Zaks buys the Great Yarmouth Yankee Traveler restaurant

“It’s like welcoming a long-lost relative back into the fold,” says Chris Carr, “Great Yarmouth is where Zaks’ story began and we’re thrilled to be back.”

Chris and his business partner Ian Hacon bought the Yankee Traveler on King Street in Yarmouth, which was the first of the Norfolk-based burger restaurant chain in 1977.


Owners Chris Carr, left, and Ian Hacon, at Zaks at Yankee Traveler in Great Yarmouth, which was the very first Zaks restaurant in 1977.
– Credit: Archant

The couple have been associated with Zaks for many years: collectively as a management team from 2005 to 2016 and as business owners since 2020.

The Yankee Traveler, on the other hand, has been a part of Yarmouth’s restaurant scene for almost 50 years and can boast that it truly WAS an authentic taste of America.

Offshore oil and gas drilling began off Great Yarmouth in the 1960s and the industry has attracted many families from across the UK and beyond.

American oil workers living in Yarmouth would crave the food they so desperately missed at home when they returned from a trip to the sea: Yankee Travelers needed a taste of the United States.

Two women, whose husbands were on the platform, decided to open a restaurant that offered the dishes that their families missed the most: cheeseburgers, fries, coke floats, chili and ribs.

The Yankee Traveler opened on King Street in 1973, offering a taste of home — and their chili and rib recipes were so good they’re still used by Zaks today.


Zaks' Original Caravan in Norwich

Zaks’ Original Caravan in Norwich
– Credit: Archant

Meanwhile, in Norwich, a converted caravan opposite the city’s castle had started offering customers authentic burgers wrapped in American-style foil.

Local musician and entrepreneur Harvey Platt had been keen to bring a slice of America to Norwich after visiting San Francisco to reunite with his old musician friends.


Original Zaks burger van on the site of what is now the entrance to Vue Cinema

Original Zaks burger van on the site of what is now the entrance to Vue Cinema
– Credit: Submitted

When the trailer – people remember it as a sleek Airstream, but in reality it was more of a red and white striped mobile home – on Farmers Avenue near Castle Meadow came to market, Harvey brought it to market. taken and Zaks’ story began.

Opened in May 1976 and serving the now famous cooked-to-order charcoal-grilled burgers, it’s fond memories for many who were enjoying the flavors of the United States for the first time.

In 1977, American oil rig workers were returning home and the Yankee Traveler became available: already popular with Yarmouth diners, Mr. Platt seized the opportunity to grab a corner of Americana on the coast of Norfolk.


Zaks lampshades at Zaks at Yankee Traveler in Great Yarmouth, which was the very first Zaks res

Zaks lampshades at Zaks at Yankee Traveler in Great Yarmouth, which was the very first Zaks restaurant in 1977.
– Credit: Archant

Zaks’ distinctive Tiffany-style lampshades, memorabilia-lined walls, jukebox, neon, red Zaks blinds, wood trim, stars and stripes on a flagpole outside: Zaks Yankee Traveler was an exciting addition to Yarmouth’s Restaurants.


Zaks, Mousehold.  Photo: Zaks

Zaks at Mousehold in Norwich
– Credit: Archant

In Norwich, a Zaks brick and mortar restaurant followed Mousehold in 1979 and in the mid-1980s the caravan closed for the last time, just a few years before Zaks Waterside opened opposite Cow Tower in 1988 .


Harvey Platt, founder of the Zaks burger restaurant empire - pictured with one of his guitars which he plays

Harvey Platt, founder of the Zaks burger restaurant empire – pictured with one of his guitars which he plays
– Credit: Archant

Mr Platt passed the reins of Norwich restaurants to family-owned Blue Sky Leisure in 1998, which added Zaks Poringland to the portfolio in 2005 and Zaks Thetford in 2015 (which has since closed).

The Yankee Traveler left the Zaks family in 1998, but after almost 25 years, a family reunion is planned.


Co-owner Ian Hacon at Zaks at Yankee Traveler in Great Yarmouth, which was Zaks' very first rest

Co-owner Ian Hacon at Zaks at Yankee Traveler in Great Yarmouth, which was the very first Zaks restaurant in 1977.
– Credit: Archant

Co-owner Ian Hacon originally trained as a chartered accountant and spent 15 years working for Zaks parent company Blue Sky Leisure, including nine years as CEO.

During his tenure, he helped the group win the Archant Business of the Year award and drove a major cultural change program focused on the team and customer experience. He also runs the digital health platform Energise.me.


Co-owner Chris Carr at Zaks at Yankee Traveler in Great Yarmouth, which was the very first Zaks res

Co-owner Chris Carr at Zaks at Yankee Traveler in Great Yarmouth, which was the very first Zaks restaurant in 1977.
– Credit: Archant

Fellow owner Chris has over 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, working for national and local brands. The couple, who both live in Gorleston, acquired the business in January 2020.

“We’re thrilled to come full circle in history and bring the Yankee back to the Zaks family,” Ian said.

Chris added: “The Yankee Traveler is hugely loved by the people of Yarmouth who have grown up with it and have such fond memories of it over the past 50 years.

“People are really passionate about the Yankee and it has its own story and its own journey to go on, we’re going to take some time to get to know the community and the customers but over time it will become the Voyager Zaks Yankee.


Zaks at the Yankee Traveler in Great Yarmouth, which was the very first Zaks restaurant in 1977.

Zaks at the Yankee Traveler in Great Yarmouth, which was the very first Zaks restaurant in 1977.
– Credit: Archant

“I think what we will see eventually is Yankee dishes used by Zaks and Zaks dishes used by Yankees.

“You walk in and you already feel like you’re in a Zaks, even though technically it hasn’t been for almost 25 years! We both live nearby so it feels like coming home.


Owners Chris Carr, second right, and Ian Hacon, right, with former owners Oliver Hurren, left, a

Owners Chris Carr, second right, and Ian Hacon, right, with former owners Oliver Hurren, left, and Charles Thurston, at Zaks at Yankee Traveler in Great Yarmouth, which was the very first Zaks restaurant in 1977.
– Credit: Archant

Handing over the reins to Chris and Ian, Oliver Hurren and Charles Thurston bought the business in July 2019 after it closed unexpectedly at the end of 2018.

“Oliver and Charles have done a great job bringing the Yankees back to life and that should definitely be credited to them,” Chris said.

“We started discussions a few months ago because we knew we really wanted another restaurant and this one suited us perfectly. It felt like unfinished business for Zaks.

Oliver and Charles said: “We are so proud to have been a part of Yankee Traveler history, this is a restaurant we visited as children and we are happy to pass it on to its next owners for a new chapter.”

With no business disruption and no big menu changes at the moment, Chris and Ian are looking forward to having a restaurant near them (“if nothing else, that means when my kids are older , I can make them work there!” laughs Chris).

One thing is certain, chili and rib recipes won’t change, but what did those 1973 Yankee Travelers add to their magical mix of ingredients to make them so indulgent?

“Ah,” Chris said, “that would be telling. But really, it’s more about technique…”

The Yankee Traveler is at 36 King Street, Great Yarmouth, 01493 857065, details will be added to the Zaks website in the coming weeks.


Zena Leech-Calton

Zena Leech-Calton
– Credit: Zena Leech-Calton

Zena Leech-Calton, cooking teacher and food writer, holds a special place in her heart for the Yankee Traveller.

“I think I was about 10 when I first went to the Yankee Traveller: I used to eat the kids’ dinner: I looked at everyone’s plates with absolute envy,” says -she.

“My dad Terry always had the Combo, which was chicken, coleslaw, ribs, sweetcorn and fries or jacket potatoes and it was a mountain of food, I had the used to look at it and be amazed!

“When my parents moved abroad, when mum [Irene, known to many from her singing days as ‘Reny Lee’, her stage name in the days of New Faces] took me to lunch, it was always at Zaks in Great Yarmouth.

“She had written a book and we were sitting at the back of the restaurant and she was reading a chapter to me after we had our meals: I was watching the traffic lights, full and just listening to mum. We took all the nieces and nephews, this was our favorite place.

“The staff knew us so well that we didn’t have to say what we wanted, but I still remember my mother’s order: the Deluxe without the extra onion and tomato.

“I just loved the condiment platter: onion relish, tomato relish, ketchup – a friend even bought me my own platter so I could recreate Zaks nights at home!

“It was a touch of America in Norfolk and it was so glamorous. I’m sure when my brother Karl and I went to America with our parents, it was because of Zaks and spending so much time there , it made us all want more!

Zena added that there is another reason the Yarmouth restaurant will always be special to her family: “It was the first place I went with my boyfriend at the time and now my husband Nick with my parents and unfortunately the last meal we all had together. with mom.

“Nick still has Zaks’ receipt from when he paid in his wallet to this day, it’s pretty thin, but it’s a reminder of a really special time in a special place.”

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