Reepham’s “restaurant with rooms” has announced it will no longer open as a café for tea, coffee, cake and scones.
The Dial House will also not be serving breakfast to the public midweek and will be closed for Sunday dinner and also Monday for lunch and dinner.
Announcing its new opening times, the Market Place-based business, which has been owned by Reepham couple Hannah Springham and Andrew Jones since May 2018, said the changes had been made in an effort to concentrate on its daily food offering.
They said they had “paid attention to what most of our customers want most – and it’s very clear that excellent food and service within our key services wins hands down.
“We do realise that change can be difficult for some customers, but we do hope you’ll support us in understanding that these key changes are being made to improve your experiences with us.”
The decision, however, could be a boon for the other cafés in the market town, including V’s Café, Diane’s Pantry and Kerri’s Farmhouse Pine Tearoom, as well as local pubs, the King’s Arms and The Crown, for evening meals.
The Dial House added that its doors will remain open from 9 am Tuesday–Sunday for access to the Country Salon hairdressers and the Green Room women's clothing agency, as well as for people to browse the antiques and objects for sale on the ground floor.
Meanwhile, the Dial House’s decision to not open as a café has provoked a storm of comments from disappointed customers on Facebook.
Amongst a number of posts, Cheryl Hunt said: “Yet another blow for the lovely Dial house. Always use [it] for coffee with friends and breakfast, [and the] lunch has much improved from the limited selection it was. To be able to pop in for coffee/cake/scone any time of the day was a plus and will be missed.”
Rosie Crombie pointed out: “There’ll be people turning up and finding it closed, people wanting a cuppa or arranging to meet colleagues over a coffee and no longer able to. You’re reducing your local client base, which is particularly handy to have in the low seasons. I hope you’re posting a comprehensive information board outside detailing [opening/closing times].”
Richard Banester concurred: “Just figuring out when you are open or not and what you will be serving is seriously complex.”
Helen Pope said: “What a shame. You were my favourite place to come for coffee and a cake. I understand and respect your desire to move forward in a direction you deem best, but it makes me very sad.”
Val Rayner believed the decision was a bad move: “A lot of local people have used the place for morning coffee get-togethers and afternoon tea and cake ever since it opened after the restoration. Maybe the current owners don’t mind losing the local custom if they can make more money from the B&B rooms and the boutique restaurant.”
Rosie Crombie said: “In effect, a large chunk of customers are now excluded. These are unlikely to return to dine as that’s not what they want, so where are you going to draw customers from?”
Jon Briscoe advised: “Try giving customers what they want. Expand the menu, stop pandering to the owners/chefs and think about your customers. The food can be good, but include some simple choices for people who do not want elderflower or ginger in their cake.”
Linda Black observed: “Have loved coming to you for coffee and a cake. But recently service in this respect hasn’t been good, so obviously your heart and focus was not in it. I can only hope that you don’t lose your key local customers.”
Linda Brownsell said: “Seems your decision is very unpopular with the locals that have supported you as you’ve built the business. Such a shame.”
However, Charlotte Bulman thought the decision sensible: “The owners’ idea is to focus on what they are good at, which is incredible food and service. It’s probably quite tricky to get that high standard of an efficiently running kitchen, which requires lots of meetings, preparation, organisation and focus when staff are running about serving scones. I can see it will be a blow to the locals.
“But I feel disheartened to read such negativity when the owners are trying to put the Dial House on the map. Change is hard, of course, but it is so important that we really get behind local businesses, especially in this current climate, and lift them up instead of moaning about a lack of cake and knocking them down.”