Aberdeen Angus Steak Houses
Angus Steakhouse is a restaurant chain of steak houses in central London. All outlets trade as Angus Steak House (some used to trade as Aberdeen Steak House) and cater mainly for tourists. In 2001, there were about 30 outlets; seven remain open in 2013. The name reflects Aberdeen Angus, a common breed of beef cattle.
Aberdeen Steak Houses was started in the early 1960s by Reginald Eastwood (born c.1913), who had started in business aged 15 as an apprentice butcher. In 1979, his daughter Penelope married Lord Romsey (now Baron Brabourne). Eastwood's vision was for a more modern version of the earlier chop-house grills, and was influenced by American steak houses. The décor was opulent, with plate glass windows and red velour banquettes. Menus included trendy dishes like prawn cocktail and Black Forest gateau. The Good Food Guide of the 1960s listed the restaurants. Eastwood and partner Thomas Beale floated the company on 6 February 1964. In 1965, it was bought by Golden Egg cafeterias.
By the 1970s, the group was focused more on tourist trade, with many branches in the West End to attract those attending theatre or musical shows. Angus Steak Houses was a subsidiary of Aberdeen Steak Houses with the same business model. In the mid-1970s, the firm had an industrial dispute with the TGWU.
In 1984, the group was sold to Ali Salih, a Turkish businessman with a low public profile. The menu and décor showed little update since the 1960s, and the brand got a reputation as tourist traps for foreigners. Business remained strong through the 1980s and at its peak it had an annual turnover of £20m with 700,000 steaks sold. Its 1989 profit was £330,000.
Its business, along with the wider UK beef industry, was hit in the 1990s by bovine spongiform encephalopathy, then by foot and mouth disease in 2001. It made a loss of £3m in 2000. In April 2001, Salih sold the sites of several branches for £4m. The decline in American tourists after the September 11 attacks was also cited by Salih after the group went into receivership in October 2002, with £7m in debt. At the time, it had 16 "Angus Steak House" outlets, six "Aberdeen Steak House", three "Pizza Pasta", two "Maxine's Brasserie", and one each of "American Burger", "American Café Bistro", and "Highland Steak House".
Administrators BDO and lawyers Berwin Leighton Paisner kept the firm trading as a going concern, though several of the sites were sold off to pay debts. In 2003, the remaining 21 outlets were bought by Noble Organisation, run by Michael and Philip Noble, whose core business was amusement arcades. In 2008, Noble told The Times they were "upgrading and refurbishing the restaurants".
Journalists have written of the restaurants' low reputation, with dated menu and décor, poor quality food, inflated prices, and unfashionable wine like Blue Nun and Mateus Rosé. Some have claimed not to know anyone who has eaten there in decades, or at all; some have claimed never to have seen more than a few customers within, and wondered how they stay in business. An undercover report broadcast in 2001 on ITV's Restaurants from Hell found mouse droppings in a tub of gravy in the Coventry Street branch.
In 2011, actor and comedian David Mitchell championed the cause of Aberdeen Angus Steak Houses in his Guardian opinion column, proposing that they be a nominee for a British World Heritage bid, citing them as being "unique to British culture" because of their "proud heritage of serving shoe leather with Béarnaise sauce to neon-addled out-of-towners."
The group's website currently lists seven Angus Steak Houses in London: four in the West End, at 20 Cranbourn Street, 50 Leicester Square, 21 Coventry Street, and 24 Haymarket; two just off Oxford Street, at 10 Woodstock Street, and 243 Argyll Street; and one near Paddington Station, at 163 Praed Street.
- Noble cause saves steakhouse chain Jenny Little, Mail on Sunday 27 April 2003
- Time & tide business world, vol.45, p.xcv
- Jonathan Margolis We'll meat again The Evening Standard, 16 January 2002
- Quentin Letts R.I.P. the blood-red velvet banquette Daily Mail, 5 March 2003
- Lauren Mills, Aberdeen Steak Houses faces chop Daily Telegraph, 29 September 2002
- Macfarlane, A (1982). "Trade unionism and the employer in hotels and restaurants". International Journal of Hospitality Management 1 (1): 33–45.
- Sathnam Sanghera Musings on a steakhouse that is not well done "Business Life", The Times 24 May 2008
- Husnara Begum, BLP to rescue steak house from collapse The Lawyer, 7 October 2002
- Adam Edwards, Who goes there? Daily Telegraph, 19 May 2001
- Stuart Jeffries Flogging a dead cow The Guardian, 3 October 2002
- Clair Weaver, 10,000 Londoners contribute to new guide Daily Mail 21 October 2004
- David Mitchell, World heritage status? Mine's a Carling Black Label... The Guardian , 27 March 2011
- Contact us Aberdeen Angus Steak Houses