Slaters was a successful restaurant chain from the Victorian era until the 1950s. It became one of the largest catering companies in the world.
John Crowle (1841 – 1906) was the son of William Crowle, a butcher and farmer of 25 acres at Charlestown, Cornwall. Crowle worked at his father’s butchers shop in St Austell before emigrating to London in the 1860s.
A keen and energetic man, Crowle was a master butcher employing thirteen men at a shop on Kensington High Street by 1881. He acquired a restaurant business from a Mr Slater (established 1828) and opened further outlets across the West End of London.
Slaters became a limited company in 1889. Outlets were located around central London, with a flagship restaurant in Piccadilly. The target audience was the middle classes.
Crowle was a staunch Methodist and temperance advocate, and as a result outlets did not have licenses to serve alcohol. Photographs from around 1900 show elegant interiors with white tablecloths and napkins.
In 1901 the firm sold its ice cream business to Carlo Gatti & Stevenson Ltd.
John Crowle died in 1906. His estate was valued at £448,696, half of which he gifted to the temperance movement in his will (he had lost his only son to typhoid fever during the Boer War). It was one of the largest bequests to date in Britain.
By 1913 Slaters had thirteen a la carte restaurants and nearly 40 grocery outlets located within London and its suburbs. The company had capital of £355,000.
During the First World War the vice-chairwoman, Louisa Catherine Thomson Price, evolved fresh colour schemes for the restaurants and designed new uniforms for the waitresses.
By 1926 Slaters was one of the largest catering companies in the world.
In 1928 the authorised capital of Slaters was increased to £1 million in order to acquired Bodega, the restaurant firm. The merged company was known as Slaters & Bodega.
In 1932 the company operated three provincial hotels, 29 Slater Restaurants and Beta Cafes, 37 shops, 25 Bodega wine bars and four Cope’s wine lodges.
Charles Forte (1908 – 2007), an Italian entrepreneur with interests in catering and property, acquired Slaters & Bodega for £1.55 million in 1954.