60 Hope Street acclaimed yet again
Hope rises as economy begins to improve by Neil Hodgson, Liverpool Echo
It was probably predestined that Colin and Gary Manning would go into the world of restaurants and business, with their parents running a greengrocers.
“We come from a family of shopkeepers,” said Colin who, with Gary, is the founder of top Liverpool eateries 60 Hope Street, The Quarter and HoSt.
Schooled at St Edward’s College, famous for its former pupil and business guru Sir Terry Leahy, West Derby-born Mr Manning headed to Jersey when his school days finished, aged 19, for a two-week holiday at the invitation of some of his friends who were working there.
He ended up staying on the island for 14 years.
He explained: “I got into the catering industry and worked at a family-run hotel and restaurant for nine years, then ran a brew pub for 18 months and worked as a restaurant manager.”
From there he left the catering industry briefly to take up the role of customer service and load control for British Airways in Jersey.
By then he was married and his first child had arrived and he was keen to return to his home city.
Brother Gary, in the meantime, had trained as a chef at the Colquitt Street catering college and had joined Colin in Jersey.
However, they were convinced that Liverpool was their future and that it was crying out for the right kind of offer.
Colin said: “Gary and I saw an opportunity in the market.
“We used to come back to Liverpool and used to say it was a culinary desert and there was an opportunity to do something.
“Gary did a recce and found this property, 60 Hope Street, which was Chauffeurs Night Club at the time.”
He said: “At that time Hope Street was a red light district, but we thought this was a wonderful Georgian building in a fantastic part of the city.
“It is about location, location, location, and if the offer was good enough, they will come.”
The brothers opened the doors to their 60 Hope Street restaurant on St George’s Day, 1999: “That was the start of everything,” said Colin.
By everything, he means the mini empire he and Gary have since created in the elegant surroundings of Hope Street, despite the ravages of the worst recession the UK has seen in living memory.
In 2003 they opened The Quarter, situated over the road from 60, which had previously operated as Cafe Seven, owned by Martin Ainscough.
Colin said the inspiration for the renaming of the business came easily: “Because this area was known as the Georgian and Bohemian quarter, we chose The Quarter.”
The brothers had travelled extensively prior to returning to Liverpool, and he said: “We felt what we had come across in places like Australia would give The Quarter its feel or style.”
Five years later, in 2008, the brothers set up HoSt, just round the corner, driven by their love of Asian food, and Thai food in particular.
Colin said there is a crossover between their three restaurants: “In 60, I know most people, in The Quarter I know about 50%, and in HoSt, hardly anyone, but there is a different dynamic in each one.”
HoSt opened as the recession started to bite, but he said the business has, year-on-year, continued to grow.
He believes that this is probably down to the fact that Hope Street, itself, has become a destination in its own right.
“We sill see lots of tourists in the area.”
First, they were mainly Spanish, due to the strong Euro, new routes opened up by Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and the, then, strong Spanish influence at Liverpool FC with manager Rafa Benitez and an array of Spanish footballing stars.
But the tourism element has since been boosted, helped by the city’s growing popularity with the cruise liner industry.
Colin said: “When the big cruise liners arrive we do get footfall across the threshhold.”
He added: “Liverpool One draws the ladies into the city just for shopping, but they will pop into The Quarter for lunch.”
He said the football market continues to be a big draw for the city during the season, but he said he is seeing the American tourist market beginning to grow, probably drawn by The Beatles tours.
“We are also seeing more Asians, Japanese and Chinese, including mature Asian students.”
And, he believes, their own input has contributed to the recent growth in fine restaurants and bars further along Hope Street: “Because of what we have created in the area, it has aided the development.
“For example, with the Hope Street Hotel nearby, we feed off each other, as well as the Philharmonic Hall.”
He says Liverpool today offers a very different business climate than that 15 years ago when they embarked on their catering venture. He said: “Compared with 1999 Liverpool is a much more vibrant, cleaner, safer and attractive city – and it has a lot more to offer.
“If you had said we would have a Hilton Hotel and Jamie Oliver in the city back in 1999 we would have laughed.
“It has all really been positive and inspirational.
“It brings more competition, but that is healthy.”
He said now that the city, and the UK, are emerging from almost six years of recession, the business picture is looking more positive.
“Year-on-year we have grown, but particularly this year we have seen a big increase as the economy improves.”
Colin even believes that the recession was a valuable learning experience for many business owners, especially in the leisure industry.
“With the recession we learned that you need to be more adaptable and more flexible and operate meaner and leaner.
“It has been a fantastic operational exercise and it made you look at where you are spending money, for example, on wages, utilities or raw ingredients.”
And, as the economy once again begins to tick over, he sees a new stage of development for himself and Gary.
“The last few years we have had to consolidate, but we still feel there are opportunities in Liverpool and the surrounding area.”