A group of high-end eateries is celebrating after three of their well-known establishments finished in the top seven of Teesside’s best restaurants.
In an exclusive poll among Tees Business readers, Plum Jam Restaurants – the operational business for Muse, on Yarm High Street, came out on top, while the firm’s Bay Horse pub in Hurworth came second.
Their Italian restaurant Cena, also on Yarm’s High Street, finished seventh in the survey among Teesside’s business leaders, just behind Norton’s Cafe Lilli, Middlesbrough’s Fork in the Road and Acklam Hall, and Chadwicks Inn Maltby.
Owner chef Marcus Bennett said: “I am very proud and it is a great recognition for our loyal and hardworking team.
“We’ve got some great restaurants on Teesside – and I think the key is we’re all doing different things – but to see our three restaurants in the top seven is very pleasing.”
Bennett, originally from East Harlsey in North Yorkshire, first went into business with partner Jonathan Hall, from Yarm, when they took over the Bay Horse in 2007.
Muse followed in 2012, which is operated by owner director Adrian Rummel, general manager Jason Hutchinson and head chef Paul Brown, and Cena was the third to open nearly three years ago.
Currently, Plum Jam employs 90 people across its three sites, investing 40% of total revenue on staff salaries.
Bennett said: “We knew each other years ago. We both went off to do our separate things, then we met up in 2008 and we were both on the same page.
“We knew exactly what we were looking for and refused to settle for anything less than perfect – after what felt like years of searching and site visits, the Bay Horse became available and we knew immediately that it was the one for us.
“The partnership works because we don’t tread on each other’s toes, we complement each other. Jonathan looks after operations and my passion lies with food and wine, which I develop alongside the head chefs and general managers at all three units – I’ve been all over the world cooking and I love it, it’s a massive part of my life.”
Peter Huggins is the fourth piece of the Plum Jam jigsaw – he’s a partner in Cena after the group took over the former Yarm 85 site in 2014.
Jonathan is keen to sing the praises of his staff, especially senior managers Katie Ford, Michael Maude and Ashley Hall, who have stayed with Jonathan since his days opening Hide Bar in 2001 and have successfully risen through the ranks.
“Our employees are our business,” he said. “For all three sites to excel in this industry we rely on our key members have to be at the top.
“All three sites head chefs have worked closely with Marcus through the years and have been promoted through the ranks within the business. They are granted the freedom to produce their own food and menus and it is great to have such talent rising up through the industry.
“The team have a lot of passion and drive. It is great to build a team who all buy into that same work ethic and ambition, producing a brilliant end product that they are being recognised for.
“Doing well in the Tees Business poll is really testament to all our staff and the work they put in.”
• Pictured (above): Plum Jam owner chef Marcus Bennett, operations director Adrian Rummel, Muse head chef Paul Brown, Muse general manager Jason Hutchinson and Plum Jam director Jonathan Hall.