Page 1

ISSUE 7 2018







02/08/2018 12:07

25.09.2018 Now in their 30th year, the 2018 Gold Medal Awards are recognised as the leading independent awards programme for the Irish hospitality industry. Judged by industry experts, the Hotel & Catering Review Gold Medal Awards recognise and reward excellence in hospitality and catering operations across the island of Ireland. The 2018 awards will be presented at a black-tie gala dinner on the 25th of September 2018 at The Lyrath Estate Hotel, Kilkenny. For more information visit: or contact Jacinta O’Rourke, Event Manager Phone: 01 432 2201 | Email:

FC advert template.indd 1 Save The Date_1C_Events_JM_H&C.indd 1 GMA 2018 Save the Date.indd 1

02/08/2018 24/07/2018 10:07 03/05/2018 12:56 15:03

ISSUE 7 2018


Go to hotelandcatering for the online edition

ISSUE 7 2018






Cover image:

Cruise ship entering Dublin. Photo: Dublin Port





Photo: Ivan Sarfatti

MSC Meraviglia.



The cruise business is worth approx. €15 million to the local economy per annum. On average cruise passengers spend €81 and crew spend €29 during their stay,” Brendan Keating, Port of Cork Chief Executive, discussing the benefits of cruise tourism in Cork.











10 16 18 22 26

Get the Shifts has a solution for staff shortages.

Full Fitness Financial health checks can keep your business on the right path.

Eating the Invader Japanese knotweed is finding its way onto plates.

Set in Stone Neolith’s stock is on the rise.

Light the Way Should you switch to energy-efficient lighting?


A Quick Chat With Stephen Ryan

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

001_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Contents_V1.indd 1

Superstar Search



03/08/2018 09:12

Editorial & Production Manager: Mary Connaughton Art Director: Alan McArthur Design Assistant: James Moore Anna Wesolowska Creative Director: Jane Matthews Photography: Ice House Hotel & Spa, Fabulous Food Trails, The Westbury, Aimsir, Grant Thornton, JP McMahon/ Aniar, Sirman, Amazon, Gannet Fishmongers, Lonely Planet, Murdock Books, Red Door Publishing, Bloomsbury, TheSize/Neolith, Global Knives, MAC, Victorinox, Wusthof, Press Up, Port of Cork Stock Photography iStock Infographics: Production: Nicole Ennis Sales Director: Paul Clemenson Managing Director: Gerry Tynan Chairman: Diarmaid Lennon

Published by: Ashville Media, Unit 55 Park West Road, Park West Industrial Estate, Dublin 12, D12 X9F9. Tel: (01) 432 2200 ISSN: 0332-4400 All rights reserved. Every care has been taken to ensure that the information contained in this magazine is accurate. The publishers cannot, however, accept responsibility for errors or omissions. Reproduction by any means in whole or in part without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. © Ashville Media Group 2018. All discounts, promotions and competitions contained in this magazine are run independently of Hotel & Catering Review. The promoter/advertiser is responsible for honouring the prize.



elcome to Issue 7 of Hotel & Catering Review. There’s plenty for you to sink your teeth into in this edition, from the key points in a financial health check and the latest industry news to the best options when it comes to chef ’s knives. A shortage of skilled staff is among the myriad challenges facing Ireland’s hospitality sector at present. Among the winners of the recent National Enterprise Awards was Get the Shifts, an online business that aims to provide high-quality, skilled temporary hospitality staff. We caught up with founder Hannah Wrixon to learn more about why she started the business and what they can offer to a sector under pressure. Successive years of cruise liner growth have resulted in a rise in the status of ports in Dublin, Cork and others around the island, with more and more vessels docking at or departing from Ireland’s coast. In our cover story we take a look at this booming business, how and why it’s on the rise, the impact on Ireland’s hospitality sector and what can be done to further promote Ireland as a cruise destination. We’ve also got a report on my recent trip to Spain with sintered stone manufacturer Neolith, where I discovered more about how the product is made and why it is becoming increasingly popular in hotels and restaurants around the globe. Elsewhere, Japanese knotweed has been of little benefit to anybody as it spreads across Ireland but in recent months and years the invasive plant has found a home on the menu at restaurants such as Michelinstarred Heron & Grey in Blackrock and Galway’s Aniar. Hotel & Catering Review investigates how it can be used in the kitchen and the care and caution that must be taken when dealing with this dangerous invasive species. We also take a look at the benefits of switching to energy-efficient lighting and catch up with The Lucky Duck’s Head Chef Stephen Ryan to find out how the restaurant has fared since its recent opening.

Conor Forrest @HC_Review


Email: conor.forrest@

Enjoy the read,


Editor: Conor Forrest



002_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Editors Letter.indd 2

02/08/2018 12:10

Flooring & Shower Walls: BETON Silk I Wall Cladding: ESTATUARIO Silk Residential Project in Benicassim (SPAIN) I Designed by Francisco Roselló

NEOLITH®, Design, Durability, Versatility, Sustainability. Interior and exterior applications: Cladding, Flooring, Countertops and Furniture. Resistant to stains, chemicals, extreme temperatures. Light and 100% natural. Maximum format, minimum thickness, different finishes. More than 50 selections available.

NEOLITH ad_Hotel & Catering Review_September_Ireland_2018.indd 1 244661_2L_The Think Tank_JM_H&C.indd 1

07/07/2018 14:18:02 02/08/2018 12:22


Smartbox Group, leader in Europe, present in 10 countries, with more than 40,000 partners, will be launching a range of premium themed gift boxes offering a selection of stay, gastronomy, wellness and adventure experiences across Ireland. Contact us directly on 01-6917198 or 2L_Smartbox_JM_Hotel&Catering.indd 1

FC advert template.indd 1

22/06/2018 15:13

02/08/2018 12:58

HOTELIERS PREDICT STRONG SUMMER Ireland’s hoteliers and guesthouse owners are forecasting a positive summer for the sector, according to the latest industry survey by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF). The majority (70 per cent) report that business has increased year-onyear, with a boost from staycations and overseas markets including continental Europe and North America. Employment growth is set to continue this year, with IHF President Michael Lennon noting that the tourism industry is on course to create 40,000 new jobs by 2021. Continued tourism growth has led to a renewed interest in employment opportunities.


DRINKS INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT Rosemary Garth, the newly-elected chairperson of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, is seeking to prioritise employment protection and industry promotion. The industry directly employs around 92,000 people and has witnessed rapid development in recent years. “The recent DIGI report ‘Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Drinks Industry’ clearly demonstrates how the industry is supporting balanced regional development through a network of rural drinks businesses across the country,” she said. “We need to ensure the sector and these jobs are protected and further development in the industry is encouraged.”

SANDYMOUNT HOTEL RECOGNISED FOR GREEN APPROACH Sandymount Hotel has retained its accolade as Europe's Leading Green Hotel at the 2018 World Travel Awards. The hotel is leading the way with its environmentally-friendly approach – 95 per cent of waste is recycled, water consumption has been reduced through measures such as aerator shower heads, 26 per cent of electricity used comes from renewable sources, and rewards and incentives are offered to guests who take a 'greener' approach during their stay at the hotel.



ICE HOUSE HOTEL LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE Working in partnership with Irish hotel technology company Avvio, Mayo’s Ice House Hotel and Spa has launched a new website ( that mirrors the hotel’s location and fantastic architecture – a blend of the traditional and ultramodern. “Ice House Hotel and Spa is a one-of-a-kind luxury hotel on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way in North Mayo,” said Niall Kerins, General Manager. “We want our uniqueness and stand out location to really come across online, which is why we chose Avvio to help maximise our direct bookings and create an amazing website that really connects with our core target market segments.” The hotel, which was restored from a 19th-century ice store, worked with Avvio’s digital marketing experts to optimise all elements of the new website, with a focus on creating strong content and providing guests with relevant information. Carmel Connolly, MD at The Marketing Department – the hotel’s PR agency – has noticed the benefits already. “Since we brought Avvio on-board, we’ve really noticed consistent growth in traffic direct to our website, resulting in increased bookings directly through the hotel’s website,” she said. “We find Avvio’s products accessible and user-friendly, with the reporting functionality very comprehensive. Overall, I think it’s the best product of its kind currently available on the market.”


004_HCR_Issue 7 2018_News_V2.indd 4

02/08/2018 12:12

Photo: Aidan Crawley


Duncan Stewart, TD Eamon Ryan, Holly White, and Harry O‘Kelly, CEO, Insomnia Coffee.

The Insomnia coffee chain has launched Mission Compostable, an in-store sustainability programme aimed at diverting 15 million takeaway coffee cups and 20m single-use items from landfill by 2020. The company has set several goals to achieve by the end of August 2018, including swapping all hot beverage takeaway cups for 100 per cent compostable and biodegradable alternatives, compost bins introduced in all high street stores, and paper straws replacing all plastic straws.

Photo: Peter Martin

NEW DISTILLERY PLANNED FOR NEWRY A new distillery will be located at the heart of a cluster of cross-border distillery visitor centres. Planning permission was granted for a new €7.3 million whiskey distillery, bar, restaurant and visitor centre on Monaghan Street in Newry. Two of the country’s largest distilleries – Great Northern Distillery and Cooley Distillery – are located nearby. “There are currently thirteen distillery visitor centres around the country, with a further ten in development. These are valuable assets to Irish tourism,” said William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association.”

CAMPAIGN EXTENDS TOURISM SEASON IN STRANDHILL A new tourism campaign is seeking to extend Strandhill’s tourism season. Funding from the Town and Village Renewal Scheme is being leveraged to support an integrated marketing campaign that encourages return visits to the surfing mecca on the Coolera Peninsula during the autumn months. It also aims to increase the number of bed nights per person and spend per head, targeting young families and social energisers seeking action-packed days and fun-filled nights. The recently-launched campaign will include a revamp of tourism website, which will feature an interactive map of attractions and local businesses, package deals and featured itineraries for tourists, alongside various supports for local tourism businesses.


Photo: Declan Colohan

Ronan and Niall Burke.

Galway’s Burke Brothers – who run Burkes Fruit & Veg Ltd. – have launched to provide Galway businesses with the option to eat better. The new service allows businesses to order fruit boxes for daily delivery, priced at €20 for 45 pieces of fruit or €25 for extra grapes and berries. Each box will explore the seasonality of fruits and, as well as being loaded with nutritious food, the boxes themselves are biodegradable and fully recyclable. “We want to help people to eat better and instead of reaching for sugary or salty snacks to have the option of eating natural unprocessed fruits,” said Niall Burke. “It is important we encourage people to eat better and make it as accessible as possible. That 3pm slump is now famous for people drinking sugary drinks or eating one too many biscuits. We thought if we can get fruit into where people are, then we can at least give them a choice.”

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

004_HCR_Issue 7 2018_News_V2.indd 5



03/08/2018 08:57

CITYWEST TARGETS FAMILY GETAWAYS Citywest Hotel has launched a summer activities programme for 2018 targeting family getaways, ranging from culinary classes in cupcake and pizza making to pool and fancy dress parties. Newly-introduced children’s afternoon parties are also available Monday to Friday, alongside a kids club offering games and arts and crafts, and parent-kid golf lessons at the 18-hole golf course.

DLR LAUNCH SUMMER OF HERITAGE PROGRAMME Dún Laoghaire County Council's 2018 Summer of Heritage programme has been officially launched with a variety of free guided tours. Tours are available to suit everyone, in many locations, including churches, burial grounds, obelisks, castles, museums, country houses, Martello towers and nature trails. This year there are 32 historic sites to visit, as well as four summer talks in August in Marlay House. Information on all tours is available at

DUCKETT’S GROVE SECURES FUNDING BOOST Duckett’s Grove in Carlow (above) is one of a number of tourist attractions benefiting from Fáilte Ireland funding this summer. The history and stories behind this historic house and garden will be brought to life thanks to a €48,000 grant as part of the new Storytelling Interpretation Grants Scheme, aimed at improving the quality of animation and storytelling across Ireland's Ancient East. Duckett’s Grove was originally the home of the Duckett family, the centre of a 12,000-acre estate that dominated the landscape here for three centuries. "Carlow is a key player in Ireland’s Ancient East, with a wealth of experiences, culture and heritage available across the whole county, all year round," said Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin (pictured). "Grants like this one for the amazing Duckett’s Grove will really help to boost the tourism offering here and, in turn, drive even more visitors and revenue into County Carlow."

Photo: Colm Mahady/Fennells

The CATEX Food Show launch.

ON DUBLIN'S FOOD TRAIL The Westbury Hotel has partnered with Fabulous Food Trails to allow guests become acquainted with Dublin through its food. Visitors can take part in relaxing three-hour strolls around Dublin, sampling local delicacies on a number of carefullychosen stops. The experience is being offered as part of a package – The Fabulous Food Trail overnight experience includes an overnight stay for two in a suite, admission on a Fabulous Food Trail, and a full Irish breakfast, at €590 per night.



CATEX TO RETURN IN 2019 CATEX, Ireland's largest foodservice and hospitality event, is set to return to Dublin's RDS next February. The biennial trade show provides thousands of visitors with products, services and solutions aimed at meeting the demands faced by the hospitality and foodservice sectors, with Ireland's biggest players and membership organisations coming together under the one roof between February 26th to 28th. Key themes at next year's event will include the future of food, drink and hospitality and predicting new industry trends.


004_HCR_Issue 7 2018_News_V2.indd 6

02/08/2018 12:14


Photo: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

PJ Rigney, the creator of the internationally-acclaimed Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin, is among the finalists for the prestigious EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. The 24 finalists were shortlisted from over 110 nominations from across the island, selected by an independent judging panel. Alongside the invention of the twin-bottle Sheridan's Cream Liqueur in the 1990s, and again with the Boru Irish vodka brand, the drinks industry pioneer made waves once more in April 2016 with the launch of The Shed Distillery's first-ever brand in Drumshanbo Gunpowder. The Shed Distillery has gone on to produce the first whiskey made in Connaught in 104 years in its Winter Solstice 2017 and, earlier this year, caused excitement at PROWEIN in Germany with the launch of Sausage Tree Pure Irish Vodka. Turnover for the distillery has reached €6 million in just three years, with 23-full time staff on hand – due to rise to more than 50 with a new €2 million visitor experience and plans to release the first Premier Grand Cru whiskey in 2019.

Jordan Bailey and Majken Bech Christensen.

AIMSIR ALERT Aimsir – a restaurant inspired by the idea of weather – will open at Cliff at Lyons outside Celbridge this autumn. Led by chef Jordan Bailey and his wife Majken, the focus will be on authentic ingredients sown, harvested, fished and foraged across the island, working with producers and growers around the country. “Exploring what Ireland has to offer has been a fantastic experience,” says Bailey. “Atlantic seaweed, razor clams, sea snails, Boyne Valley’s white goat cheese and raw goat milk, Killahora Orchards ice wine, wild boar from Ballinwillin, asparagus and heritage garlic from Drummond House, Ballymakenny Farm heritage potatoes – the list is seemingly endless. Our larder is full of exceptional ingredients and great produce.”

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

246008_4C_Louis Fitzgerald_JM_Hotel and Catering_V2.indd 1

004_HCR_Issue 7 2018_News_V2.indd 7

CATERING REVIEW 7 02/08/2018


02/08/2018 12:34



Pictured are Orla Carroll, Director of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland; Josepha Madigan, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; and Brendan Griffin, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport. Photo: Aengus McMahon

Visitors can look forward to an enhanced experience at Ireland’s National Parks and Reserves following the launch of ‘Experiencing the Wild Heart of Ireland, A Tourism Interpretative Masterplan for Ireland’s National Parks and Coole Garryland Nature Reserve’. The interpretative masterplan is a product of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Fáilte Ireland’s strategic partnership, and sets out a framework that will guide the phased development of enhanced visitor centre experiences and improved visitor facilities at Ireland’s National Parks and Reserves, based on research into international best practice. The work will be joint-funded by the Department of Culture and Fáilte Ireland through a multi-million Euro investment package over the coming years.


Lough Oughter, Cavan, part of Ireland's Hidden Heartlands. Photo: Chris Hill/Fáilte Ireland



o coincide with its first domestic consumer marketing campaign for Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, Fáilte Ireland has announced the appointment of Paddy Mathews as the new Head of the brand. Paddy was formerly Head of Attractions at Fáilte Ireland and will now lead the ongoing development of the Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands brand as well as the local team on the ground. Part of the brand development includes a new €1 million multimedia brand awareness campaign currently running on TV, outdoor, radio and digital channels, revolving around the creative idea ‘Yours to Uncover’. The campaign features natural gems across the region, including the Beara Breifne Way, Roscommon’s Lough Key, the hills and woodlands of Drumshanbo in Leitrim, Lough Derg in Portumna, Co Galway, as well as Lough Oughter in Cavan and the River Shannon flowing through Athlone town in Westmeath. Every county in the region, including Offaly, Longford, East Clare and North Tipperary, will feature in the campaign.


CP_FAILTE_JM_ H&C_V5.indd 8


02/08/2018 13:02


RECRUITING CONFERENCE AMBASSADORS FOR THE WEST Padraig Cribben (VFI CEO); Sinead Hennessy and Paul Keeley, Fáilte Ireland; and Brendan Griffin, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport at the launch of the Grow Your Food programme. Photo: Pat Moore



he range and quality of pub food across the country is set to be changed thanks to a joint training initiative organised by Fáilte Ireland and the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI). Launched by the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD in Kilkenny, the ‘Grow Your Food Reputation’ programme aims to show publicans the benefits of providing great Irish food and drink experiences in pubs across the country with a focus on innovation, locally-sourced produce and value for money. The ‘Grow your Food Reputation’ programme will run over 21 days from September to December 2018 at a range of locations nationwide.

Fáilte Ireland has recruited academics to bring international conferences to the Shannon region. Photo: Oisin McHugh/True Media

Publicans interested in further information can contact Brian Foley, VFI Communications and Public Affairs Manager, at

FIRST GRADUATES CONFERRED IN STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME Pictured are representatives of Fáilte Ireland and IMI with the first graduates of the joint Fáilte Ireland and IMI Hospitality and Tourism - Executive Development Programme.

The first-ever strategic management training programme for tourism businesses recently conferred 19 senior tourism business managers with their certificates at a ceremony at the IMI head office in Dublin. The Executive Development Programme is designed to meet the challenges of modern tourism – particularly changing visitor expectations – and a need for business tourism organisations to have executives with real leadership qualities. For further information on the programme, contact Michael Brady, Enterprise & Hospitality Development Officer with Fáilte Ireland, at


Experts in the fields of sports, science, engineering and medicine were given a special briefing in Limerick’s Medieval Quarter recently on how they can help to bring more major international events and conferences to Ireland through Fáilte Ireland’s Conference Ambassador Programme – a unique initiative which supports individuals and experts who want to host a conference in Ireland. Over 75 per cent of all international association conferences which come to Ireland, and 80 per cent of those which come to the Shannon region, do so at the direct invitation of a local Irish member or host, something Fáilte Ireland’s Meet in Ireland team maximises through this programme. To find out more about the Conference Ambassador Programme, visit


CP_FAILTE_JM_ H&C_V5.indd 9

02/08/2018 13:02


In Searc

With hospitality businesses facing difficulties in attracting and retaining staff, we caught up with Hannah Wrixon of Get the Shifts to discover one solution.




010_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Business Matters_V1.indd 10


ho t s f a Super


n a recent interview with the Irish Independent, Ian Wynne – General Manager of the Powerscourt Hotel – warned that a lack of skilled staff is one of the biggest problems facing Ireland’s hospitality sector. Some steps have been taken, mainly to do with chefs in the form of skills programmes and visas allowing chefs from outside EEA countries to work here. However, headhunting of staff is still a problem for hoteliers and restaurateurs, as is the expense and time cost of recruitment drives (as is a lack of career development opportunities for staff ). That’s where Get the Shifts comes in, an online business that links high-quality temporary staff with hospitality businesses in need of their skills on a daily basis or for additional events such as Christmas parties – bar staff, event staff, wait staff, mixologists and baristas.

02/08/2018 12:22

“We’re addressing a problem in the hospitality industry at the moment, where a lot of our clients can’t hold on to very highquality staff because they don’t have the shifts to offer them. And we have lots of superstars and we keep them because we can offer the work across all of our clients. I suppose we’re providing experienced, proven hospitality staff when needed. There’s only one invoice, they’re saving time and money by doing it, and providing a seamless service,” explains cofounder Hannah Wrixon. “It’s very disruptive, embracing the gig economy which is really fast-growing and building in popularity all of the time, and flexible working options are the way to go. Our superstars are very happy with the way they’re working, our clients are getting a very high-quality staff member when and where they need it. It works for everybody and all supported by amazing software that we’ve created.” Wrixon’s background is in hospitality management, HR and staff solutions and has founded three start-ups in the last 15 years, most recently Last Minute Minders which provided temporary childcare staff. “My father is a publican, my grandmother was a hotelier, it’s in the blood!” she says with a laugh. With Get the Shifts, Wrixon’s focus is on business development and office management; her co-founder Gillian Rijke looks after customer retention and recruitment. The latter is key, as part of the reason Get the Shifts’ service is proving popular is its stringent recruitment process. The organisation’s superstars are required to have at least one year’s experience in Irish hospitality. Many, however, have much more – Wrixon explains that some superstars have as much as two decades in the sector. “We review their CV – if they meet the criteria we will then interview them. We look for two references, Irish references again. Once they’ve passed that then they go into a probationary period,” says Wrixon. That period includes an onboarding course through e-learning provider Dulann, with which Get the Shifts has joined forces. That provides not just a company induction but certified courses in key skills such as manual handling, food safety, and customer service. The company’s innovative digital platform is important too. The bespoke software allows potential employers to search for temporary staff using a variety of parameters ranging from their location to experience, and is available both as a web-based platform and a mobile app. GPS sign in and sign out is one handy feature – if the superstar isn’t in the vicinity of their temporary role within a certain time of the beginning of their

Photo: Martina Regan Photography



Hannah Wrixon.

THE BESPOKE SOFTWARE ALLOWS POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS TO SEARCH FOR TEMPORARY STAFF USING A VARIETY OF PARAMETERS RANGING FROM THEIR LOCATION TO EXPERIENCE. shift, the client receives an alert that they’re running late. “It’s great because it does allow our customers, our clients, to log on 24/7 – hospitality isn’t a 9 to 5 job, unfortunately!” Wrixon says of their platform, which has around 700 active people ready for a shift at any one time. “It does allow them at the end of the night to go ‘Somebody is after coming down sick tonight, that means I’m stuck in the morning’ and they can log on there and then and get someone. With as little as three hours’ notice we can have someone there.” Wrixon explains that the company has also introduced a rating system. Clients can rate their temporary superstars and vice versa. Superstars can see the ratings of client venues – the higher the rating the more staff are likely to want to work there. In the past, in some circumstances, there has perhaps been a culture of treating temporary workers on a different playing field to full-time staff, and they may feel like outsiders. “That’s very hard to come into a situation like that,” Wrixon notes. “It goes back to the superstars. The superstars have the choice, we don’t do a roster for anyone, the jobs are out [there],

the people choose the superstars that they’re interested in but they can say yes or no. It’s very much a flexible working opportunity.” It’s a timely service, but the company might never have got off the ground had it not been for support from Wrixon’s Local Enterprise Office (LEO) in Clare. She describes how support was forthcoming from the very beginning of the project, including advice on completing the application, website assistance, and a variety of grants for issues such as business development and staffing. “It’s a very supportive LEO,” she says. “It’s just an amazing facility and an amazing support for anyone who’s starting a business.” Recognition has followed. At the recent National Enterprise Awards in Dublin the company took home the gong for Best Start-Up, something Wrixon describes as the pinnacle of the business so far. Undoubtedly it will provide a welcome boost for the road ahead as Get the Shifts seeks to expand its base. “We are the only ones in the market specialising in temporary hospitality staff,” she says. “We don’t do anything else, that’s why we’re really good at it.”

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

010_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Business Matters_V1.indd 11



02/08/2018 12:23


Set A Course


Success In the wake of successive years of cruise liner growth, we take a look at this booming business in Ireland and what can be done to further boost its success.

Photo: Conor McCabe Photography

Celebrity Eclipse.




012_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Cover Story_V1.indd 12

02/08/2018 12:26


When the

MSC Meraviglia arrived in Dublin Port back in May, it broke records as the largest-ever ship by passenger capacity to dock in Ireland’s capital. Three times the length of a soccer pitch and some 65 metres tall, the world’s fifth-largest cruise ship is one of 13 in the fleet operated by Swiss company MSC Cruises, whose vessels are regular visitors to Ireland. The huge cruise liner, which took a year to construct, is crewed by 1,536 staff and has a capacity for 4,500 passengers – enough to swallow the town of Athenry. Understandably, it received a rather warm welcome. “She’s a pretty incredible ship with lots of dining choices, entertainment choices, Cirque du Soleil onboard... we were absolutely thrilled with the reaction, really,” MSC Cruises Director of Sales Steve Williams says of the Meraviglia’s triumphant entry into Dublin. “She is the biggest ship ever to call into Dublin and Cobh and we were absolutely delighted.” However, the Meraviglia is just one of numerous cruise vessels visiting Ireland this year. The cruise industry is booming both here and across the globe and is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the global hospitality trade. Alongside the likes of Killybegs and Galway, Port of Cork – which has a dedicated cruise berth at Cobh and in 2017 saw almost 100,000 cruise passengers passing through the Titanic’s final port of call – has been experiencing a welcome swell in passenger numbers that will continue over the course of this year. The port is set to welcome a total of 96 cruise calls carrying in the region of 180,000 cruise passengers into the area, with another 100 scheduled for 2019.

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

012_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Cover Story_V1.indd 13



03/08/2018 08:58

COVER STORY “The cruise business is worth approximately 15 million to the local economy per annum. On average, cruise passengers spend 81 and crew spend 29 during their stay,” says Brendan Keating, Port of Cork’s Chief Executive. “Cork city and county has so much to offer cruise passengers. Cruise companies like to see a variety of different shore excursions being offered to their passengers as well as both half day tours and full day tours. This is important as many passengers are repeat passengers and cruise companies are keen that their experience is also kept a focus. Cork has a wide variety of attractions which appeal to the different age groups among cruise passengers and also the different expectations.” It’s a similar story in Dublin Port (the country’s busiest port for cruise tourism) which welcomed 127 ships last year with 210,000 eager tourists onboard and ready to see the city. Some 155 cruise vessels are expected in Dublin this year bringing with them over 270,000 visitors – a big boost to the local economy. “It’s estimated that that spend is [worth] about 50 million in the local economy. We’re going to see 270,000 visitors coming ashore into Dublin and beyond,” explains Pat Ward, Cruise Business Manager with Dublin Port. “Every year since about 2015 or thereabouts we’ve seen significant increases in the cruise ships calling to Dublin.” KNOCK-ON BENEFITS Given those rising figures, it’s not hard to understand the hope for the future of cruise tourism and its contribution to the Irish economy. For companies like MSC Cruises, Ireland is a hugely important market and Steve Williams notes that the cruise line has maintained a presence here for ten years now, operating with a dedicated sales team in support of travel agents, capitalising both on the growing popularity of Ireland as a destination and Irish visitors seeking to take a cruise beyond our waters. But there’s an knock-on opportunity there for the native hospitality sector too, albeit for the most part in the regions surrounding the various ports. While cruise passengers are likely to spend the night on the ship (having already paid for the privilege), they also tend to leave for a number of hours to take in the port of call. Visitors to Dublin or Cobh, for example, might take a stroll into the city or town centre and enjoy a pint and a bite to eat in a local restaurant or hotel – on a recent trip to Cobh a cruise ship had docked and the town was flooded with tourists in search of food, drink, souvenirs and memories. Williams has witnessed this first-hand, having been among the thousands of passengers on the Meraviglia when it arrived in May. “She had sailed up from Germany so you had a very international guest mix onboard, be it Germans, Italians, Spanish, Chinese, Australian, American – Dublin is a real key city for them to see. Pretty much all of the guests disembarked which is great news for Dublin, because they get off and do a variety of the excursions, they go shopping, they [visit] the bars, the

Photo: Ivan Sarfatti

restaurants,” he explains, adding that it was a similar story when the vessel arrived at Cobh. “The town was absolutely buzzing. They put on market stands, there was a fair there to welcome the ship. There was a really great atmosphere in Cobh that day... The thing about cruising [is] the guests are coming in for a day, they’re off at nine in the morning and coming back on at six or seven in the evening. What it does is it gives guests a glimpse of what Dublin is like, what Ireland is like, and then many of those guests may well book a holiday and come back as a destination in itself.” That last point is an important one, and something that tourism agency Fáilte Ireland has touched on previously. It’s not just about the immediate benefits – there’s an opportunity to make a good impression and encourage repeat business. While cruise visitors might only have a couple of hours to explore the locality on their first visit to the likes of Dublin, Cobh or Galway, a positive experience could go far in prompting them to take a return trip and see more of the country. Industry body Cruise Ireland is doing positive work in this area, which is aimed at increasing Ireland’s share of the cruise tourism market with plans to capitalise on the growing market opportunity, driving increased international sales and developing the industry’s marketing activity. This work is supported by agencies such as Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Tourism Northern Ireland, as well as the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO). “Fáilte Ireland is working with a number of member ports to help grow tourism opportunities and is currently actioning a number of Cruise Ireland’s priorities, e.g. targeting new international cruise excursion buyers and developing new visitor experiences which can be used by ports and buyers to target new visitors, create new business and generate greater spend locally,” noted the latest progress report on Ireland’s Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth – An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland (HOOW), published in June 2018. “The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) engages directly with port companies and shipping companies to promote and expand the cruise industry in Ireland. Through its activities in the EU, the IMDO assists port companies in the development of funding proposals under programmes such as CEF (Connecting Europe Facility) and Horizon 2020. These activities have beneficial effects on the development of Irish ports and in encouraging shipping companies, including cruise lines, to establish new operations and services in Ireland.”

MSC Meraviglia.




012_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Cover Story_V1.indd 14

02/08/2018 12:28


Cruise ships and passengers by port, 2017

Ports Bantry Bay Castletownbere Cork Dublin1 Dún Laoghaire Galway Killybegs Rosslare Shannon Foynes Waterford Total 1

A cruise vessel docked at Cobh beside the railway station.

FUTURE GROWTH Beyond the creation of positive visitor experiences and opportunities, more can be done across the board to entice both visitors and cruise liners to Ireland. In the People’s Republic, Port of Cork works closely with Cork City Council and Cobh Tourism to make sure the region is promoted to cruise passengers when they arrive. But it’s also looking to the future through its facilities, with the possibility of a second cruise berth option in Cobh. Killybegs has added a new 300m pier and recently welcomed the longest cruise ship in its history in the Cunard Line’s MS Queen Victoria. In the capital, Cruise Dublin was set up several years ago to promote the city as Ireland’s cruise capital, attract more cruise ships, offer an enhanced visitor experience and overall contribute to the Dublin economy. Major investment is also being made as part of Dublin Port’s overall Masterplan, promising capital investment of 1bn in the coming years. Once the first major project, the redevelopment of the Alexandra Basin, is complete the port could facilitate around 500,000 passengers every year. “What that involves effectively is about 132m of investment this year alone in developing port infrastructure. Obviously the cruise industry and the cruise ships are getting longer, and the longer these ships get the deeper they get,” Ward explains. “We’re putting in 3km of new quay walls, we’re deepening the shipping lane, we have planned as part of the works to put a turning circle in to turn the biggest ships in the world in the Alexandra Basin and berth them right alongside the Tom Clarke Bridge. We’re working very hard to ensure that we have the infrastructure in place in order to continue to grow and develop Dublin Port Company’s core business – that would be the roll-on and roll-off business – but also the cruise industry will benefit from those infrastructure works that we’re putting in place.”

No. of cruise ships 3 0 68 127 7 5 12 0 0 12

No. of passengers 2,388 0 99,263 146,429 1,083 3,691 7,209 0 0 4,710



Includes passengers embarking in Dublin Port. Figures from CSO statistical release, 29 June 2018.

One possibility is the addition of a dedicated cruise terminal, which could play a major role in attracting incoming cruise liners and which has been spoken about in the past by Dublin Port CEO Eamonn O’Reilly. That, however, depends on whether the numbers would justify it. “Our business at this point in time wouldn’t justify us building a cruise terminal – we simply wouldn’t get a return on investment,” Ward notes. “That’s not to say that we wouldn’t look to a strategic partner and look at developing a facility that we draw revenue from outside of the cruise season, an exhibition space or an event space or something of that nature. But certainly we would have to have private investment or we would have to have other investment from outside Dublin Port to make that happen.” But another major avenue of growth is increasing the number of home porting vessels like Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse, Dublin’s first major home port and a major coup facilitated in part by the ease of access from airport to seaport. Home ports are the port at which a vessel will take on or change over the majority of its passengers, a much more lucrative prospect than those that simply stop by for the best part of a day enroute elsewhere. Celebrity Eclipse will operate five turnaround cruises to and from Dublin Port over the course of the year and into 2019 as part of a miniseason, (with more to come next year and in 2020) bringing 2,850 guests into the city for each departure and more than 14,000 in total. Dublin is an ideal location for home ports, particularly in comparison to its competition in Southampton. While visitors from abroad heading to the latter must usually fly into the London-based airports and make their way up to Southampton, those departing from Dublin face just a 15-minute journey from the airport to the port (US passengers also benefit from US Customs border control when travelling

back home) and, when travelling to and from the city centre, the Luas stop at the 3Arena is close to hand. Figures from Dublin Port indicate that the economic value of those five turnaround cruises – alongside 17 partial turnarounds – could boost the city’s economy by an additional 10m and encourage visitors to take short breaks further afield. It’s a step with major benefits not just for the port, and the economies of Dublin and Ireland, but also the country’s hospitality sector. “It was a stepchange for Ireland Inc. and indeed for ourselves in Dublin and Dublin Port Company,” says Ward. “We set up a temporary facility where we [can] check in those 14,000 people. Each of those home ports are estimated to be worth 1m to the local economy because the difference between a home port and a port of call is that the passenger, the visitor, stays about three days either end of their cruise. They’re occupying bed nights, they’re spending more money in bars, restaurants, retail shops and the like.” Clearly the opportunities for growth are significant, the knock-on effect for Irish hospitality and tourism businesses welcome. With the right levels of investment in the correct areas, from extended piers to deep water berths, alongside the development of relationships with cruise line companies and the promotion of Ireland through organisations such as Cruise Ireland, proper advantage can be taken of this growing demand, which could include additional hotel developments to cater for passengers travelling here for cruises departing from Irish ports. “I was speaking at something earlier in the year and I described cruise tourism as the sleeping giant of the tourism market,” says Pat Ward. “Certainly I think the city of Dublin... the businesses and the retailers and the hospitality sector have awoken to the opportunity that the cruise business presents.”

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

012_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Cover Story_V1.indd 15



02/08/2018 14:31


Full Fitness Scheduling regular financial health checks is a great way to identify opportunities, risks and business progress.




016_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Finance_V1.indd 16

02/08/2018 12:36


ust as regular check-ups from your doctor can help keep your body in tip-top condition, your business also requires a financial health check to make sure there are no nasty surprises waiting. Are there any areas of weakness that you don’t know about? Is cash being dealt with correctly? Are your RevPAR figures satisfactory? A financial health check can help answer these and many other key questions. “We would recommend maybe every two to three years that the company has a full, fit-forpurpose financial health check,” explains Tracey Sullivan, Director, Corporate Audit with Grant Thornton. Sullivan notes that ensuring regular checks are conducted is even more important in 2018 – previously there may have been a reliance on the required annual audit but with the thresholds expanded to €12 million in turnover (among other qualifying conditions), some companies may not be facilitating annual business audits. “That peace of mind has fallen away and I think from [the perspective of ] a business owner that’s not as [involved] in-depth in the financial information process on daily basis, it’s important that somebody independent comes in and looks at every aspect of the business and the financial end of things to ensure that everything is fit for purpose and in compliance with laws, regulations, taxes et cetera.” So what does a financial health check involve? Sullivan explains that they look at several key points, beginning with the financial control processes. Within the hospitality sector that would include the treatment of cash – who has access to cash and the controls in place to deal with it. “We would look at that in great depth just to ensure that they’re fit for purpose and that there’s no money walking out of the business unbeknownst to the owners,” she notes. Next up – the monthly accounts and how meaningful the information they contain is. Do they provide all of the information owners require on a monthly basis? That might include wages as a percentage of turnover, occupancy rates, or RevPAR. VAT and PAYE checks are also recommended to ensure your business is in compliance with Revenue – checking how VAT returns are prepared, how VAT is applied to sales, and how purchase VAT is claimed, alongside ensuring that PAYE records are accurately returned to Revenue and wages are correctly calculated. “They’re the key areas we see [in] Revenue audits in the hotel and catering sector,” says Sullivan. “The other thing that we look at is to ensure that the statutory records are up-to-date.” In some cases, the way in which the directors or shareholders view the ownership structure of the business is different to what’s available on the public record. “That would be important if


#Key Indicator

A key indicator of a company’s financial position is the ability to meet debts, a healthy bank balance, or a business operating within the constraints of their overdraft facility. “As they say, cash is king. Can you pay your debts as and when they fall due?” Sullivan asks.


Tracey Sullivan

you’re going to sell the business, or you’re retiring, et cetera,” she adds. To help keep the show on the road, maintaining proper, up-to-date management accounts throughout the year is vital in allowing you to make the necessary day-to-day and short-term decisions. Management accounts typically include information such as sales revenue generated, outstanding debts, inventory and available cash. “Having up-to-date management accounts that paint an accurate picture of the financial position of the company or the business at any point in time is of vital importance,” says Sullivan. “Key metrics in the hotel and catering sector are wages as a percentage of turnover. So if you don’t have the monthly reconciliations done of all of your creditors, your wages, your taxes et cetera, it doesn’t paint an accurate position of what is the profit of the company.” It can be a good idea to seek professional help from an accountancy firm or business advisor to get an independent view of your business. Grant Thornton, for example, provides a range of services in this regard – detailed reviews of a company’s financial processes and procedures, assistance in developing monthly management packs with the relevant information, an experienced outsource team that can take over the monthly accounting requirements (tax requirements, payroll preparation, etc.), as well as compliance reviews for VAT and PAYE. Sullivan highlights the latter point once more. “That’s to ensure that the tax has been applied correctly in the business. It’s also a beneficial exercise if the company has never had a Revenue audit,” she explains. “This sector is hot on the radar of Revenue because it’s a cash business, so it’s good to have that check done in advance of any potential Revenue audit that might come down the way.”

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

016_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Finance_V1.indd 17



02/08/2018 12:36


Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)


Japanese knotweed might be the bane of home and landowners, but it could also wind up on your plate.

Desserts Irish invader for an




018_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Food Heroes_V1.indd 18

02/08/2018 12:38


Japanese knotweed stalks

Wasp pollinating Japanese knotweed


n invasive species is a non-native species that has been introduced by human intervention and which has the ability to threaten native wildlife and cause damage to its new home. In Europe, there are around 1,800 alien plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms in their respective environments. Their numbers are rapidly growing, with a major impact on animal health, crop yield losses, fish stock losses, damage to infrastructure, and the navigability of rivers. Here in Ireland, invasive species currently causing trouble include the grey squirrel, Asian clams, water hyacinth and Japanese knotweed – the latter a rapidlyspreading plant that can grow to between two and three metres in height, dominate an area to the exclusion of most other plant life, and even poke its way through concrete. But, to the surprise of some, it’s also edible. A quick Google search will reveal far more results for removal methods than recipes, but Japanese knotweed

“I KNOW PEOPLE WHO CAN’T SELL THEIR PROPERTY BECAUSE OF IT. THAT’S WHY I WAS INTRIGUED BY IT, BECAUSE OF ITS DESTRUCTIVE NATURE – IT HAS BEEN KNOWN TO KNOCK THROUGH CONCRETE. IT IS DELICIOUS; IT HAS THE SAME PROFILE AS RHUBARB. IT REALLY IS TASTY AS ANYTHING. has found some favour with chefs and home cooks as rhubarb’s wilder relation. Take Michelin-starred Heron & Grey in Dublin’s Blackrock, where chef Damien Grey has pickled knotweed and served it in dishes accompanying duck and snowball turnip. “I know people who can’t sell their property because of it. That’s why I was intrigued by it, because of its destructive nature – it has been known to knock through concrete,” he told The Times earlier this year. “It is delicious; it has the same profile as rhubarb. It really is tasty as anything.” There are some key points to keep in mind. The best time to use Japanese knotweed in the kitchen is at the beginning of its life when the shoots are very young and still soft – older stalks are rather unpalatable. According to Galloway Wild Foods’ Mark Williams, a forager based in Scotland, the optimal time to harvest the shoots is when they’re less than 50cm long (he also notes that patches of Japanese knotweed may have been treated with a herbicide, so be careful). Consumed raw or cooked, it can offer a sweet or savoury flavour

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

018_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Food Heroes_V1.indd 19



02/08/2018 12:39

FOOD HEROES depending on how it’s prepared. One New York chef described it as the ‘gamey’ version of rhubarb. The versatile plant can be fried or poached, boiled and eaten as a vegetable, and is sometimes used in preserves, jams and sauces, or as part of a purée or compote. Honey bees are a big fan and honey made from the insects who have fed on its nectar is known as bamboo honey. “We’ve pickled it and we’ve also used it served with fish where we slightly poached it,” explains JP McMahon, head chef at Galway’s Michelin-star Aniar restaurant, who first discovered Japanese knotweed’s edible properties from foraging books. “We used it pretty much as a vegetable to stand in. I know it can be used in desserts as well. It’s very versatile in terms of its application... It’s a stalk, like rhubarb, and you have to trim it down and then portion it. You can put it in something as simple as a pie or you can put it with poached fish or with mussels. You could also put it with a more refined dessert, with meringue, or you can stew it as well.” A WORD OF CAUTION However, extreme care is advised when dealing with the invasive plant. Anybody allowing or causing Japanese knotweed to be dispersed is committing an offence, with licences required to remove and dispose of this species. Although Japanese knotweed may look innocuous, its aggressive root growth can undermine buildings, clog rivers and even destroy bridges and roads. Because it can grow quickly and in tall, dense clusters, the plant can shade out native plant species and rapidly take over an area with adverse impacts on other wildlife. For example, when Japanese knotweed dies back, in the absence of native plants areas are exposed to erosion from heavy rain and flooding, particularly river banks. Towns and cities are by no means immune – Google launched a project late last year to remove the destructive plant from its base on Barrow Street in Dublin’s Docklands region. Signs across the country warn the public not to interfere with this species – ‘Japanese Knotweed, Do Not Cut’. That advice stems from the plant’s fast-spreading method of reproduction. Once the plant has been cut, a new plant will form from the discarded stem and root itself in the soil, creating a new plant while the original continues to thrive deep below the surface. If you do find yourself with an infestation the process isn’t cheap – removing Japanese knotweed from a property can often cost between €30,000 and €40,000 and even with twice-yearly spraying can take up to five years.



JP McMahon, Head Chef at Galway’s Michelin-star Aniar restaurant

IT’S WHAT GIVES YOUR MENU ITS PARTICULAR STORY, AND I THINK THAT’S VERY MUCH THE UNIQUE SELLING POINT WHEN IT COMES TO TRYING TO BE DIFFERENT TO SOMEONE ELSE. According to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the plant shouldn’t be cut, discarded on the ground, mowed, hedge-cut or dug out. Cooking or burning any harvested Japanese knotweed has been recommended for those who do harvest samples for consumption – you don’t want to throw any leftovers into your compost or the bin or you might find a new addition to your garden or property. “While we are not in a position to comment on the actual cooking of the plant, we would have concerns about how the material arrives in the kitchen from its original location,” the Department said in a statement to Hotel & Catering Review. “Any by-product or waste resulting from the cooking process also needs to be treated in accordance with the legislation and restrictions noted above in order to prevent

the risk of spreading, and anyone intending to use Japanese knotweed as an ingredient must ensure all of the plant is killed and that there is no risk of live plant material going out in the waste.” According to JP McMahon, adding items like Japanese knotweed to your menu offers an added layer of intrigue for customers. For those unsure of how to obtain knotweed legally, or may be wary about its use and dangers, he notes that there are plenty of foragers to whom restaurateurs can reach out for advice and unique Irish ingredients. “It’s what gives your menu its particular story, and I think that’s very much the unique selling point when it comes to trying to be different to someone else,” he says of the benefits of foraged ingredients. “I definitely think it’s something that we should be looking more into.”


018_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Food Heroes_V1.indd 20

02/08/2018 12:39



Recruitment SHANE MCLAVE, EXCEL RECRUITMENT’S GENERAL MANAGER, TALKS ABOUT THE RECRUITMENT CHALLENGES FACING IRELAND’S HOSPITALITY SECTOR, AND HOW THEY CAN PROVE THE DIFFERENCE. Q: We all know the most important factor in hospitality is people. What trends and challenges are you finding currently in the world of hospitality recruitment? A: Firstly, it’s about becoming an employer of choice The industry is very busy with plenty of new trends, however, with unemployment now heading below 5 per cent and with no signs of slowing down, the biggest challenge facing our sector is attracting and retaining quality staff. Our most successful clients are those who want to be an employer of choice and are taking steps to create best practice workplaces and offer great pay rates and benefits.

As the employment market continues to contract, we really would encourage all hospitality businesses to embrace this to attract and retain talent. Second, apps are becoming increasingly important. We have seen a number of apps come along in recent years hoping that technology will revolutionise recruiting for the catering industry, employing new technology and sexy graphics. I find that recruitment, both permanent and temporary, is about people who understand good people. While an app can communicate with a candidate, it can’t get to know them. An app cannot fully

Front row (L-R) Shane McLave and Brian Nixon. Back row (L-R) Enda Byrne, Laurence Rogers and Kevin Viljoen.


understand the needs of your business or what candidate would fit best within your team etc. – the list goes on. Finally, pay rates are a real challenge. You’ve probably seen the TV ad – “everyone’s idea of the perfect hotel is different but everyone’s idea of the perfect price for a hotel is the same. The lowest.” Many companies have the same thinking when it comes to recruitment but this simply can’t work in reality. When people come to us looking to recruit a chef, they want the best possible chef we can find and, while we all need to keep labour costs in line, the lowest price possible will only result in sub-par talent. This expectation isn’t sustainable in the current climate where we’re seeing the industry lose talented chefs on a daily basis. We are currently on a big drive to try and combat the shortage of chefs by simply increasing our chef pay rates. I think if it becomes an industry standard to pay a minimum hourly rate of €15 for chef de partie and higher again for sous or head chefs, the results will speak for themselves. The problem the industry is facing is not a shortage of good staff but a case of many in the hospitality industry who aren’t willing to pay a good wage and good staff looking at the pay rates (and other benefits) available in other industries. We are trying to

educate and promote change in this attitude. Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and Excel Recruitment? A: As General Manager of Excel Recruitment, I manage a large team of professional permanent placement consultants and temporary recruitment managers. Like hospitality, it’s a really exciting and busy time to be in recruitment. At Excel Recruitment, we are meeting changes in the recruitment landscape in many different ways. Our award-winning team continues to grow rapidly, employing best practice recruitment experience through long-term experienced consultants who value client relationships as much as their candidates. The business is a multiaward winning agency with four industry awards including the National Recruitment Federation’s Recruitment Consultancy of the Year award. Q: What’s the best way to get the conversation rolling about recruitment requirements? A: Please contact me for all your recruitment needs or job-seeking requirements. For more information on Excel Recruitment, phone 01 871 7676 or visit


Excel Recruitment_1C_JM_H&C_V4.indd 21

02/08/2018 13:00

Set in

Stone Conor Forrest recounts a recent trip to Spain to learn more about Neolith – stone slabs with a twist.




tanding inside Barcelona’s ENIGMA restaurant is a strange experience. Described by one visitor as a “giant futuristic igloo”, it’s a maze of small spaces through which guests pass throughout their evening meal, enjoying one dish – ranging from squid and coconut fat to Schrenki caviar – in each room. The outside world is shut out by sheets of textured glass that look like thick banks of icicles, crumpled metal netting hangs from the ceiling, while the walls and floors are large stone slabs mimicking a watercolour effect. This entire interior resembles a work of modern art, brought to life on an unassuming side street draped with flags in support of Catalan independence. This unusual and somewhat disorientating restaurant was the result – in part – of a collaboration between the restaurant’s owners and Spanish company TheSize, the makers of Neolith stone slabs. The story began with Catalan chef Albert Adrià, the younger brother of Ferran, who decided to create a restaurant that would be out of this world. Nothing less than perfection was accepted and the design proposal took three years, creating an immersive environment


022_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Neolith_V1.indd 22

02/08/2018 12:42



that would captivate guests. The key moment in the restaurant’s birth took place when RCR Arquitectes collaborated with architect Pau Llimona and produced a watercolour painting on two A1-sized pieces of paper, a design that was to be used across the entire restaurant – on the floors, walls, bathrooms, worktops, cabinets and even the air extraction systems. But such a design hadn’t yet been created on the sintered stone material produced by TheSize, posing an unprecedented challenge. Exact colour matches had to be sourced, the intensity required had to fit in with other decorations and materials, and the design itself had to be recreated on stone slabs. No mean feat. “We had to expand the original design, all the while trying not to lose the quality of definition offered by the original drawing,” said Carlos Garcia, Product Designer with TheSize. “Each pixel was equal to almost one square metre of final floor.” The restaurant became a giant jigsaw puzzle – each slab is unique and had to be placed in perfect order to prevent disruption of the design. Needless to say, their hard work has paid off – the end product may be a little difficult to comprehend through pictures but in person it’s a world within a world. For TheSize it’s probably their defining work to-date, a bespoke project that resulted in a one-of-a-kind design that will never be replicated elsewhere – the design has been retired and will never be sold to another restaurant.

Photo: Dámaso Pérez Ontiveros ©FOTOTEC

ENIGMA restaurant Barcelona

UNRAVELLING THE ENIGMA My visit to ENIGMA came during a two-day whistle-stop tour of a variety of Neolith installations and partners along the Spanish eastern coast, a demonstration from the company of the variety of uses for its products. Take the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I; a luxury five-star hotel in the Catalan capital with a reception area home to a broad marble-effect floor that has been trod on for the last two years but shows no signs of even the slightest wear and tear. All very impressive. The most interesting facet, however, is found within a relatively plain factory just outside the town of Almazora in the Castellón province, a three-hour trip from Barcelona and home to the headquarters of TheSize. Beyond the usual hum of machines working 24/7, there’s an almost unusual silence across this vast

Neolith worktops and tables at restaurant Beluga Loves You in Maastricht.

Photo: Victor M Samuel

Neolith worktops at the Culinary Institute of America.

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

022_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Neolith_V1.indd 23



02/08/2018 12:43


ABOVE and TOP RIGHT: Neolith’s showroom in Barcelona



#Product design

TheSize’s design team is constantly looking at new patterns for slabs, tested in a laboratory with a small press rather than interrupting the main production line. Part of their scope involves custom projects and matching samples to the client’s needs. Among their work was the challenge of working with ENIGMA restaurant, whose design was based on a watercolour created by the architect.

Neolith quality control

Photo: Dámaso Pérez Ontiveros

building which produces, as our guide describes, the evolution of ceramic tiles. Sintered stone is a natural material combining three natural elements – granite materials in quartz and feldspar, glass minerals and silica for chemical stability, and natural oxides that give the slabs chromatic properties. The process of creating these slabs begins in the factory’s silos, 44 receptors into which trucks deposit an incredibly fine sand mostly sourced in Spain. Following quality control, the mixed raw material makes its way onto one of four production lines that stretch almost the full length of the building. Sand is laid out flat in the rough size of a slab and rolled into a pressing machine where it’s subjected to enormous pressure (no temperature or glue), resulting in a consistent piece albeit one still breakable by hand. Once the excess material is trimmed and a glaze applied, the slab is dried and the design is applied to the surface before it trundles along towards the oven, an impressive machine approximately 250 metres long – one of the longest ovens in the world. This is where the process known as sinterisation occurs, a chemical reaction that takes place when ceramics and metals are exposed to heat. The slabs are heated at a variety of temperatures over the course of an hour and 45 minutes, up to a maximum of 1,200°C and exiting at 60°C. From there they proceed through quality control, sizing and polishing before the finished product stands at the edge of the factory waiting for distribution. Decoration is applied during the production process using Neolith’s Digital Design (NDD) technique, a system that has revolutionised the company’s ability to create patterns and push the boundaries in colours and textures on compact surfaces. Until last year the factory operated three production lines – a fourth was added in early 2018 to help meet rising demand, almost doubling its production capabilities.

A robot at work in Neolith’s factory


022_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Neolith_V1.indd 24

02/08/2018 12:44


Photo: Dámaso Pérez Ontiveros


ABOVE and TOP: Neolith‘s showroom at TheSize HQ.

Photo: Dámaso Pérez Ontiveros

Because of the format and the physical and mechanical characteristics of these materials, Neolith’s sintered stone slabs can and have been used in an incredibly broad range of applications ranging from countertops to cladding and building façades to furniture. The only limit, they say, is your imagination. A number of chefs, such as the Italian Alessandro Borghese, have opted for Neolith products in their kitchens and restaurants as countertops, chopping surfaces, walls, floors and even serving dishes. It’s rather easy to see why – apart from the amount of choice in terms of size, design, colours and uses, the characteristics are certainly impressive thanks to near zero porosity. This is material that is scratch-resistant, waterproof, easy to clean, hygienic (impervious to chemicals and easy to sanitise), resistant to UV rays and high temperatures, lightweight, recyclable and capable of dealing with heavy loads and pressure. A growing avenue for Neolith products are open kitchens and cooking schools, settings often frequented by members of the public, students, or food enthusiasts and thus in need of materials that combine style with practical features. One of these facilities is Gasma, the gastronomic campus of CEU Cardenal Herrera University in Castellón, located in a beautiful Spanish villa that was once home to one of the region’s wealthiest families and, during the Spanish Civil War, acted as the US embassy, the headquarters of the Republican army and later pro-Franco forces, as well as a military hospital and

Photo: Conor Forrest

Carlos Garcia, Product Designer with TheSize

a national currency factory. Today, this gastronomic centre trains students from around the world at a variety of levels (including a Bachelors degree and a master’s in gastronomy and culinary management), and features sensory classrooms, a cellar that once housed a bomb shelter during World War II, and didactic gardens. One of its kitchens, packed with busy students preparing food, cleaning surfaces or watching a demonstration as we toured the building, was fitted out almost entirely with Neolith materials, including the floors, worktops, and kitchen trolleys. Speaking through an interpreter, Javier Sanchís – one of Gasma’s directors – noted that the designers were attracted to the stain-resistant and hygienic properties of Neolith’s slabs, as well as the ability to apply heat directly to the surface. MOVING FORWARD Over dinner one night with our guide, talk turned to the future and the ways in which TheSize is promoting its products and their myriad uses. The company follows the good writer’s adage of show, don’t tell and has come up with some innovative demonstrations of its capabilities. In the US, a mobile house constructed almost entirely from Neolith materials went on tour across the country last year, a 500 square foot house featuring two beds, two bathrooms and a showcase of how Neolith can be used in residential properties. Closer to home in Rome, the company worked with architect Pierluigi De Gasperis to bring the glamour of an Italian countryside villa into the heart of the Italian capital and replicated the design of travertine – a white or light-coloured rock that was highly-prized by the Romans. As of yet, TheSize doesn’t have a dedicated presence or showcase in Ireland, though it was noted that they’re looking to grow their reach on this side of the continent. For now, our closest link is across the water with a dedicated warehouse established in Harlow (Essex) and a showroom in London this year, partly a reaction to Brexit and a desire to limit any ill-effects on its supply chain. Growth is evident elsewhere too – the company has invested in new showrooms in three major international cities and hubs in Tokyo, Madrid and Ramallah. Perhaps one day in the near future Dublin may get its own Neolith showroom. “From a marketing perspective, having the ability to directly engage and interact with our audience is crucial to developing new business and nurturing existing relationships,” explained Mar Esteve Cortés, Neolith’s Marketing Director. “As such, a major aspect of our 2018 business plan has been to invest in our presence in existing markets and also explore emergent ones. Neolith showrooms offer the best way to introduce and educate architects and specifiers, allowing them to discover how they can bring their interior or exterior design visions to life and discuss how to work with the material efficiently and effectively.” If ENIGMA is anything to go by, the possibilities are undoubtedly endless.

ABOVE: Other uses include bathrooms and home furniture

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

022_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Neolith_V1.indd 25



02/08/2018 12:45


LIGHT THE WAY Making the switch to energy-efficient lighting can result in significant savings.




026_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Utilities_V1.indd 26

02/08/2018 12:46

Photo: SON Photographic


ighting is a significant expense for businesses – for many the second highest outlay after staff. But, with a little thought, hospitality businesses using traditional lighting equipment could make significant savings on their lighting bills (and reduce their carbon footprint) by simply switching to more efficient options. “Switching to more efficient lighting can save you up to 90 per cent on your lighting bills,” the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) notes. “But it’s not just the cost savings. Through improved, modern LED lighting, your business will have a fresh, brighter look and ambience to it. This contributes to improved environment, higher levels of staff satisfaction, and muchimproved productivity.” Before you replace your existing lighting there are a few steps you can take. Ensure that your business is making the best use of natural light, encourage staff members to turn off lights when not in use, clean lights regularly and remove excess lighting. Lighting conditions can also be improved by changing the colours of ceilings, walls and floors, removing furniture that is blocking natural light, or moving tasks under lights or away from sources of glare. However, to reduce your bills even further you’ll likely have to replace your lights. The SEAI advises sourcing a reputable supplier or consultant to carry out a lighting survey with the aim of delivering an optimum solution. This would go beyond simply replacing bulbs, identifying the correct amount of light required and where, as well as locations where lighting controls such as daylight or occupancy sensors could be used. Proper lighting controls could deliver additional savings of between 15 and 20 per cent – no small amount. If you’re replacing bulbs or other items, make sure you’re buying the right product. It’s worth checking the Triple E Products Register, a searchable list of energy efficient products that all meet stringent criteria. The SEAI describes these products as being of a “best-in-class efficiency standard” – consulting the register will help you choose efficient products. Even better, products on this register qualify for Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA), a tax incentive designed to encourage companies to invest in energy-efficient products that allows businesses to depreciate the expenditure on eligible purchases in the same year rather than over eight as is normally required. Price shouldn’t necessarily be a differentiator when it comes to making your decision – quality is key as you want to ensure you buy a long-lasting product. “When it comes to price, buying LED lighting based on price can result in poor-quality products. “It’s really important for these businesses to note that energy savings are achieved by improving the quality and not compromising on it. People go out and buy maybe cheap LED lighting and then it doesn’t last – it creates a negative outlook on LED lighting going forward,” explains Aisling McGrath from eLight, a company that works with Irish businesses providing ‘Light as a Service’ and has worked with hotels including the Dalata Hotel Group, several hotels under the Tifco Group banner, and the Westport Hotel Group. Their approach can be helpful for businesses

Aisling McGrath.

Abbey Hotel Upgrade As part of the SEAI’s Smart Lighting Pilot Scheme, the Abbey Castle Manor Hotel in Roscommon upgraded its lighting in 2017 across all service areas in the hotel. Over 1,400 incandescent and tungsten halogen lamps were replaced with LED versions, reducing the average watts per fitting from 75 to just under 20. The hotel also installed an electricity monitoring system providing real-time information on energy savings and consumption 24/7. The overall project cost was 31,000 with annual energy savings estimated at 28,958.

seeking to upgrade in that eLight invests 100 per cent of the capital cost associated with energy-efficient lighting projects, paid back through the energy savings achieved. The company has also launched an SME initiative with Bord na Móna, replacing traditional bulbs and spotlights with Philips LED lamps at to cost to the client ( therace). “We provide surveys and proposals at no charge either, so there’s no downside to exploring whether the concept actually works for business,” McGrath adds. Seeking outside help from companies like eLight can be a worthwhile move, as those with more experience in the field could help identify better suited products or provide direction on available supports. Take the Energy Efficiency Obligation Scheme – energy suppliers are required to support energy efficiency projects undertaken by businesses and homes in return for energy savings credits. Support may be in the form of financial or technical assistance or both, such as an energy audit of your business or a financial incentive. It’s recommended that you contact your energy supplier to see if they can help. A number of grants and supports are also available to from time to time. Grants of between 30 and 35 per cent of the cost of upgrades work for small and medium-sized enterprises (less than 250 employees and annual turnover under 50 million), though this pilot scheme has since closed for 2018. “Keep an eye on for updates,” the organisation advises. “In the meantime, you could send your staff on an SEAI training course or why not download our SME Guide to Energy Efficiency, which is full of useful tips and guidance on how to save energy and reduce your costs. See” The benefits of making the move to efficient lighting options are clear. Lighting is an important element in creating and enhancing the character of a hotel or restaurant and can play a big role in the customer experience. The cost savings, too, cannot be ignored. “LED lighting requires only about one-tenth of the energy of incandescent bulbs. This means huge savings in bills over time, especially for businesses that use a lot of light bulbs,” the SEAI advises. “LED bulbs cost more, but the prices continue to drop. LEDs are also a lot more convenient and last up to 1,000 times longer and so reduce your maintenance bill as well. In the time you would replace 25-50 incandescent bulbs, you’ll replace just a single LED light – so [it’s] a definite option to consider.”

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

026_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Utilities_V1.indd 27



02/08/2018 12:47


Sharp Choices

A chef’s knife is one of the most important tools in the kitchen, but one knife doesn’t suit everyone.


WÜSTHOF CLASSIC CHEF’S KNIFE A well-known knife-maker based in Germany, Wüsthof’s professional range includes the Classic Ikon Cook’s knife measuring 6 inches or 16cm. Described by the company as a “manual food processor” that is “the most essential of all knives used in the kitchen”, this knife is perfectly balanced and is used for slicing, mincing, and dicing. The blade is forged from a single piece of chromium-molybdenumvanadium steel and the handle has been ergonomicallydesigned in consultation with professional chefs.

Victorinox might be better known for the ubiquitous Swiss Army Knife, but its range is much broader. The 20cm Forged Chef’s Knife is part of Victorinox’s Grand Maître collection, featuring a straight edge, perfect balance, and an ergonomic handle for ease of use in professional kitchens. “Hold it in your hand and you’ll chop, slice and dice with minimal effort and maximum pleasure. Truly le savoir vivre,” the company says. See for more information.

See for further details.




028_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Supply Line_V2.indd 28

02/08/2018 12:50


MAC MTH-80 This is the 8-inch (20cm) MTH-80 from Mac, an American company whose tagline boasts of having the ‘world’s sharpest knives’. The MTH-80 features a thin (2.5mm) blade and bolster, and is built for cutting, slicing and dicing without hassle. Added dimples on the blade are designed to allow the knife to glide through certain sticky foods, such as apples or potatoes, while the handle is built for comfortable, everyday use in the kitchen. To learn more, visit

HONOURABLE MENTIONS SHUN CLASSIC: An 8-inch all-purpose chef ’s knife with a wide blade, VG-MAX steel and PakkaWood handle, handcrafted in Japan. Visit

MIYABI BIRCHWOOD SG2: Also manufactured in Japan, Miyabi’s 9-inch SG2 combines a birch handle with a hardened Cryodur steel blade and a Honbazuke hand-honed edge. See

GLOBAL G-2 Made in Japan and favoured by the late Anthony Bourdain, the 20cm G-2 Cook’s Knife is the company’s best-selling professional knife. Features include a weighted hollow handle, tempered and stamped steel, a thin blade (made from Cromova 18 steel) that keeps a sharp edge, and a dimpled grip that’s somewhat reminiscent of the handles you’ll find on a bicycle. A good option for chopping and dicing, but make sure to use a cutting board. A recent review from described it as “an explicit homage to samurai warriors” that is “forgivingly easy to clean and handsome to display”. Not a bad endorsement. For more information see

MESSERMEISTER SAN MORITZ ELITÉ: This German company’s range includes the 8-inch San Moritz Elité Chef ’s Knife, with a wide blade (for scooping ingredients), high carbon content (easier to sharpen and holds its edge) and is handcrafted in Solingen, Germany’s City of Blades. To discover more visit

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

028_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Supply Line_V2.indd 29



02/08/2018 12:51








Photo: Amazon

Amazon has launched a version of its virtual assistant, Alexa, for the hospitality industry. Guests will be able to place a room service order, seek recommendations from the concierge, set timers, control smart devices and much more through Alexa and the Amazon Echo smart speaker. Marriott International is among the hotels testing the product over the summer.

The new Sirman Lipari is the latest addition to the range of electric pizza ovens on offer by Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM). Sharing its name with the largest Aeolian island, the Lipari offers plenty of cooking capacity measuring 930mm x 770mm x 672mm and is capable of cooking up to eight 12-inch pizzas simultaneously. Other features include an aluminium-plated cooking chamber and a stone baking deck (for authentic texture and taste) with separate thermostats, and a panoramic glass door for monitoring without allowing heat to escape. For more information see

Visit for further details.



See for more.

Photos: Jenn Harrington

Galway-based Gannet Fishmongers has developed an app aimed at revolutionising the way ordering works in professional kitchens. Developed with Boon Agency, the Gannet Fishmongers ordering app is designed for chefs and restaurateurs, with logged orders visible to kitchen and Gannet staff. “It cuts down on admin and pointless printing, phone calls and late-night text messages. We are just on the app,” explained Stefan Griesbach, Gannet Fishmonger MD. The app is available to download from Google Play or the Apple App Store.


WHO’S ALICE? Samsung Electronics America, Inc. and hotel operations platform ALICE have announced a new hotel management solution using smartwatches. The wearable solution, which combines a Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch (created by Samsung SDS) with the ALICE hotel platform, will improve staff communications, responsiveness to guests, and enhance customer service. Luxury hotel company Viceroy Hotel Group brought Samsung and ALICE together and will be the first to implement the digital solution. To discover more visit




030_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Hospitality Tech_v2.indd 30

02/08/2018 12:52



Lonely Planet Food Lonely Planet £14.99 ( 17)

Packed with more than 150 coffee experiences in 37 countries, Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour is perfect for those who can’t go a day (or a few hours) without a cup of joe. The follow-up to the popular Global Beer Tour profiles legendary espresso bars, roasteries, plantation tours and must-visit cafes – places that are a mecca for lovers of coffee. Learn how to order coffee in different languages, find coffee classes, discover each country’s must-drink brews, and peruse the illustrated guides to roasting coffee, brewing techniques and plenty more besides.

Book SHELF Make some space on your shelf.

TOM KITCHIN’S FISH AND SHELLFISH Author: Publisher: RRP: Available:

Tom Kitchin Bloomsbury £26 ( 29) Amazon

The latest book from Scottish chef Tom Kitchin brings the best and freshest produce from the sea to life, complemented by beautiful photography of each dish and a range of fantastic illustrations. Alongside recipes for meals including grilled lobster, braised squid and Thai-style oysters, Kitchin offers top tips on how to prepare fish and shellfish, and a quick and easy guide to grilling, poaching, frying, curing and roasting fish.

SUPERVEG Author: Publisher: RRP: Available:

SuperVeg is not the latest Marvel character based on a radioactive carrot – it’s a vegetarian cookbook celebrating the powers of the 25 most health-enhancing vegetables on the planet. Author Celia Brooks (once private chef to Stanley Kubrick) explores their nutritional benefits with a wealth of supporting information including selection, preparation and cooking techniques, and has compiled more than 100 creative recipes to enjoy.


David McCourt Publisher: Red Door Publishing RRP: £20 ( 22.50) Available: Amazon

The way in which we do business might be in constant flux, but our way of thinking and making decisions has changed little over the millennia. So says David McCourt in Total Rethink, which aims to explain how, in order to be more entrepreneurial, we should revolutionise the way we think and behave in order to be better prepared for unpredictable and rapid changes. This might sound like the latest in a long line of self-help books, but McCourt has gone from a working-class background in South Boston to amassing a fortune reputed to be in excess of $750 million. Something has clearly worked.

ISSUE 7 2018 | HOTEL

031_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Bookshelf.indd 31

Celia Brooks Murdoch Books £16.99 ( 19) Eason



02/08/2018 12:53


“It’s all about having a good team behind you. If you have a good team then your life is so much easier.” “Style-wise it would have to be French or Italian. When it comes to French, I really try to lighten it up. You’ve a lot less butter, [I] go for lighter olive oils as an ingredient.”


I started off in Killybegs up in Donegal. One of my first jobs was working at Locks Brasserie in Portobello. Then after that I went to Sweden working there for a little while with a former head chef, and then came back to Ireland.


One of my kitchen managers here is Darren Matthews, he’s a former head chef [with] Bon Appetit out in Malahide when they had their star. He’s a good inspiration. We’d have threehour conversations about food.

“I like a challenge. I think challenge breeds creativity. You’re finding a way around things. A lot of the best dishes you come up with come out of being forced to think outside the box.”

“In the last couple of years I have been working with Press Up Entertainment. I was Head Chef in Peruke & Periwig and then took over here.”


At the moment we have some beautiful heirloom tomatoes, we use it with oak-smoked Gubbeen cheese from Cork. It’s all seasonally-inspired.



Stephen Ryan, Head Chef at The Lucky Duck, speaks about food, inspiration and challenges.


At the moment we have a lovely curry crab on the menu – that’s my favourite dish at the moment.


032_HCR_Issue 7 2018_Quick Chat.indd 32

02/08/2018 12:54

uintessential Brands Ireland

FC advert 1 Thank youtemplate.indd to our Sponsors_1C_Events_JM_H&C_V2.indd 1

02/08/2018 14:39 13:53


FC advert template.indd 1 245996_1C_Dalcassian_JM_Hotel and Catering.indd 1



02/08/2018 30/07/2018 12:59 15:03

Profile for Ashville Media Group

Hotel & Catering Issue 7 2018  

Hotel & Catering Issue 7 2018