Buddies bosses to relaunch Kingsthorpe venue with new cocktail lounge...and the return of the old menu
Bosses at Northampton's Buddies restaurants have pledged to bring back its former Hamburger Heavemn menu and introduce a few new surprises when they relaunch the Kingsthorpe venue this week .
The American diner chain has been an iconic part of Northampton's dining scene for 30 years, playing host to hundreds of children's birthday parties over that time.
But since it was bought by Simpson Catering in November last year, the eight restaurants have undergone a number of changes.
The greatly improved presentation of the food and a new emphasis on locally sourced ingredients have been roundly welcomed by its customers.
But its launch of a 'build-a-burger' menu - in place of the longstanding 50-choice Hamburger Heaven menu - selection proved somewhat controversial to Buddies diehards.
Northampton folk took to social media in their droves to lament the loss of the nostalgic selection.
But after listening to the feedback, that menu is set to make a comeback this weekend when the chain relaunches its Kingsthorpe venue.
"Hamburger Heaven was the traditional Buddies menu that everyone knew about and the change was not well received," said marketing manager for the company Charlotte Orton, the former chief executive of Rockingham Speedway.
"We kept getting feedback from the chefs and the customers - so we will be bringing it back this weekend.
"We are holding our hands up and saying we didn't get that right."
The return of Hamburger Heaven - which will feature some new additions - comes as part of Buddies launches its first ever cocktail bar at the Acre Lane site following a refit of the premises.
While the booth dining area will not disappear completely - during the day, the new lounge area will have more of a coffee-shop feel, with a light bite menu available.
By night it will serve up a full-on cocktail selection alongside draft and bottled ales - in a move to tap into a slightly different crowd for a Buddies USA venue.
"People have a perception of Buddies," added Charlotte. "We want to beak that perception this site to say it's not just about the burgers."
While most of the Buddies USA restaurants sit in former Little Chefs alongside main roads across the county, the Kingsthorpe venue has a slightly different feel, positioned as it is, on the site of the former North Star pub.
Part of the reason the Acre Lane site was chosen for refurbishment was to re-establish the eatery as a centre for the community.
Part of the venue has now been turned into the Las Vegas function room, which will be free for groups to hire if they spend more than £250 in total on food.
"We want people to be able to drop in for a coffee, to celebrate birthdays and we want people to come in here after the school run," said Charlotte.
"If you want to just come for a few drinks in the evening, you can do.
"This is a setting we want people to feel a part of.
"It's surrounded by houses and it's got a big garden. It's a space we want to utilise more."
The grand relaunch this weekend at Acre Lane will do just that - featuring a bouncy castle, face painting and a magician for the children between 12 noon and 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.
For the adults, there will be live music and a hot chilli con carne challenge to enjoy.