Food for thought

Business, Interviews | Fri 15 Jan | Author – Business & Finance
food for thought

The inside track on Ireland’s booming food and beverage industry.

RIGHT UP YOUR STREET

With a keen eye for detail and an inherent appreciation for what diners want, Fiona Kelly has it sussed when it comes to the restaurant business.

Fiona Kelly headshot

Fiona Kelly, MD, Suesey Street

“Walking around our dining room at night and hearing the clinking of glasses, the rattle of plates and sound of laughter gives me so much pleasure … to know that we have created a little space in the world that people can enjoy themselves in,” Fiona Kelly, Suesey Street’s managing director enthuses.

No stranger to the food and hospitality industry, Kelly’s business has evolved from a premium serviced offices business to a leading Dublin restaurant and bar destination.

So how did the evolution from canteen, to the Old Bank Café, to Brasserie Le Pont, to Suesey Street come about? “Glandore Business Centre originally opened Old Bank Café to service the in-house conference and meeting room requirements of its clients,” Kelly explains. “Unfortunately the timing of this coincided with the 2008 economic crash leaving not much hope for the café’s survival.”

With only two choices  – to “use the space or lose the space”, Kelly decided to upgrade the décor, apply for a restaurant licence and open as Brasserie Le Pont, an upmarket, high quality French restaurant.

Brasserie Le Pont operated under this guise for four years, until Kelly – following some research into the hospitality landscape and consultation with the family – decided the restaurant needed a revamp.

“The aim was to improve the key distinguishing features of the restaurant and utilise the bar area and terrace to their full potential.” And so Suesey Street was born. “The project was a journey of evolution. At the beginning we didn’t intended on a rebrand. It was only on completion of the refurbishment that I felt that a new personality had been born.”

Fiona Kelly

According to Kelly, the new brand was an opportunity to steer the business in a different direction and attract a new market. “Suesey Street is cooler, hipper and just a more comfortable place to be. The concept behind Suesey Street is to de-formalise fine dining and make it an accessible, more everyday affair. We removed the white linen from table tops, turned the music up, and the lights down.”

 The project was a journey of evolution. At the beginning we didn’t intended on a rebrand. It was only on completion of the refurbishment that I felt that a new personality had been born

A second generation family business, Kelly says working with her family has been a positive experience. “I suppose I have been the leading force behind this part of the business, with input obviously too from my siblings Clare, Rebecca and Alexander. We all get on very well, and we enjoy business and the challenges it brings.”

Kelly has ambitious future plans for the business including developing further the private dining side of the business. “This is a hard business to make money in, but I believe with the right product and the right concept it is possible.”

Can we expect to see other restaurants in the future? “Who knows? Anything is possible,” Kelly concludes.

OPENING THE GREAT GATES 

GUINNESS BEWERYFor over a hundred years, there has been an experimental brewery at St James’s Gate where the brewers are given license to explore new recipes, reinterpret old ones and experiment freely to bring new beers to life. Now, for the first time in history, the brewers will welcome the public into the brewery, the home of experimentation and innovation with the launch of The Open Gate Brewery, an intimate brewing experience at St James’s Gate.

As well as pouring the famous Guinness stout and the latest Brewers Project beers such as Hop House 13 Lager, Guinness Dublin Porter, and Guinness West Indies Porter, the brewers will be sharing early, small batch versions of their experimental beers to try, which will only be available in The Open Gate Brewery. A selection of other new Guinness beers from around the world, which have not been available to date in Ireland, will also be exclusively available to visitors to the brewery.

The brewery will open to the public every Thursday and Friday night and the €6 per person covers entrance fee and includes some sample beers to taste. For more information, visit www.guinnessopengate.com.

FROM SPUDS TO STARDOM

KeoghsThe man who can claim to have transformed the fortunes of the humble spud and re-ignited our nation’s love affair with the potato has won the most sought after award in the marketing industry.

Tom Keogh of Keogh’s was announced as Marketer of the Year 2015 at a ceremony held in Dublin in November. The judging panel felt that his story was a standout in terms of ingenuity and inventiveness, adopting as it did, a clever, informed approach to marketing with product innovation and quality at its core. In addition, his clear focus on what customers want (and delivering this), plus the challenge of creating a premium brand in what was originally considered a commodity market, are classic examples of a skilled marketer at work according to the award judges.

Commenting on the win Tom Keogh said: “It’s a real honour to be recognised as best in my field. I regard myself as a ‘farm-eter’ – a marketer who happens to be a farmer. Being the best is at the heart of the philosophy behind Keogh’s.

It’s been a great journey so far and there’s much to do. But, ultimately the success of any enterprise is a collaborative one between my family and myself, our customers, staff, suppliers and everyone involved in the growing success of the business. And to other business out there I would simply say, never, never give up especially if you have a brand that you’re passionate about.” 

THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER

seafood Bord BiaBord Bia and 14 Irish seafood companies were in China earlier this month, securing new export opportunities at Asia’s premier seafood event, the China Seafood and Fisheries Expo in Qingdao.

Bord Bia’s Origin Green pavilion provided the launch pad for the Irish contingent to target buyers at this year’s event which is the largest ever with over 1,300 companies from 45 countries exhibiting, and over 25,000 visitors from almost 100 countries in attendance.

Speaking at the event, James O’Donnell Bord Bia’s director for Asia said that they have a two-pronged approach to attracting new business: “We have created trade awareness events in Beijing and Shanghai, designed to draw increased numbers to the Irish Origin Green pavilion. In addition to promoting our well-established products, we have also focused on new species from Ireland.”

AWARDS SHOWCASE FOOD INNOVATION

Bord Bia Food Awards 2015 . Picture Conor McCabe PhotographyThe Bord Bia Food and Drink Awards in Dublin’s Mansion House in November honoured the achievements of eight Irish food companies who were recognised for excellence in the Irish food and drink industry across categories including: branding, consumer insight, digital marketing, entrepreneurship, exporting, innovation, success at home and sustainability.

Over 300 industry representatives from Ireland’s leading food and drink companies gathered for the ceremony, where they also heard from guest speaker, Joe Schmidt, the Irish Rugby Team’s Head Coach who provided his insight into leadership and teamwork.

Opening the event, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney said, “Last year’s record €10.5bn in exports follows five years of sustained growth by the sector, which is now well positioned as it seeks to expand towards its €19bn export goal set in Food Wise 2025. As the industry continues to develop premium positions in established markets, significant progress is also being made in opening up new markets that can help sustain its growth.”

The eight category winners were: Gallaghers Bakery in the Export and Entrepreneurial categories; Nobó in the Innovation Award; Celtic Pure in the Success at Home Award; Glanbia in the Branding and the Sustainbility Award; Britvic Ireland won the Digital Marketing Award; The consumer Insight Award went to Glenisk; and Island Seafoods in the Sustainbility category. 

Bord Bia Foodservice Infographic