Q: What’s the story behind Zaks Diner?
A: It was started by a local musician in the 70s who spent time in the States and returned to Norwich with a vision of creating an American-style dining experience. Zaks began in 1976 as a food truck on Rouen Road in Norwich and quickly became a mecca for local people to meet up in their cars after the clubs. The Yankee Traveller launched in 1977, shortly followed by Zaks, Mousehold in the same year and things grew from there. Ian and I took on the group in 2020, having worked in the business for years, and see ourselves as custodians rather than owners.
Q: If you could time travel to any era and have dinner at Zaks, which period would you choose and why?
A: The Zaks’ journey began in the 70s, so I’d love to go back and see where it all began and capture that street food vibe with the original car and motorbike meets. I always hear stories from customers about how cool it was.
Q: What sets Zaks Diner apart from others?
A: It’s about the experience we offer and the authenticity of our food, atmosphere, and decor. Our menu is about being innovative yet keeping old classics whilst looking to The States for new trends. We always look for the next new thing to bring our diners. Zaks was the first place to do wings, ribs, fajitas, and American cocktails in our region. In the ‘00s, we were the first to do pulled pork.
Q: What do your customers love about Zaks?
A: They love the burgers and all the great stuff on the outside, like dogs, ribs, and wings. Everyone feels welcome and relaxed. You can often see four generations of the same family enjoying food together. We also have an extensive vegan menu. We wanted to recreate the whole Zaks menu but plant-based. We have a rule that our food either comes from American or local. We make all our burgers, ribs, chilli and sauces from recipes passed down over the years and new recipes.
Q: Imagine you are hosting a celebrity dinner at Zaks. Which two celebrities would you invite and why?
A: I’d choose David Bowie, as he was an influence growing up, and Gordon Ramsey purely for the banter and to hear what he thinks of our burgers!
Q: Can you share any upcoming plans?
A: We’re going back to our roots and developing our street food arm. We now have three vans focused on getting the Zaks experience out on the road again.
Q: What role does Zaks play in supporting the local community?
A: We are an integral part of our local community. We buy from local suppliers, employ local people and support local charities, especially working with and helping young people.
Q: What’s your vision for the future?
A: Zaks is still a family business and remains independent. We want to preserve the legacy and keep Zaks going for the future generations.
Q: Imagine creating a Zaks pop-up restaurant anywhere in the world. Where would you choose and why?
A: Southwest France on the Atlantic coast is my favourite part of the world. I’d love to sell burgers on the beach in Biarritz!
Q: Can you describe the service you get from Lacons?
A: Dealing with Lacons feels like a neighbourhood business. We’re a neighbourhood diner, so it’s a good fit. I like popping into the brewery to say hello and dealing with people face-to-face.