INTERVIEW: Tim Butler, Seafood Restaurant, St Andrews
Food fan who’s putting something back for charity
The Seafood Restaurant is a regular feature among the list of foodies’ favourites and has become a destination venue for tourists and residents alike.
During a big golf week it is inevitable that it will be one of the places high on the list of eating out places.
It has 50 covers and 80 diners a night. Last night was its best ever.
Tim Butler, who rents the establishment, is a confirmed food fanatic. “I love fine fine cuisine,” he says. “My bankers and accountants hate me for wanting only the best produce that obviously costs more, but if I wanted to make money I would run a fish and chip shop.”
With The Open in town and 200,000 visitors descending on the Old Course, it is an opportunity to improve the balance sheet. Not that he’s complaining. With a £1.2 million turnover it is more than a steady business and after selling a restaurant near Elie once owned by his mother he has no plans to open any more.
In any case, he also owns the St Andrews Brewing Co and a nearby pub. When the brewery opened in 2012 it was the first in the town for 114 years. It now supplies the restaurant with all its beers while 30% of production goes to its pub 500 yards down the road.
Butler, 43, acquired the brewery after the original owner brought him in as a director to help meet his obligations to Sainsbury’s. The brewery had won a competition organised by the supermarket group and it involved fulfilling a sizeable order to supply 15 of its stores.
“I serve a lot of beer but I knew nothing about making it,” he says. That apart, he helped Phaff secure his order and Sainsbury’s came back with an increased order for 25 stores which the brewery still supplies.
“Opening the pub provided us with a fantastic shop front,” he says. One of its beers is now served in Michelin restaurants.
The brewery’s output in the two years since he joined the board has increased from 4,000 bottles a week to 10,000. He says he would like to expand it in order to supply more pubs in the area, but he also notes the tax breaks available for microbreweries.
“If we got to a certain size we would have to pay more duty and we are well shy of that so we can expand without any difficulties.”
When he’s not serving food and drink he plays bass in a band. “We were performing last night as well as preparing for today’s guests,” he says. They include Daily Business, and others supporting the Polar Academy, a charity that works with young people in difficult circumstances and backs them on expeditions to the Arctic.
The maiden expedition of school children from Wishaw set foot on Arctic ice during this year’s Easter Break. Keith Neilson, chief executive of Edinburgh medical billing company Craneware is a trustee of the charity. He and close friend Ben Wallace of TCR Events teamed up with Butler to host the charity days at the restaurant over the Open weekend.
Details of the charity can be accessed here: http://thepolaracademy.org/
Career highlights: Musician, lived in France, returned to work with mother at restaurant in St Monans; later sold it and became tenant at Seafood Restaurant; joined Bob Phaff at St Andrews Brewery as a director and later acquired the business and pub.
Do you plan to open more restaurants?
No. Me and my wife and quite happy to keep to what we have, although I do hope eventually to buy the restaurant. We are not looking for other pubs, and there are tax breaks for microbreweries, although we do want to supply more pubs and would like to expand the brewery.
Are you ambitious?
I have seen what BrewDog has done, raising a lot of money and expanding in Europe and America. It would be an error to try and follow that. We are definitely focusing on the local trade. We want to be the number one brewery in Fife.
I play bass in a band, the Black Sheep Music Society, mainly covers.
Photo: Tim Butler by Terry Murden