Our story: from truck-stop cafe to hotel and restaurant

 

The Crown Lodge Hotel and Moorings restaurants has changed out of all recognition in the past four decades. Here, owner William Moore runs through our intriguing history and raids the picture archives.

It’s 41 years since I embarked on a five-year project to turn what was a typical village service station into a sports and leisure centre offering good food and drink.

Full of youthful vigour, and naivety to match, I arrived in Outwell having undertaken my catering training with Claridges in London – my new home could hardly have been more different.

Locals with long memories will remember the petrol pumps, the Crown Service Station garage and the “truck-stop” style cafe.

They may even remember how, as the Crown Kitchen, we advertised “petrol with your stroganoff” (no, not a new flambe technique) to encourage motorists to fill up on food and fuel during the oil crisis of the late 70s.

As for the five-year plan, how wrong could I have been?

Now, 41 years on, after many changes along the way, we are a small, family-run hotel and quality restaurant, with a well-stocked bar, conference and entertainment facilities – and a couple of squash courts for good measure.

Our future very much lies in the continued development of the hotel and the restaurant business, and work has already begun on turning the old workshop building (below) into eight new bedrooms.

When we arrived, we were keen to keep the garage going with Albert at the helm, and it’s still running now on a new site in the village under the management of Stuart – an apprentice in those early days.

I never considered myself a businessman; I simply woke each day and thought “how can we make this better?”

That meant a huge number of changes over the years as we were always looking for new ways to improve the business, introducing a gymnasium, snooker tables and squash courts as we tapped into the leisure industry.

As the restaurant started to gain a name for itself, the business took a shift in direction and we saw the development of our first six bedrooms – we had become the Crown Lodge Hotel.

Something had to give, and sadly the gymnasium made way for a larger restaurant space and the development of a facility able to provide functions and daytime conferencing for local businesses.

Throughout all of these upheavals, I was still living on the site, but with our six bedrooms well occupied I vacated the adjacent bungalow to allow for the building of four new rooms.

In 1998, the restaurant – now called the Moorings – gained its first AA rosette for its culinary skills, an award we have proudly maintained ever since.

And in 2005 we gave the hotel its largest facelift to date, with a new layout, look and design, carefully considering the functionality of its diverse uses and making best use of the space we have.

Now, in year 41, we’re renovating those first 10 rooms, building eight more, and have even purchased some land at the rear of the site for landscaping and extra car parking.

But none of this would be possible without you, our customers, so thank you sincerely for all your support and please continue to provide feedback about how we could be better.

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