In conversation with Steve Hughes
Steve Hughes - the man behind the home grown success that is Delicious Dining, tells Southampton Magazine why he's backing the City Centre Master Plan.
With 25 years under his belt running some of Southampton's most popular eateries, Steve Hughes has a good understanding of the city that has played such an important part in his success.
Delicious Dining is now Hampshire's largest independent hospitality group, with 14 bars, restaurants and hotels. It is a diverse portfolio that includes the elegant surroundings of the Grand Café, Ennios - an Italian restaurant with boutique hotel rooms near Town Quay, and banana wharf the vibrant bar and restaurant by the water.
Recalling how his working relationship with Southampton started, Steve explained how he turned his back on the corporate world of sales and marketing to run his first business in the city.
"My father had a lovely county house hotel on the Isle of Wight and it has always been my ambition to have the same sort of pace. But I've ended up with something totally different.
"My first business in Southampton was Simon's Wine Bar in Bedford Place. Initially I didn't know anyone in the city by through the wine bar I met a lot of professional people with businesses based around London Road.
"I learned a lot about Southampton during my time at Simon's Wine Bar and the business really took off fro there," explained Steve.
The group has grown organically and Steve admitted his impetuous side often comes into play.
"If the model is strong it will stand the test of time. Not everything we have tried has worked the first time - sometimes we have to tweak things to give the customer what they want as opposed to trying to make them want what we offer.
"Our vision is to continue to grow by maintaining the key principles of quality, passion and innovation," he clarified.
Steve is genuinely impressed by the city's Master Plan and the vision it depicts for the city over the next 20 years or so. And he is particularly interested in the Cultural Quarter.
"With such a diverse offering within the Delicious dining Group I have to be careful I'm not competing with myself.
"When I look at the Cultural Quarter I see a differ kind of clientele and I am very interested in being part of it.
"Southampton has become my home and it is great place to be with the Solent and the New Forest on the doorstep. the Master Plan clearly shows where the opportunities are and if all the development happened, it will certainly make a major difference to the city," he said.
Looking ahead Steve plans to build on the success of his Banana Wharf brand which currently operates I Ocean Village, Port Hamble Marina and Poole Quay.
"On a nice summer's day most people enjoying eating and drinking while overlooking the water s banana Wharf works very well.
"I am keen to develop and expand the brand - and my eyes are always open to new developments in and around the city, he added.