasions coming via word of mouth is fantastic.
“We have a fiercely loyal regular customer base so we want to focus in on what we do well to keep them coming back and improve where we can!
“The advice, opinion and guidance that our longest standing customers offer has been invaluable in keeping us on top of our game and from some has kept me going when it’s all felt a bit overwhelming!”
The Old Rock Shop Bistro is open 8am to 6pm, Monday to Sunday, with food served all day.
For more information visit www.theoldrockshopbistro.co.uk or call 01263 511926