The family story behind Buckinghamshire-based The Works
PUBLISHED: 16:16 10 July 2017 | UPDATED: 14:34 11 July 2017
Following their dream, the Boltons are helping the rest of us to deliciously 'keep our cool' in Aylesbury and High Wycombe... and come back for more
How do you fancy a Biscoff Biscuit, Salted Peanut Butter Pretzel, Deep Chocolate, Passionfruit Cheesecake or Pistachio ice cream? Not only is The Works a restaurant group specialising in homemade ice creams, waffles, sundaes, crepes and milkshakes – all with a WOW factor – but the family story behind it is truly inspiring and proof that family businesses have incredible strengths which can secure the integrity and success of a brand, and the realisation of a dream.
Roger and Elaine Bolton founded the flagship branch of The Works in Aylesbury town centre in the weeks before Christmas of 2014 along with their son Tom and family friend Freddie. Two years later they opened their second branch in High Wycombe High Street. The whole family are on the board, along with some key team members, who now all belong to the wider family.
The success of their business is based on inspiration, hard work, experience and trust amongst the team with an ethos that everybody shares and is truly passionate about. They derive undying fulfilment from pleasing others by serving only the best in great taste to every one of their guests.
So where did this family business start? Roger, ‘The Gaffer’, has dreamt of owning his own restaurant for over 30 years. His drive to do so saw him resign from a very good job as Food Director at BHS at the end of 2013, so that he could invest all his energy in pursuing that dream with his wife and family.
Elaine spent a lot of time in the USA and has fond childhood memories of classic American dessert parlours that they would often visit after dinner. All this inspiration, together with the desire to have a fun and relaxed restaurant with amazing food which could be enjoyed at all times of the day was the inception for The Works.
They drew up all sorts of different plans and ideas for a restaurant chain, but really found their niche in the market with ‘The Works’ – a term which neatly sums up two significant definitions - “enjoying eating the full works” or “a factory and place of industry”.
They even covered one of their spare room walls with white paint and pencilled lots of different restaurant ideas onto it. The Works was the only one left that they didn’t rub out!
Roger recalls: “My inspiration came from the idea to have a place that people of all ages could go to and enjoy themselves - a fun and relaxed restaurant within a modern and interestingly designed environment. Some of our ethos comes from my days at TGI Fridays where everyone enjoyed what they did and the main focus was to give guests a great experience.”
Son Tom, ‘Billy’ Bolton, was in the finishing stages of university when Roger left his job. He spent a couple of months juggling his final months at university with travelling around the country and helping to prepare for the opening of The Works.
With only five days to relax after his finals he joined his parents on their exciting journey to creating the brand and building a business which might one day be seen in towns and cities up and down the country.
He knew that together they could produce something very special which would be fully focused on service and food which delivers a WOW. It was also an important part of the plan to create an offering which would help to bring local communities to life and be a destination for all age groups to enjoy.
“There seemed to be a gap in the UK market for a style of restaurant inspired by the combination of a classic American diner serving the quality of Italian ice cream, with table service and great food at the heart of its ethos.
This combination with our unique urban warehouse style branding has resonated with our guests” he explains.
Since then Tom’s older brother, Sam, has given up a secure job in London to and join the family team and manage all their business finances.The rest of the family had in fact urged him to keep his job until the business had expanded and fully established itself; eventually though he couldn’t be stopped from playing his part in growing the dream.
He believes that the key factor is the level of trust within the family: “This innate trust allows us to really push the business forward; I couldn’t imagine working with a better hand selected team, it is a phenomenal feeling” says Sam.
Last, but definitely not least, is Freddie, ‘The Ops Guy’, who counts the Boltons as his second family. Freddie was friends with Tom all through secondary school and had always wanted a career in hospitality. He immediately ‘clicked’ with the restaurant world and he was the obvious first choice for the Boltons when putting their plans and team together.
Having been the GM for the Aylesbury branch, Freddie is now looking after all the operational side of the business, making sure everything runs smoothly for all branches.
What is the works?
Eat at The Works and enjoy from an amazing menu of handmade ice creams, waffles, crepes (savoury or sweet) and milkshakes. Open seven days a week for breakfast, brunch, lunch and much more, and available until late in the evening, you can walk through the door to find warm hospitality, great food and lots of treats to choose from, to eat in or take away.
Each branch has space for birthday parties, meetings and celebrations too, and there is even an Ice Cream Bike for weddings, sporting events, festivals, fetes, parties and corporate events.
The concept is unique, intentionally quirky and fun, with a happy team, but without compromising on quality of ingredients to produce their ice creams which are handmade expertly, garnished beautifully and served to perfection.
In fact, so determined were Elaine (also known affectionately as ‘The Ice Maiden’) and the family to produce authentic handmade ice creams that they travelled out to Italy to work, learn and liaise with Toschi, an Italian family business in Modena which has been making natural raw ice cream flavours for over 70 years. They still work closely with Toschi and have become good family friends. They then developed their own secret ice cream recipe, using fresh milk and cream to which they add sugar, and this produces their ‘Top of the Milk’ variety.
All other flavours are adapted from this base ranging from old favourites like Vanilla, Deep Chocolate and Strawberries & Cream to more innovative luxury choices such as Biscoff Biscuit, Salted Peanut Butter Pretzel, Bakewell Tart, Passionfruit Cheesecake and Liquorice.
The ice creams are all made by hand from scratch in each branch. It is not only about ice cream. Their menu boasts decadent sundaes, ice cream sandwiches, and also crepes, waffles and hot desserts, plus a very wholesome selection of freshly prepared, tasty savoury options including jam jar salads, savoury waffles and crepes and hot dogs. If you have room, you can wash these down with one of their famous milkshakes or ice cream floats, a selection of hot and cold drinks plus Prosecco, beer, cider and wine.
It’s little wonder that on their first birthday when they held a big party for all their guests they had queues of loyal fans lining up outside in the street – even when Roger arrived at 5pm that day to help, he struggled to get through the crowds inside to join the festivities! Many guests brought birthday cards to show their appreciation.
What is the secret of their success? The USP of The Works has got to be their solid and defining family ethos. The team are all well looked after and genuinely take pride in their job. Testament to this is that many of the original opening team from Aylesbury are actually still part of the family now.
With High Wycombe already proving very popular, the Boltons aspire to grow the brand and launch a group of The Works restaurants up and down the country bringing their unique offering to more and more people, whilst retaining the integrity of their founding family principles.
Fresh new menus have recently taken them into the summer season. All new flavours are stringently tested and sampled by the team and regular guests to ensure that they deliver the best possible experience time and time again. There have been several competitions via their social media channels where the winner has been able to create a new flavour for a season, and this really strikes a chord with the following in High Wycombe.
There are even high protein options for fitness enthusiasts and plenty of choice for people who do not want to eat gluten. For those travelling out from London it is located conveniently close to the mainline station and a wonderful pitstop for visitors to the area.
• 5 of the best afternoon teas in Buckinghamshire - Maureen McLean chooses some of the best places to enjoy afternoon tea in Buckinghamshire