After 42 years in the hospitality business restaurateur Alan Russell is “delighted” to have taken home his first awards – and they were definitely worth the wait.
The Musselburgh-born business man, who owns three establishments in East Lothian, scooped two awards in the prestigious Food Awards Scotland ceremony including Restaurant of the Year award for The Coronation Restaurant in Gorebridge. They also won Restaurant of the Year South East.
Alan who also owns the Longniddry Inn and bed and breakfast Adniston Manor in Macmerry, said: “I am absolutely delighted. These are the first awards since I’ve been in the business. It’s quite an achievement when there are so many nominations.”
Alan, 62, started working in the industry at the tender age of 18 when he took up a position at the Pittencreiff Hotel in his home town. When he was 25 he bought his first enterprise, the Woodside Hotel in Musselburgh. He said: “I was very naive at 25 but you learn very quickly.”
He owned the hotel for 25 years and still meets people whose weddings he hosted there. After the Woodside he and wife Audrey bought the Old Smiddy Inn in Pencaitland before adding the current businesses to their portfolio.
The couple have three children and five grandchildren but Alan shares that none of his brood had any interest in working in the industry. He said: “They grew up with it and decided not to take it up. I’ve always really enjoyed it but there’s times when I wish I did something else. But when you have good staff behind you everything is easier.”
In 2015 the Coronation Restaurant underwent a top-to-toe £135,000 refurbishment that has increased sales by 40 per cent. The revamp took a record 19 days and went without a hitch but contractors were still laying carpets ten minutes before the grand opening.
The family-friendly restaurant offers locally-sourced food and Alan prides himself on his enduring relationships with his suppliers and customers.
Monday night’s glittering awards bash in Glasgow saw the owners and staff of some of Scotland’s best restaurants gather to toast each other’s achievements. Alan was joined at the do by Coronation manager Michelle Grahame who has worked in the restaurant for 19 years. She is one of many long-serving staff who work there including chef Mark Anderson who has been cooking up a storm there since 2004.
The pair didn’t expect to take home any gongs but were thrilled when they ended up walking away with two. Alan said: “We never thought we’d win and were thinking we’d get the last train home. The final award wasn’t announced until just after eleven but we made it.
“The awards are very much down to our staff who work really hard. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
He credits his friendly staff for the success of the restaurant, and all of his businesses and is planning a party to thank them. He said: “I want to say a big thank you to my staff and customers. This is such a massive award for us. We’re already very busy but I hope that more people will come and see us.”