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ISSUE 8 2018

DECRYPTING BITCOIN CRYPTOCURRENCIES IN HOSPITALITY

FOOD HEROES

#TRENDING GOLD MEDAL AWARDS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE PLASTIC WASTE

CULINARY FLAIR AT CAHERNANE

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ISSUE 8 2018

CONTENTS

14

COVER STORY

SHOULD HOSPITALITY PAY GREATER HEED TO

INFLUENCER MARKETING?

Working with influencers can be an effective way of reaching a specific audience quickly and boosting awareness of a new service or product.� Tim Fenn, Chief Executive of the Irish Hotels Federation, on Irish hospitality businesses seeking to partner with influencers.

REGULARS

04

NEWS

31 INTERIOR

42

HOSPITALITY

43

BOOK

DESIRE TECH SHELF

IN THIS ISSUE

10 18 21 26 40 41 44

Avvio sheds some light on artificial intelligence in hospitality.

Decrypting Bitcoin We take a look at the use of digital currency bitcoin for merchants.

The Gold Standard The finalists have been announced for the 2018 Gold Medal Awards.

Culinary Flair We caught up with Eric Kavanagh from Cahernane House.

Discarding Plastic The hospitality industry is moving on from singleuse plastics.

In-Room Hospitality We pick out several interesting minibar options.

A Quick Chat With Niamh Fox

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AI and the Human Touch

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Editorial & Production Manager: Mary Connaughton Art Director: Áine Duffy Design Assistant: James Moore Anna Wesolowska Creative Director: Jane Matthews Photography: Food on the Edge, Shane O’Neill, Ballynahinch Castle, Irish Guild of Sommeliers, Welbilt, DELI-LITES, Dunnes Stores, Photographicmemory.ie, Minibar Systems, Jenn-Air, Baidu, Percipia, Hodder & Stoughton, Brewer’s Publications, Penguin, Dan Dennison Stock Photography iStock Infographics: www.flaticon.com 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.

Editor’s

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elcome to Issue 8 of Hotel & Catering Review. As always, we have plenty in-store throughout the following pages, ranging from why you should ditch single-use plastic items to the latest hospitality news, as well as a quick chat with Niamh Fox, founder of the recently-opened Little Fox restaurant in Ennistymon. In this edition’s Food Heroes, I travelled down to Cahernane House Hotel in Killarney to learn more about its food ethos and chat with chef Eric Kavanagh about his background and approach to top-quality cuisine. We also delve into the world of bitcoin, investigating how and why the cryptocurrency could prove useful in the hospitality sector. Earlier this year it was reported that some hotels are being overwhelmed with requests from ‘influencers’ – social media users with varying amounts of followers looking to strike up partnerships with hotels and restaurants. In our cover story, we examine the rise of this phenomenon, the bloggers and influencers working in Ireland today, and how you can determine whether it’s worth your while to pursue influencer marketing alongside more traditional avenues. Elsewhere, hotel software provider Avvio provides an introduction to the concept of artificial intelligence and what it can do for your business, we highlight several interesting minibar solutions on the market at present, and profile a number of innovations in the world of hospitality technology. Finally, this will be my last issue as editor of Hotel & Catering Review. It has been a pleasure to meet so many people doing great things across the world of hospitality – your enthusiasm, passion and innovation is inspiring. My thanks to those who have given of their time and energy throughout my time as editor, and I wish you the very best in the months and years ahead.

Conor Forrest @HC_Review

@

info@hotelandcateringreview.ie

www.facebook.com/hotelandcateringreview

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HOTEL

Email: conor.forrest@ ashvillemediagroup.com

Enjoy the read,

www.hotelandcateringreview.ie

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Editor: Conor Forrest

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For more information visit www.hotelandcateringreview.ie/awards

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NEWS IRISH CHEFS LAUNCH FOOD ON THE EDGE VOTE FOR IRELAND’S FAVOURITE PLACE TO STAY TODAY! All hotels, country houses and guest houses that are finalists in the Gold Medal Awards have also been entered into the People’s Choice category. The top property from each province will be revealed on the night of the Gold Medal Awards with the overall winner taking the trophy home.

Leading Irish chefs gathered in Dublin’s Glovers Alley to help launch Food on the Edge 2018. This year’s event will incorporate the theme of ‘conversation’, running in tandem with the event’s overall Future of Food theme. Taking place on October 22nd and 23rd in Galway, these conversations will include a talk between Neven Maguire and Andy McFadden on mentorship. “I think it’s very good to sometimes talk through some of the issues and the problems, whether they are mental health, food waste, or education on the chef’s side and also the food education of our children, and that plays into who we are as a society,” said creator and director JP McMahon (below).

VOTE NOW ON hotelandcateringreview.ie/awards and be in with a chance to win 2 tickets to the 2018 Gold Medal Awards taking place in the Lyrath Estate, Co. Kilkenny on Tuesday September 25th.

RURAL HOSPITALITY BUSINESSES VULNERABLE TO HARD BREXIT A new report from the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) shows that Ireland’s rural drinks and hospitality businesses are highly vulnerable to a hard or no-deal Brexit. Hospitality accounts for 9.5 per cent of all employment in the West of Ireland, and 8 per cent in Dublin, while the drinks industry provides direct and indirect employment to 90,000 people. “In many parts of rural Ireland, drinks, hospitality and tourism businesses are the primary and sometimes only employers. This makes these areas highly vulnerable to economic shocks, like Brexit,” said Rosemary Garth, Irish Distillers’ Communications and Corporate Affairs Director and Chair of DIGI.

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Drinks employment by county. Image: DIGI

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LYRATH ESTATE GARDENS REDESIGNED

RAI LAUDS REDUCED VAT RATE

Photo: Orla Connolly

Photo: Ken Walsh

OYSTERS AHOY With September marking the beginning of oyster season, Cliff Townhouse will once again team up with sister properties Cliff at Lyons in Kildare and Cliff House Hotel in Waterford to pay homage to the humble mollusc with a month-long oyster festival. This year marks the seventh anniversary of the event, with plenty of seafood, matching drinks, ‘Oyster Sessions’ (oysters, drinks and live music). One of the highlights will take place on Thursday September 27th at Ardmore’s Cliff House Hotel – combining local trad musicians, Harty’s oysters and craft beers for an unmissable event. For more information on the CLIFF Oyster Festival, visit www.clifftownhouse.ie/oysterfest.

Photo: Shane O’Neill

According to a recent report by the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI), the reduced VAT rate of 9 per cent in the accommodation and food services sector has resulted in 79,424 direct and indirect new jobs since its introduction in July 2011. “In terms of creating new jobs in the hospitality sector, the introduction of the 9 per cent VAT rate in July 2011 has been a major driver of local employment growth,” said RAI Chief Executive Adrian Cummins. “In Q1 2018 alone, 171,700 workers were employed directly in the accommodation and food services sector and the total gross annual wage paid to those workers was €3.98 billion. Total employment in the accommodation and food services sector has increased by 54,400 people between Q2 2011 and Q1 2018. The impact the reduced VAT rate has had on this growth cannot be underestimated.”

The gardens at Kilkenny’s Lyrath Estate, which will host the upcoming Gold Medal Awards in association with Hotel & Catering Review, have been redesigned by Caragh Nurseries. The revamp reflects the mix of old and new present at Lyrath Estate, featuring traditional urns, modern fibreglass planters, grape vines and pyramid-shaped trees. Contemporary bonsai-formed trees welcome visitors at the new hotel entrance, while at the restaurant overlooking the mature parkland, a structured row of Catalpa biganoides have been planted. In addition, beautiful planters holding vines add a rustic and unusual touch to the terrace. Family-owned Caragh Nurseries, based in Kildare, have become one of the go-to experts for hotel garden design in Ireland, having previously developed the stunning spa gardens in Galgorm Resort and Spa in Antrim, as well as working on the Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge and the Westgrove in Clane. Designers Jo and Ian McGarry pride themselves on bespoke garden design, something that reflects the owners or users of the gardens.

BALLYNAHINCH SECURES TOP 10 SPOT

Liam Edwards, RAI President and Adrian Cummins, RAI CEO.

Ballynahinch Castle Hotel has once again been recognised for excellence in hospitality, as the fairytale castle was voted eight in the Top 10 Resort Hotels in Britain and Ireland 2018 by Travel + Leisure readers this summer. “We are delighted to be included in the top ten best resorts in Britain and Ireland, as it highlights the thought and detail that goes into making each and every guest’s stay a truly memorable experience,” said General Manager of Ballynahinch Castle, Patrick O’Flaherty.

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IRISH GUILD OF SOMMELIERS ANNOUNCES WORLD CONTEST CANDIDATE

WELBILT LAUNCH FIRST IRISH CULINARY MASTERCLASSES Welbilt has announced a new site for their culinary masterclasses in conjunction with distributor ABC Services, located in Dublin. The masterclasses will focus on Welbilt’s Convotherm and Merrychef brands, with upcoming classes on Tuesday September 18th and Tuesday October 30th. Each class will be led by a trained development chef and will demonstrate the latest technology from the two brands – the days can be tailored to the customer’s culinary needs so that attendees get the most of the session. For more information, contact 01483 464900 or visit www.welbilt.uk/Masterclass.

Julie Dupouy-Young

FOODIES BOWLED OVER BY DELI-LITES Two unique creations from a leading Northern Irish food-to-go business have been given the stamp of approval at the annual Great Taste Awards. DELI-LITES Ireland – which produces around 15 million hand-made sandwiches, wraps and salads annually and distributes them across Ireland – was accredited with three of the prestigious stars, two for its Asian Bespoké Bowl and one star for the Italian Bespoké Bowl. The judges described them as “clean food, well-prepared, balanced and full of zingy flavours. We would like to eat this most days for lunch”. “We’re delighted with the recognition from these latest Great Taste Awards and the positive feedback from the judges,” said MD Brian Reid. “As this accreditation highlights, our chef-led team is passionate about innovative food development and continues to break the mould by introducing unique flavour combinations with the best quality ingredients, and a global inspired taste.”

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Photo: Brian Thompson

Julie Dupouy-Young, the Irish Guild of Sommeliers’ Best Sommelier of Ireland for 2018, will represent the Guild at the ASI World Sommelier Contest in Antwerp, Belgium next year. The announcement was made by the President of the Irish Guild, Oliver Murtagh. Dupouy-Young has held the Irish Guild’s title of Ireland’s Best Sommelier since 2009. The deputy candidate Tomasz Szczepanski was also named for the contest. The ASI is the world’s largest organiser of sommelier competitions, running periodical, continental and global contests. In 2016, DupouyYoung was chosen as the third-best sommelier in the world after the grand final of the last ASI World Contest.

Clodagh Pryce, Agata Zawrotniak and Sheila Crowe from Farnham Estate Spa and Golf Resort receiving their awards at The 2018 World Luxury Spa Awards.

FARNHAM’S ON TOP OF THE WORLD Cavan’s Farnham Estate Spa & Golf Resort has received two prestigious awards at the 2018 World Luxury Spa Awards – Luxury Countryside Spa and Best Spa Manager (Agata Zawrotniak). “We work hard to ensure all our guests have a wonderful experience when they visit our spa and it’s fantastic that this has been recognised,” said General Manager Una O’Dowd. “I’m truly delighted for our team here who enjoy pampering our guests and leaving them feeling happy and relaxed.”

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DUNNES STORES SCOOPS 20 AWARDS The Dunnes Stores Simply Better range took home 20 awards at the recent 2018 International Great Taste Awards. The Handmade Irish Smoke Trout Pâté created by Wexford’s Zanna Cookhouse won a coveted 3 Star award, while Miena’s Handmade Nougat, Skeaghanore Duck and Seery’s Bakery all scooped 2 star awards for their products. The Great Taste Awards were established in 1994 and are often referred to as the ‘Oscars of the food world’.

Dunnes Stores’ 3 star winning smoked trout pâté.

ESQUIRES WELCOMES RECORD SCORE Esquires Coffee has set a record with three of its outlets named among the top 100 stores in Ireland. Stores in Navan, Drogheda and Dublin were selected by Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) for its 2018 list – judges conducted mystery visits to each entry and assigned a score. “Retail Excellence is Ireland’s leading force in promoting excellence in retailing in Ireland, including through its Top 100 Store Awards in Ireland each year. REI had a record entry with well over 500 stores taking part this year,” said Tony McVerry, who oversees Esquires Coffee operations in Ireland. “The results are now out and I am delighted to say that we have three stores in the Top 100 – Navan, 28-32 O’Connell Street, Dublin and Drogheda. Indeed, we are the only company in Ireland to have three stores successful in this initial phase.” The three stores move through to the next round, competing for Top 30 status.

Esquires Coffee house on O’Connell Street, Dublin.

Photo: John Kelly

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Partner PROFILE

CELEBRATING THE BEST OF IRELAND

FÁILTE IRELAND CONTINUES TO SUPPORT IRISH TOURISM THROUGH A VARIETY OF INNOVATIVE INITIATIVES IN THE COMING WEEKS AND MONTHS.

MOLLY MALONE BROUGHT TO LIFE

NEW REPORT INDICATES IMPROVED BED SUPPLY BY 2020

A

new report by Fáilte Ireland has found that a strong pipeline of new hotel accommodation stock is expected to improve tourism capacity pressures in Dublin by 2020. However, this activity is still being outpaced by growing demand and an expected shortfall of at least 1,100 rooms is still predicted for the city by then. The analysis was carried out by Fitzpatrick Associates Economic Consultants and they estimate that, from 2018 to 2020, a total of 5,436 hotel rooms will come on stream, including over 3,000 already under construction, representing – by Fáilte Ireland’s own estimates – private sector investment in Dublin of €815 million. Fáilte Ireland estimates that every additional 200-bed hotel generates tourism revenue of €9m, creates 180 jobs and contributes

€2m per annum to Exchequer earnings. The additional hotel bedrooms expected to 2020 should generate approximately 5,000 jobs, €250m in tourism revenue and €55m annually for the Exchequer. “While it is great to see such positive capacity increases in Dublin accommodation we need to ensure that our capital can cater for future demand if we are to sustain tourism growth,” said Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly. “Growth in international visitor numbers and revenue is not only great news for employment but also for government finances, with 23 cent in every Euro of tourism spend finding its way to the Exchequer. The tax take from tourists is now the equivalent of over €1,000 for every household in Ireland – generating €1.6bn in all which helps fund education, and other important sectors.”

Michaela McMahon with the statue of Molly Malone outside St. Andrew’s Church. Photo Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

One of Dublin’s most iconic statues, Molly Malone has become the latest addition to the Fáilte Ireland Talking Statues initiative. The words spoken by Molly Malone were written by US student, Michaela McMahon, who won an open public competition to provide a monologue for the statue with her winning script subsequently narrated by actress and singer Maria Doyle Kennedy. This is the latest development in Dublin’s Talking Statues project, an initiative of Fáilte Ireland, supported by Dublin City Council in conjunction with Art producers Sing London, with the assistance of The Abbey Theatre, the OPW, The National Gallery, the GPO and Trinity College Dublin. Michaela McMahon returned from America to attend the launch of the Molly Malone Talking Statue. Michaela is a student who is currently studying for dual degrees in English Literature and Cultural and Historic Preservation, (with a minor in Creative Writing), and had just completed a semester at University College Cork as an exchange student when she won the competition. Find out more about the project at www.talkingstatuesdublin.ie.

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TOURISM INDUSTRY PROMOTES WATER CONSERVATION

Pictured at the launch of the Global Irish Festival Series are Joanne Kilmartin, Donegal Diaspora Project Executive, Donegal County Council; Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development, Ciaran Cannon; Ciara Sugrue, Head of Festivals, Fáilte Ireland; and Pat Daly, Deputy Chief Executive, Limerick City and County Council. Photo: Sean Curtin/True Media

NEW GLOBAL FESTIVAL SERIES TO

CELEBRATE DIASPORA

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he Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Fáilte Ireland have recently launched a new initiative to harness diaspora links for the benefit of local and community tourism in Ireland. The new Global Irish Festival Series aims to encourage our diaspora to return home to visit Ireland. The new Festival Series will provide funding and support, through the relevant local authorities, to local and community event organisers for events which tap into international diaspora networks to increase overseas visitors. The Global Irish Festival Series will be piloted along the Wild Atlantic Way in Limerick and Donegal this October, with funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade granted for the four festivals and events in these areas. In Limerick, the Global Irish Festival Series is supporting I.NY which runs from October 7th to 14th and explores the deep connection between Ireland and New York City, and the Richard Harris International Film Festival which takes place from October 25th to 29th and marks the life and works of Limerick’s most famous actor. In Donegal, the initiative is supporting a Genealogy and Traditional Music Weekend which runs from October 20th to 21st, remembering our ancestors who travelled to Scotland to work in the twentieth century, and an Inter-generational Sporting Weekend which takes place from October 27th to 28th, celebrating Donegal’s connection with football. To find out more about the Global Irish Festival Series, see www.wildatlanticway.com/globalirish.

HOTEL

The Irish tourism industry has come together to promote best practice in water conservation through a Fáilte Ireland-led initiative. Joining forces with Fáilte Ireland are the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) and the Association of Visitor Experiences & Attractions (AVEA) who have all teamed up to promote best practice in water conservation. These organisations are working together to help reduce water wastage in the Irish tourism and hospitality sector with the publication of a Water Management Good Practice Guide for tourism businesses. Authored by greenhospitality.ie, the guide outlines steps that many tourism businesses are taking to conserve water and reduce usage. This has an increased importance given the current critical level of water reserves. The guide is available to download from the publications page on www.failteireland.ie.

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BUSINESS MATTERS

Hotel booking engine provider Avvio sheds some light on artificial intelligence and what it means for hotels.

Can AI bring the human touch back to hotels? 10

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W

hat the ‘human touch’ in hotels actually means is staff invisibility and anticipation of guest’s needs. Ultimately, this is what makes a good hotel great. However, as the volume of guests increases and the hotels get bigger, the notion of hospitality tends to become more industrialised and less personal, until it eventually loses all of its humanity and personality. In large hotels and big chains, that unique human touch becomes an expensive commodity. But here is where the concept of artificial intelligence (AI) kicks in: if a hotel struggles to offer their guests a tailor-made experience, then management only needs to make its human touch more scalable. Imagine, for example, a system alerting the hotel about the expected arrival time of a guest. The guest’s room should be ready before a specific time, the valet could greet the guest by name, and the front desk would have all the elements to start a highly personalised check-in experience. What hoteliers tend to forget is that even though there are surely a lot of things that guests enjoy doing when travelling, there are others they do not. Checking in after a long flight or checking out when one is already late for a meeting, for example, are definitely part of the latter. The intangible, yet precious, human touch – in these cases – is close to irrelevant as guests just want to get to their room (or out of it) as soon as possible. The bottom line is if a computer can do it, let it. Use your staff to focus on situations where the personal interaction is critical. While a lot of the current uses for AI in the hospitality industry are related to revenue management, marketing and advertising, there are many other possible applications. It can be applied to optimise housekeeping, by approximating early check-in or late check-out needs, or predicting maintenance work that needs to be done in rooms. Little things, such as estimating when to refill soaps, can reduce the time spent by staff knocking on doors and improve the guest experience. The customer experience can benefit from AI as well. Think about pre-set room temperature based on guest preferences or voice-activated room service and various other room controls such as music and TV. The basics In order to better understand what AI actually is and what it is not, here’s a short glossary for hoteliers: Algorithm: Any process or set of rules to be followed by a computer in order to solve a problem. Multi-variance testing: All those systems set up to offer multiple solutions and, over time, measure which one is best. Rule-based system: The term presupposes the use of human-created rule sets. At its essence, therefore, these kind of systems are not really intelligent, just artificial. Neural network: A neural network (artificial neural network or, simply,

BUSINESS MATTERS

ANN) is an information-processing model inspired by the human nervous system. Network intelligence: Network intelligence is a machine-learning skill that uses the power of many connected computers to learn. Deep learning: Deep learning is machine learning at a much larger scale. It uses more layers of neural networks and digs through vast amounts of data to find patterns within the data. Recommender engine: The algorithms or series of algorithms that have been programmed to analyse the information received from multiple machine learning programs and suggest changes to improve performance. Natural language processing: The area of computer science and artificial intelligence that studies the interactions between computers and human languages. Chatbots: A method of interacting with computers through a chat platform. Some chatbots use AI technology (mainly NLP technology) to process the data. Creating tomorrow’s ‘wow’ A passage from the Amazon CEO’s recent shareholder letter is quite fitting: “People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary.’ I see that cycle of improvement happening at a faster rate than ever before. It may be because customers have such easy access to more information than ever before. You cannot rest on your laurels in this world. Customers won’t have it”. Maybe artificial intelligence is not exactly what we may have thought a few decades ago, and it has more to do with statistical algorithms than with human-like machines. It’s just mathematics, but it sure can often look like the human touch. And human touch is what AI can bring back to hotels, helping staff know and predict what service or offer the guest will want before they manage to voice it. This will not happen overnight, but through dozens, then hundreds and then thousands of small innovations that are being tested and improved every day. The goal, of course, is not to replace humans with machines, but rather to make sure that all those boring, repetitive day-to-day tasks are performed by machines so that humans can focus on what they do better: making today’s guest experience better so we can continue to ‘wow’ guests. We have been working with AI for several years, and launched research projects to discover how we could improve the booking experience long before AI was hyped as a major buzzword. We recently launched Allora, an artificially-intelligent hotel website and booking engine. Our goal has never been building a high-tech booking engine but rather working on personalising the entire process. We have tried to bring that human touch out of the confines of the hotels to the whole travel experience – from the first interaction with the website all the way down to months and years after the stay. This is where AI becomes remarkably valuable, and not a simple buzzword. What about the humans? It is estimated that 47 per cent of US jobs are at ‘high risk’ of potential automation. The fact is, any repetitive job is at risk of being replaced by machines. Even though this trend is unlikely to impact the hospitality industry in the same way, it is undeniable that replacing human interaction where it does not add any value, and increasing it where it does, is the optimum use of AI. Hoteliers should let computers analyse trends and patterns in guest behaviour so their staff can focus on the personal interactions. Humans should focus on what they do best and let computers do what they do best. It is not a question of machines replacing humans, but rather machines working together with humans on the tasks they are respectively best at.

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Partner PROFILE

CHOOSE THE

Smart Option LAUNCHING ACROSS IRELAND FROM OCTOBER, SMARTBOX GROUP OFFERS HOSPITALITY PARTNERS A CHANCE TO PROMOTE THEIR BUSINESS AND ATTRACT NEW CUSTOMERS.

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hen I arrive at Joyce’s Court, just opposite Connolly Station, the street is a hive of activity. Programmers, content creators, software developers, customer service agents and more stream in and out of two modern buildings that face one another – the home of international gift experience company Smartbox Group and some 600 employees. Since 2009, Smartbox has been headquartered in Ireland – an English-speaking country that is welcoming to technology companies – in hindsight a wise move given the impending chaos that is likely to surround Brexit. We’re here to meet CEO John Perkins, formerly one of Apple’s main European executives and who has been at the helm of Smartbox since November 2013. Our immediate impression, walking through the building, watching the various teams at work, is that of an impressive, enthusiastic and growing operation. “Almost everything is done here from product design and conception to content creation for our retail gift boxes to all of our internet content,” Perkins explains. Nine brands across Europe are run from these offices, with all of the related product design, content creation, customer service and

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partner management teams on-site, developing new ideas, marketing them, and finding new hotels, restaurants, spas, activity providers and much more to partner with. “We have our finance team here who are managing the 40,000 partner payments we have across Europe, plus the over 150 retailers,” he adds. “With regards to our supply chain, we produce over eight million gift boxes a year for the nine different brands. Those have to be shipped out to 18,000 points-of-sale – we manage the inventory across Europe on a point-of-sale by point-of-sale basis. Theoretically, we know where every voucher is across the continent, when a voucher is sold and when it needs to be replaced.” PARTNERSHIP Perkins describes the company as an Irish success story, one of the biggest companies in the country and one of the largest Irish-headquartered companies with international business. On an annual basis the company sells €500 million worth of vouchers – 7 million vouchers – and one voucher every five seconds across the continent. The idea behind Smartbox is simple. The company creates themed experience gift boxes, ranging from dinner dates at an upscale restaurant or an escape to the countryside to

helicopter experiences and pampering sessions at a spa, stocked in bricks and mortar retail stores and online. How does it work for the consumer? Take a hotel stay. Recipients connect on Smartbox, choose their date and location, and are shown which hotels have availability. Partnering with the company is also an easy task. Smartbox works with businesses across the hospitality sector to choose from the activities they offer, selecting those that best suit their selection of gift experiences. Those activities are included – with no discount – alongside products from other Smartbox partners. Customers purchase the boxes as gifts for others, recipients

choose an experience from those on offer and then contact you, make a reservation and come to your venue to redeem their vouchers. Afterwards, Smartbox provides reimbursement. As the voucher is free, the recipient has additional funds to spend at your venue. And it’s not just about attracting Irish customers – Irish experiences will be included in European boxes. For businesses it’s a chance to boost revenue with low risk and a low cost – payment isn’t required until new customers have been acquired and Smartbox doesn’t charge upfront, subscription or annual fees. Essentially, it’s a cost-effective and proven marketing service.

John Perkins, CEO, Smartbox Group.

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Partner PROFILE

“While we sell vouchers, what our business is really about is that it’s a marketing platform for hotels, restaurants, spas, activity providers to promote their business,” Perkins explains. “For a lot of these actors, it’s the lowest cost channel that they could imagine when it comes to customer acquisition. It’s almost a dream come true in terms of marketing proposition. When you look at the different marketing platforms out there, whether it be television advertising (most people can’t pay that); radio is expensive, you have to pay upfront and you’re not sure on the return on investment of that. Now, [there’s] internet advertising and display advertising, you can go to Facebook or Google, all that is money upfront. Our whole concept is that we make a deal with partners – that’s the experience providers, hotels, restaurants, etc. – we’ll market your hotel through Smartbox gift experience vouchers and it’s only if we bring you a customer that you pay us a commission.” Perkins also makes an important distinction between what Smartbox offers and discount voucher companies such as Groupon. “We send, to our partners, full paying

customers. It’s then up to that partner to convert that new customer into a loyal one that generates positive word of mouth, which as we all know is the lowest cost form of marketing,” he says. “This is very different to the discounted vouchers where a lot of experience providers were disappointed with the voucher market. When they made a deal with Groupon, all they got was a bargain hunter and the person never came back unless they had another discounted voucher.” THE WAY AHEAD While growth has been mostly experienced on the continent, there are positive signs for the Irish market, with Smartbox due to launch here – both online and in retail – in the autumn with 600 partners. Fast forward 12 months and Perkins expects that 1,200 partners will have signed up. “We benchmark across different countries, so on a pro-rata basis we would expect that the Irish business could become a €30m to €40m experience voucher business. Which means that

€30-40m is going into Irish industry, into the hotels, restaurants and spas. From a hotel standpoint, back of the envelope, that means about 150,000 hotel nights.” So, if you’re a hotel, restaurant, spa or any other number of experience providers across Ireland, what’s the next step? “After we launch Smartbox for Ireland in October, there will be a link on the website with all of the contact details for new partners that want to join,” Perkins notes. “We’re playing the middleman. That’s why we really see ourselves as the marketing platform between these experience providers and our consumers.

I tell the team that we are like Google, Facebook and YouTube et cetera – we have our consumer-facing product, which are the vouchers, just like social media or a search engine, but actually we don’t make any money from that. We make our money from marketing services for the experience providers. That’s precisely what we do for our partners, and that makes it quite attractive for them to help them manage their business.”

New Avenue Smartbox’s reach will extend from September with a new app, through which customers can connect with partners and directly make a reservation. New partners will be added regularly, and the app will allow partners to push special promotions to attract voucher holders.

For more information, phone +353 (0)1 691 7198 or visit www.smartbox.ie

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COVER STORY

Exerting an

Influen Influe

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COVER STORY

Influencer marketing is growing in popularity in Ireland, but what’s it all about? And why should hospitality businesses even care? Conor Forrest reports.

If

ence nce

you’re in the hospitality trade, chances are you’ve heard from bloggers or social media influencers – individuals who offer a chance to showcase your brand or spread your message to an engaged digital audience in return for accommodation, invitations to events, or a chance to experience your cuisine. Essentially, influencers are individuals with a strong social media presence, with the power to place your brand in front of a specific audience – they can help increase your credibility and add a new perspective or audience. Some of these are relatively well-known names in Irish social circles, people like Georgia Penna (née Salpa), Roz Purcell or Pippa O’Connor Ormond, with several hundred thousand (if not millions) of followers across platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Others may focus on a more niche segment – makeup guru Chloe Boucher, personal trainer Rob Lipsett or fashion blogger Erika Fox. And then there are the micro-influencers – they won’t have the same reach as those with six-figure followings but have been described by some as the marketing force of the future, approachable, relatable people with a smaller but highlyengaged following that are often overlooked by brands developing social media campaigns. There are a number of benefits to this potential partnership with social media influencers, including heightened brand awareness, referral traffic, and increased social media engagement, mentions and shares. But the influencer has to be a right fit for your brand – there’s not much point in a hotel partnering with someone predominantly focused on the latest fashion. So how exactly does one find an influencer? Google might be your first port of call, searching for Irish influencers or bloggers with the type of content or audience that you’re hoping to target. A search for ‘travel blogger Ireland’ returns about 1.5 million results – not all of these will be relevant but it’s a good start. Or you could search on social media, looking for pages and blogs in search of those who might be a good fit. To speed up the process and ensure you partner with the right blogger or influencer, you could also contact one of a number of agencies that have sprung up in recent years to cater for

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this growing demand. Take Irish Blogger Agency, founded by Sinead Carroll in 2015 to bridge this divide, a dedicated agency for the digital influencer market that counts bloggers, vloggers and social influencers under its umbrella. “Irish Blogger Agency is Ireland’s dedicated agency for digital influencer marketing and is home to more than 500 bloggers, vloggers and social influencers,” Carroll tells me. “We help brands and businesses connect and grow through influencer marketing and offer a range of professional services. For example, if a hotel or hospitality industry [business] is looking for an influencer to collaborate with, our platform allows them to explore the marketplace and filter by social channel, minimum required reach, market, category, rate and rating, influencer info such as country, language, city et cetera, making it simple to connect with a suitable influencer. They can also avail of our other professional services including digital strategy, video content, blog posts and social media posts.” While it’s understandable that a large social media following will catch your eye, one of the key things you should actually look for are engagement levels. It’s all very well having 400,000 followers but if only a small amount are actively engaging with an influencer’s content then it’s hardly worth your while. “As a brand or influencer, you can sometimes get caught up in your follower count, but engagement is what you really need to focus on. If you have genuine engagement with your community of social media followers, the rest of the world knows they genuinely love your brand and that they are real people endorsing your product or service,” Carroll explains. “Sure, having a large following looks good and means your content is likely receiving a lot of impressions, but that doesn’t mean anything if the interaction between the account owner and followers is non-existent. Low engagement is often a warning bell to potential new followers as it indicates a lack of trust and authority, while a higher engagement rate often builds trust and peace of mind. At Irish Blogger Agency, the majority of our influencers are considered micro-bloggers, whose following is anywhere between a few hundred to a few thousand people. It is often better to work with microinfluencers rather than using well-known people with millions of followers because their audience is more engaged. They act as an inspiration to their followers!” These partnerships can take a variety of formats – influencers could offer a competition (such as a night’s stay or a free meal at your restaurant, make a video about a visit to your premises to share with their followers, test out your facilities and post the results on Instagram or YouTube, or share a review with their followers on their blog. The latter is one of the steps taken by Dolores Andrew-Gavin, a selfdescribed micro-influencer and the driving force behind Irish Health Hour which operates within the health and wellness sector. Last summer she was invited to the launch of afternoon tea at the Carlton Blanchardstown, helping to open this avenue to a wider audience. Alongside blogging about her experiences on the day, she took a tour of the hotel and its features and showcased them to her loyal following across a range of platforms, including a Facebook Live session direct from the hotel’s executive suite.

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“From that I got [a] Best Blog [award], so I got to stay overnight in the hotel. And I blogged my journey on a lot of platforms, [including] Periscope... I loved the whole experience of the afternoon tea and getting to see the hotel and their features,” she says. “It’s a real overall experience I look at and that I like to highlight.” Dolores-Gavin’s reach extends across a variety of social media platforms, each with its own strengths. Her audience can follow specific conversations on Twitter using various hashtags (Twitter is home to her largest following, men and women aged 40 to 60), Periscope allows people to join in on a live video stream, while Instagram is the perfect platform for photo-sharing, particularly when it comes to food. “I was away last week and we were doing a staycation, myself and my family, and we were staying in several different hotels. So I was doing my food [blogging] on Instagram which is, I think, beneficial to some of the hotels that follow me and interacted with me because of it,” she explains. “I wasn’t looking for anything for them, it was just my way of showcasing Irish food at its best and family food at its best.” DUE DILIGENCE This particular sector of the marketing world has not been without some controversy. In the past, the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) has received complaints regarding issues such as bloggers failing to declare paid-for posts or marketing communications. New

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AUTHENTICITY IS KEY – AN AUTHENTIC VOICE THAT SPEAKS TO A LOYAL, ENGAGED FOLLOWING.

guidance criteria were created to ensure Irish consumers aren’t misled by influencer marketing, encouraging the use of hashtags such as #Ad or #SP (sponsored post). In June, it was reported that advertising group Core has introduced full background checks for the influencers with whom it works, examining factors such as previous partnerships, viewpoints and followers in order to comply with advertising standards and ensure that value is delivered for its clients. “Working with influencers can be an effective way of reaching a specific audience quickly and boosting awareness of a new service or product, for example,” says Tim Fenn, Chief Executive of the Irish Hotels Federation. “Consumers are becoming savvier and more discerning when it comes to social media. They know the difference between genuine guest reviews and paid promotions and are quick to call out activity that they perceive isn’t authentic. As with any marketing activity or partnership, we would advise hoteliers to choose carefully whom they work with, have a written agreement and ensure all activity complies with the relevant advertising standards. A good reputation can be easily tarnished with a post or a tweet that isn’t genuine.” Others have criticised an influx of people who launch social media accounts in search of free accommodation or other experiences, despite limited experience in influencer marketing or the lack of an engaged following that would result in a valuable partnership. It’s a worldwide problem – a recent piece in the UK’s Independent newspaper described

a five-star resort in the Maldives as being “bombarded” by such requests, noting that “the majority of those asking for freebies don’t have significant followings on social media that would warrant such requests”. Debate flared up at the beginning of the year when Paul Stenson of Dublin’s The White Moose Café and Charleville Lodge Hotel bluntly rejected a request by a YouTuber to stay at the hotel for several nights before Valentine’s Day. “If I let you stay here in return for a feature in your video, who is going to pay the staff who look after you? Who is going to pay the housekeepers who clean your room? The waiters who serve you breakfast? The receptionist who checks you in? Who is going to pay for the light and heat you use during your stay? The laundering of your bed sheets? The water rates? Maybe I should tell my staff they will be featured in your video in lieu of receiving payment for work carried out while you’re in residence?” he wrote in a Facebook response. Sinead Carroll, however, believes that such backlash is a storm in a teacup. “I think it’s blown out of proportion, definitely,” she says. “You can make a call on it as a business whether it’s worth your while collaborating with an influencer and I think to-date I’ve seen no collaboration that hasn’t worked – it has benefits for both the brand and the influencer.” Authenticity is key – an authentic voice that speaks to a loyal, engaged following developed without taking shortcuts. “I’m a micro-influencer as opposed to someone who has 80,000 followers. But I went a very authentic route to get them. I don’t have huge numbers but I have a very engaged community,” says Dolores-Gavin, adding that certain issues coming to the fore may have helped brands to realise the input that micro-bloggers can have as part of their social media strategy. “Authenticity – it springs up through our content and we have to be so aware of that. If you say one thing and the next thing you say something else, it’s not being very authentic, is it?” Ultimately, it’s important to ensure that – as with any traditional advertising – you’re getting maximum return from your investment. Going through a reputable firm such as Irish Blogger Agency can play a big step in partnering with someone that will add real value to your plans. “It’s definitely growing,” Carroll says of the influencer marketing sphere, noting that while traditional advertising and networking remains important, this is a helpful addition. “I think influencers are becoming more professional and there are guidelines now that the ASAI have put in place, so everything is transparent – if you’re in collaboration you have to include your #ad #sponsored post. I think it’s good because there’s so many possibilities out there now on social media to get your brand out in front of everybody, and why not use a platform that people have followers on already to promote your business?”

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FINANCE

Decrypting Bitcoin The global hospitality sector is warming to the potential of bitcoin payments. We take a brief look at what’s involved.

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FINANCE

A

ccording to a report by RTÉ, cryptocurrency bitcoin has experienced a spike in value in recent months, currently hovering around the €6,000 mark (1 BTC = €6,063). The digital currency – one of quite a number – has been around since 2012 and is a form of electronic cash without a central regulator or administrator (such as the Central Bank). Essentially, a bitcoin transaction moves a certain amount of bitcoin between two digital wallets without going through a bank. In between is the blockchain, a public ledger that records all bitcoin transactions (verified through a process known as mining). “By analogy it is like being able to send a gold coin via email. It is a consensus network that enables a new payment system and a completely digital money,” according to WeUseCoins, an online resource that provides a wide range of information about bitcoin and the blockchain. “It is the first decentralized peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen. Bitcoin was the first practical implementation and is currently the most prominent triple entry bookkeeping system in existence.” A number of businesses across Ireland’s hospitality sector are currently accepting this and/or other cryptocurrencies. So what are the benefits of accepting bitcoin payments as a merchant? Firstly, there are low (or no) fees with most bitcoin payment processors charging around 1 per cent or less per transaction. The possibility of chargebacks are removed as bitcoin sent to a merchant can’t be recalled without the merchant’s permission, fraud is reduced as both parties must approve a transaction, and you can accept bitcoin payments from anywhere in the world. It’s also a way to get noticed – using a bitcoin logo on your website or perhaps on the door of your premises could attract a new customer market looking for places to spend their bitcoin. It is important to note that these transactions are a bit slower, usually taking several minutes to complete as you wait for verification. “To get set up, all a merchant would need is an application on their phone/tablet to accept payment in bitcoin or any other cryptocurrencies. There are also options to convert cryptocurrency into euro through dedicated physical cryptocurrency point of sale terminals or via payment plugins if it’s an online business,” explains Peter Nagle, co-founder of Bitcove, an Irish bitcoin exchange platform that has been at the heart of promoting cryptocurrency in Ireland since 2014, and which allows users to buy or sell bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies. “The main disadvantage is the set up, you would need to have a good WiFi connection and may need to offer some instruction to staff on how to handle crypto payments. Other than that it should be pretty stress-free to get up and running accepting cryptocurrencies.” That’s not to say that it’s a trouble-free concept. Many investors view it as an asset rather than a currency, some (like JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon) believe it’s a fraud, others have raised concerns about price volatility, while Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph

Stiglitz has criticised its anonymity and the potential for its use in criminal enterprises. In Ireland, the Central Bank has stated that virtual currencies “do not have legal tender status, and are not guaranteed or regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland, or any other central bank in the EU.” On the flip side, UK bank Barclays agreed a deal earlier this year to partner with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. And, in the US, it was reported in May that Goldman Sachs plans to open Wall Street’s first bitcoin trading operation. At the end of the day, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons and decide whether it’s the right fit for your particular situation. “Interest in cryptocurrencies has grown massively amongst the general public in Ireland over the past few years. Unfortunately we haven’t yet witnessed a major rise in merchant adoption here domestically like has been witnessed in other countries, notably in South Korea and Japan,” says Nagle, noting that Bitcove is currently compiling a list of all Irish merchants who accept cryptocurrency. “Research obtained by The Irish Times suggests about 120,000 people in Ireland own a cryptocurrency. This is a figure which is expected to grow strongly in the coming years as cryptocurrencies become more accessible and simpler to use. With the strong surge in cryptocurrency ownership in Ireland, it would suggest it’s only a matter of time before more merchants adopt it as a payment method to reach out to these owners.” Information provided in this piece is general in nature and does not constitute financial advice or recommendation. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

Bitcoin tools

If you’re interested in adding facilities for bitcoin payments, the process is relatively simple. “If a retailer has an online store, they can use the popular website plug-in Shopify to accept bitcoin on their website or use cryptocurrency payment plugins such as BitPay or Coinbase Commerce on their website,” says Nagle. “A retailer could also download a simple app on [their] phone or tablet device to use a wallet direct from the likes of blockchain.info, where they can receive bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Payment processer BitPay also offers point-of-sale terminals catering for both traditional and tabletbased payment systems.”

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Partner PROFILE

The Perfect Date WEDDINGSDATES.IE FOUNDER CIARA CROSSAN OUTLINES HOW THEY CAN INCREASE LEADS FOR WEDDING VENUES.

W

eddingDates is the type of idea that, when you hear about it, begs the question ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ The concept is quite simple but very effective – the online platform connects engaged couples with wedding venues that have availability for the dates they have in mind, generating relevant enquiries, increasing leads and maximising revenue by filling unsold inventory. It’s quite the success story. Founder Ciara Crossan (whose family background is in the hotel trade) started the business back in 2008 with a laptop and a copy of the Yellow Pages, adding the details of Irish hotels to a basic spreadsheet and launching in October with 30 hotels – many still with the business a decade later. In between she conducted extensive market research, made an appearance on Dragon’s Den, and oversaw significant organic expansion; today it’s a business that works with 700 hotels across Ireland and the UK. Interested? The process is very straightforward. For an annual subscription fee, wedding venues receive a detailed full page listing on WeddingDates.ie (marketing text, photos, downloadable brochures and menus), and can set their availability using the company’s enquiry management software – enquiries are only received for dates that are available to sell. Customer queries are emailed instantly

The WeddingDates.ie team. Photo: Diane Cusack

to the hotel’s inbox and can be accessed through the software to set reminders or track their value. In addition, there’s instant access to real-time info on how the hotel business is performing – discover listing views, the conversion rate of enquiries to bookings and much more. “The massive benefit for hotels is that it drives leads to them for dates they’re trying to sell. It’s about helping them fill their unsold inventory, to get weddings in the off-peak season, mid-week et cetera,” Crossan explains. “The other big benefit for hotels is all of the time and administration that is saved. Our system is basically an online enquiry management system. All of their enquiries are logged, they can write notes, they can

set reminders at various key points in the enquiry journey. Emails will be triggered – the hotel can either send them as they are or edit the content beforehand. For example, two days before you’re due to show them around the venue, an email is automatically created to send to the couple. Or six months before the wedding, an email will be generated to prompt customers to come and pay their next deposit. These features make it very seamless in terms of communication between the hotel and the couple. Clearly it’s working. Thanks to WeddingDates.ie, those Irish hotels have generated €47.5

million in revenue through 5,500 weddings. In the UK, that figure rises to 7,500 weddings and another €40m in revenue. For those still a little unsure, there’s a money-back guarantee if they don’t get a wedding in the first year. “The only way we can offer that guarantee is because we know the success,” Crossan notes. “We know that it works and we stand over it.” For more information or to take the next step, phone +353 (0)21 237 3490 or visit www.weddingdates.ie

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FINALIST ANNOUNCEMENT The Gold Medal Awards, in association with Hotel & Catering Review magazine, are delighted to announce the finalists for the 2018 awards. These awards celebrate the outstanding achievements of the hotel and catering sector throughout the country over the past 12 months. They also recognise and reward the high standards of excellence in terms of both the physical product and the level of service that is being delivered in our industry. After 3 months of travelling all corners of the country and visiting every single property that entered the awards, hours of meetings and further discussions, the Gold Medal Awards Judging Panel are proud to announce the finalists in each category.

SAVE THE DATE

of the

GOLD MEDAL AWARDS in association with Hotel & Catering Review as the leading independent awards programme for the Irish hospitality industry.

@HC_Review | #GMA2018

Join us on Tuesday, September 25th in the Lyrath Estate, Co Kilkenny where the winners of each category will be announced.

hotelandcateringreview.ie/awards

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IRELAND’S FIVE STAR HOTEL Sponsored by Astoria Partnership • Adare Manor, Limerick • Ashford Castle, Mayo • Castlemartyr Resort, Cork • Dromoland Castle Hotel, Clare • Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Galway • InterContinental Dublin, Dublin • Park Hotel Kenmare, Kerry • Sheen Falls Lodge, Kerry • The Dunloe Hotel and Gardens, Kerry • The Europe Hotel & Resort, Kerry

IRELAND’S FOUR STAR HOTEL Sponsored by Sodexo • Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Galway • Castleknock Hotel, Dublin • Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, Dublin • Garryvoe Hotel, Munster • Kelly’s Resort Hotel & Spa, Wexford • Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa, Roscommon • The Maryborough Hotel, Cork • The Croke Park Hotel, Dublin • The Galmont Hotel & Spa, Galway • The Lodge @ Castle Leslie Estate, Monaghan

IRELAND’S FOUR STAR RESORT • Castle Leslie Estate, Monaghan • Galgorm Resort & Spa, Antrim • Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, Cork • Knightsbrook Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, Meath • Seafield Hotel & Spa Resort, Wexford • The Johnstown Estate, Meath

• Killeen House Hotel, Kerry • Newgrange Hotel, Meath • The Ardboyne Hotel, Meath • The Inn @ Dromoland, Clare • The Kenmare Bay Hotel & Resort, Kerry • The Wyatt Hotel, Mayo • Uppercross Hotel, Dublin

IRELAND’S COUNTRY HOUSE & GUEST HOUSE Sponsored by Smartbox • Ard na Sidhe Country House, Kerry • Cahernane House Hotel, Kerry • Castlewood House Hotel, Kerry • Gregans Castle Hotel, Clare • Marlfield House Hotel, Wexford • Mount Falcon Estate, Mayo • Number 31, Dublin • Tankardstown House, Meath • The Old Bank House, Cork • Viewmount House, Longford

IRELAND’S FIVE STAR HOTEL SPA EXPERIENCE

• Celtic Ross Hotel, Cork • Conyngham Arms Hotel, Meath

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IRELAND’S HOTEL BREAKFAST • Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Galway • Castlewood House, Kerry • Cork International Hotel, Cork • Great Southern Hotel, Kerry • Harvey’s Point Hotel, Donegal • Lyrath Estate, Kilkenny • Marlfield House Hotel, Wexford • Number 31, Dublin • The Gulfstream Restaurant @ Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa, Cork • The Montenotte Hotel, Cork

Sponsored by Hoist Group • The Spa @ Castlemartyr Resort, Cork • ESPA @ The Europe Hotel & Resort, Kerry • ESPA @ The g Hotel, Galway • Sámas Spa @ Park Hotel Kenmare, Kerry • The Spa @ Muckross House Hotel & Spa, Kerry • The Spa @ Adare Manor, Limerick • The Spa @ Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa, Kerry • The Spa @ Ashford Castle, Mayo

IRELAND’S FOUR STAR HOTEL SPA EXPERIENCE Sponsored by Sodexo

IRELAND’S THREE STAR HOTEL

• Oceo Spa, Seafield Hotel & Spa Resort, Wexford • Spirit One Spa, The Galmont Hotel & Spa, Galway • The Spa at Castleknock Hotel, Dublin • The Spa at Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa, Roscommon • The Spa at the Kingsley Hotel, Cork • The Spa at Galgorm Resort & Spa, Antrim • The Wells Spa, BrookLodge & Macreddin Village, Wicklow

• Angsana Spa, The Brehon, Kerry • Maryborough Hotel Spa, Cork • Nádúr Spa, Ballygarry House, Hotel & Spa, Kerry

IRELAND’S FAMILY FRIENDLY HOTEL • Breaffy House Resort, Mayo • Clayton Hotel Liffey Valley, Dublin • Dingle Skellig Hotel, Kerry • Hodson Bay Hotel, Roscommon • Hotel Westport, Mayo • Mulranny Park Hotel, Mayo • Newpark Hotel with Escape Health Club & Aveda Spa, Kilkenny • Sligo Park Hotel & Leisure Club, Sligo • The Inn at Dromoland, Clare • The Kenmare Bay Hotel & Resort, Kerry

IRELAND’S CITY HOTEL Sponsored by Avvio • Absolute Hotel Limerick, Limerick • Conrad Dublin, Dublin • Dylan Hotel, Dublin

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• Harbour Hotel, Galway • Hilton Hotel Kilmainham, Dublin • InterContinental, Dublin • Limerick Strand Hotel, Limerick • North Star Hotel, Dublin • Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin • The Galmont Hotel & Spa, Galway

• doylecollection.com/hotels/thecroke-park-hotel The Croke Park Hotel, Dublin • themontenottehotel.com The Montenotte Hotel, Cork • icehousehotel.ie The Ice House Hotel, Mayo

IRELAND’S BUSINESS HOTEL

IRELAND’S EVENT CATERER

• Conrad, Dublin • Cork Airport Hotel, Cork • Dylan Hotel, Dublin • Horse & Jockey Hotel, Tipperary • Limerick Strand Hotel, Limerick • North Star Hotel, Dublin • Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin • Red Cow Moran Hotel, Dublin • Sheraton Athlone Hotel, Westmeath • The Croke Park Hotel, Dublin

• Aramark, Croke Park, Dublin • John Coughlan Event Catering - Aramark (Irish National Hunt Festival Punchestown Racecourse) • Masterchefs Hospitality - Seafest, Galway 2018 • Naomi’s Kitchen, Dublin • Seasons @ Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

IRELAND’S SITE CONTRACT CATERER Sponsored by Excel Recruitment

IRELAND’S WEDDING HOTEL Sponsored by WeddingDates.ie

• Ballyseede Castle, Kerry • Castlemartyr Resort, Cork • Galgorm Resort & Spa, Antrim • The Garryvoe Hotel, Cork • Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Galway • Hotel Doolin, Clare • Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa, Roscommon • Markree Castle, Sligo • Marlfield House, Wexford • The Brehon, Kerry

• Aramark PWC, Dublin • Brook Food Services, Eatsmart @ Regeneron, Limerick • Corporate Catering Services, Axa Shannon, Clare • KC Peaches Cafe and Catering, Dublin • Sodexo, Central Bank of Ireland, Dublin • Sodexo, Dell EMC, Dublin • Sodexo, Eli Lily Kinsale, Cork • Sodexo, NUIG, Galway • The Q Cafe Company, Eurofound, Dublin • The Q Cafe Company, Waters Technologies, Wexford

IRELAND’S BEST HOTEL WEBSITE • adaremanor.com Adare Manor, Limerick • ballynahinch-castle.com Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Galway • marlfieldhouse.com Marlfield House Hotel, Wexford • mountjuliet.ie Mount Juliet Estate, Kilkenny • seafieldhotel.com Seafield Hotel & Spa Resort, Wexford • sheenfallslodge.ie Sheen Falls Lodge, Kerry

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IRELAND’S HEALTHCARE CATERER • Aramark, University Hospital Galway, Galway • Marymount University Hospital & Hospice, Cork • National Maternity Hospital, Dublin • St Patrick’s University Hospital Catering Department, Dublin • The Q Cafe Company, Bon Secours Care Village, Cork • The Q Cafe Company, Bridhaven Nursing Home, Cork

IRELAND’S FINE DINING RESTAURANT • Brunel’s Restaurant, Down • Eala Bhan, Sligo • Glovers Alley, Dublin • La Côte Seafood Restaurant, Wexford • Ristorante Rinunccini’s, Kilkenny • Wild & Native Seafood Restaurant, Wexford

IRELAND’S FINE DINING RESTAURANT - HOTEL • Dromoland Castle Hotel, Clare • Nephin Restaurant, The Mulranny Park Hotel, Mayo • Oak Room, Adare Manor, Limerick • Orchids Restaurant, Hayfield Manor, Cork • Park Hotel Kenmare, Kerry • Pullman Restaurant, Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Galway • The George V Dining Room, Ashford Castle, Mayo • The Herbert Restaurant, Cahernane House Hotel, Kerry • The Lady Helen Restaurant, Mount Juliet Estate, Kilkenny • The Strawberry Tree Restaurant, BrookLodge & Macreddin Village, Wicklow

IRELAND’S CASUAL DINING RESTAURANT • Flanagan’s Gastro Pub, Mayo • Hamlet’s of Kinsale, Cork • John Keogh’s The Lock Keeper, Galway • JP Clarke’s, Clare • Kealy’s Seafood Bar, Donegal • Mikey Ryan’s Bar & Kitchen, Tipperary • O’Grady’s on the Pier, Galway • Rive Gauche, Kilkenny • Saba Restaurant, Baggot Street, Dublin • The Tavern, Mayo

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IRELAND’S CASUAL DINING EXPERIENCE - HOTEL

IRELAND’S GUEST EXPERIENCE

• Castletroy Park Hotel, Limerick • Celtic Ross Hotel, Cork • Dingle Skellig Hotel, Kerry • Eccles Hotel, Cork • Harpers Restaurant, Kilkenny • Hibernian Hotel, Kilkenny • Seafield Hotel & Spa Resort, Wexford • The Blue Haven, Cork • The Brasserie, The Europe Hotel & Resort, Kerry • The Duck Restaurant @ Marlfield House Hotel, Wexford • The Grill Restaurant, The Dunloe Hotel and Gardens, Kerry

• Adare Manor, Limerick • Ballynahinch Castle, Galway • Dingle Skellig Hotel, Kerry • Dromoland Castle Hotel, Clare • Great Southern Killarney, Kerry • Harvey’s Point Hotel, Donegal • Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, Cork • Number 31, Dublin • The Blue Haven, Cork • The Brehon, Kerry

IRELAND’S NEWCOMER RESTAURANT • Fire & Salt Restaurant, The Johnstown Estate, Westmeath • Fisk Seafood Bar, Donegal • Glovers Alley, Dublin • John Keogh’s The Lock Keeper, Galway • McGettigans Cookhouse & Bar, KingsWood, Dublin • Restaurant Chestnut, Cork • Saba Restaurant, Baggot Street, Dublin • The Grill & Bar, Lyrath Estate, Kilkenny • The Station at Molloys, Dublin • Tom’s Table, Red Cow Moran Hotel, Dublin

IRELAND’S WINE EXPERIENCE • Ashford Castle, Mayo • Bellinter House, Co Meath • Brabazon Restaurant, Tankardstown House, Meath • Dromoland Castle Hotel, Clare • Glovers Alley, Dublin • Hayfield Manor, Cork • Kealy’s Seafood Bar, Donegal • Sheen Falls Lodge, Kerry

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Sponsored by Net Affinity

IRELAND’S MENU PROVENANCE AWARD Sponsored by Greenall’s London Dry Gin • Aghadoe Heights Hotel & Spa, Kerry • Aldridge Lodge, Wexford • Celtic Ross Hotel, Cork • Gregans Castle Hotel, Clare • Limerick Strand Hotel, Limerick • Park Hotel Kenmare, Kerry

IRELAND’S FAVOURITE PLACE TO STAY (PUBLIC VOTE) IRELAND’S FRONT OF HOUSE TEAM/ TEAM MEMBER • Ballyseede Castle, Kerry • Glovers Alley, Dublin • Hayfield Manor, Cork • John Moriarty, Park Hotel Kenmare, Kerry • Stephen Foley, Killeen House Hotel, Kerry • The Dingle Skellig, Kerry • The Q Cafe Company, Sports Surgery Clinic, Dublin • The Wyatt Hotel, Mayo

IRELAND’S CHEF OF THE YEAR • Andy McFadden, Glovers Alley, Dublin • Chad Byrne, The Brehon, Kerry • Dave Gorman, Q Cafe Company, Dublin • David McCann, Dromoland Castle Hotel, Clare • Derek Reilly, Aramak, Dublin • Ken Harker, Mount Juliet Estate, Kilkenny • Paul Hynes, La Côte Seafood Restaurant, Wexford • Peter Jackson, Armada Hotel, Clare • Philippe Farineau, Ashford Castle, Mayo • Taweesak Trakoolwattana @ Saba Restaurant, Dublin

Sponsored by Irish Independent All hotels, country houses and guest houses that are finalists in the Gold Medal Awards have also been entered into the People’s Choice category. The top property from each province will be revealed on the night of the Gold Medal Awards with the overall winner taking the trophy home.

OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD The winner of this category was chosen by the judging panel for their outstanding contribution to their service and will be awarded on the night of the Gold Medal Awards.

SUPREME WINNER This award is the Irish hospitality industry’s highest accolade. The winner of this category is chosen by the judging panel after all site inspections are completed and is recognised on the night of the Gold Medal Awards.

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FOOD HEROES

Culinary flaır Cahernane

PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHICMEMORY.IE/CAHERNANE HOUSE HOTEL

BELOW: Eric Kavanagh. RIGHT: Cahernane House

Conor Forrest travelled to Killarney to meet Eric Kavanagh, Head Chef at Cahernane House Hotel.

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here’s an undeniable charm about Cahernane House Hotel. Standing on the edge of the bustling tourist town of Killarney, the house comes into view at the end of a sheltered laneway and is surrounded by green meadows and grazing livestock, backing onto Lough Leane and the wildly beautiful Killarney National Park. Originally built here in 1877, it was restored to its former glory by PREM Group in 2016 when they took over, thanks to an investment of €6.5 million. That feeling extends inside – warm décor that speaks to another century, a grand wooden staircase, an intimate cellar below ground and a menu that entrances the taste buds. Sitting in the cellar, I tucked into what was undoubtedly the best cottage pie I’ve tasted in my life – ground Black Angus beef, creamy smoked potato, parsnip mash and perfectly roasted root vegetables, a fusion of tastes and textures that combine into manna for the tastebuds. The man behind such culinary delights is Eric Kavanagh, now in his second stint at Cahernane House but with a varied career in his wake. We take a seat in the richlydecorated study just off the main entrance, chatting about his work in the kitchen and how it feels to be back in Killarney. It soon becomes apparent that Eric had a flair for cooking from a young age, rustling up his first crêpe when he was just six or seven. “When I was at home, if you wanted something you made it yourself,” he says with a smile. “If you wanted to make something nice you made it, it wasn’t a question of buying it.” That ability remained with him over the years, undoubtedly encouraged by his father Sean who is a qualified chef. After finishing at a now-defunct hotel school, the man from Douglas enjoyed spells at Sheen Falls, Rathsallagh House and Marfield House Hotel, alongside broadening his horizons abroad in New Zealand (where he encountered the influences of contemporary French cooking) and Canada, where he worked with fine dining establishment Opus restaurant in Toronto. Much of his inspiration, however, was gleaned from William O’Callaghan, proprietor of Longueville House just outside Mallow – Eric spent a decade here honing his trade over two spells, which he describes as a “massive” influence. “I was there twice, we won a lot of awards together,” he says. “Just the gardens and stuff like that, the impatience of knowing that something is growing and wanting it the month before it’s actually ready. He has so much land... there’s elderflower on the property, there’s wild garlic on the property, there’s loads of other wild food on it as well. Working with the produce that we had, that was two hours old – it teaches you a lot about freshness and it shows you the difference between knowing what’s fresh and what’s been inside a storage facility for three or four days before it gets to you, and being almost five days old before you try to use it. It’s not new anymore.” FRESH FOCUS That varied background has come together on his return to Cahernane House, taking over as Head Chef at the two AA Rosette Herbert Restaurant back in the summer of 2017. His focus, as learned on the job in Longueville, is on securing the best-quality ingredients in as fresh a condition

FOOD HEROES

One of Cahernane’s richlyfurnished bedrooms

as possible – but also being willing to let food items go after three days to maintain the high standards customers have come to expect. Local food is undoubtedly a priority, but the overall quality of the cuisine is what’s key in Eric’s kitchen. “You really want the local stuff. But at the same time, if they’re not making it well enough or if they’re not producing it good enough, and you still want that product, you have to make a choice. Either you’re going to get it from somewhere that produces a good enough version of it or try something else,” he explains. “If there’s nothing else that you want to put on [the menu], then you need to go for something that’s further away. Even though I definitely like the idea of putting on as much Irish stuff as possible, there has to be a standard as well. That’s the way I would see it.” The menu at Cahernane is quite focused, with the aim of producing a smaller number of options to the highest standards – bread, amusebouche and a choice of five starters, two middle courses, five main courses, four desserts and cheese. Rather than overhaul the menu on a seasonal basis, Eric favours changes throughout the year – for example, when lamb came into season he added that as an extra main course, or when certain vegetables or garnishes are available they replace like for like. While there’s scope to mix and change ingredients depending on the circumstances, Eric likes to have a plan in place to guide the kitchen over the course of the year. “During January and February, when we’re closed, I’ll make a plan – I’ll write out dishes,” he tells me. “As we’re going along, I’ll test them out closer to the time and then we put them on the menu. It’s a seasonal, yearly plan cast across the whole year, and then you know [what] you’re putting in place. Some of your ideas don’t work and some do.” One of his favourite dishes at the moment combines quail with a rare pork belly cured with sage, rosemary and other items from the hotel’s own garden. “We cure that and salt it... then after that we braize it. We debone a quail then as well and just put a little bit of thyme seasoning into it, [then] we re-roll that,” he says, and I find myself salivating as I picture the dish. “During service you cook it sous-vide

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ONE THING THAT I TELL PEOPLE WHEN THEY’RE COMING IN IS THAT THERE HAS TO BE A BASIC LEVEL OF RESPECT FOR ALL OF THE OTHER STAFF AS WELL. and you’re kind of blazing it then. It’s got a really high shine, it’s lacquered with a white wine jus on top of it. It’s nice! We’ve got some girolle mushrooms and things like that with it too.” But, apart from the food, Eric also places an emphasis on life in the kitchen beyond the cooking, and it’s clear he’s determined to provide a workspace that’s both enjoyable and free from the type of atmosphere or culture that might be present elsewhere in the industry. “One thing that I tell people when they’re coming in is that there has to be a basic level of respect for all of the other staff as well. I don’t want to have a kitchen where people are being disrespectful to the rest of the kitchen staff because somebody is not as experienced or not as fast or anything else like that – there’s a basic level of respect that everyone gets no matter what,” he explains. The result is a team that enjoys what they do – the likes of Sous Chef Scott, a Canadian who previously worked in the Cliffhouse and had his own restaurant back home; Junior Sous Chris who came from the Killarney Park; Pastry Chef Joanna who arrived from Muckross and Rita who looks after breakfast five days a week. So what’s the most enjoyable aspect of working behind the scenes at Cahernane? “The cooking!” Eric responds with a laugh. “There is a lot more to it than just cooking, as in the organisation, making sure that we have the stuff that we need to order, rostering [et cetera]. But it’s actually [about] cooking and service – the reason why you get into it in the first place is to cook, because you enjoy it and being creative or whatever else you’re doing... that’s the fun bit.” A CRITICAL EYE Eric’s drive, passion and enthusiasm for all things culinary is clear when he talks – he has already put his stamp on the food scene at Cahernane and great things are undoubtedly on the road ahead for a restaurant that has already earned two AA Rosettes. I ask Eric about those awards and the impact they can have on a chef, whether he takes inspiration from that success. His answer is direct, honest, and refreshing – there are no unnecessary airs or graces about this man, a chef who knows what he’s doing and what he wants to do. “It’s good to have the Rosettes and all of that kind of stuff, but [it’s really about]... concentrating on improving all of the time and going forward, [rather] than relaxing

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Eric Kavanagh

Eric Kavanagh on... Changes at Cahernane: “It’s busier than it was before. There’s a bigger team.” Diners: “There’s a lot of people that would know what they’re looking for when it comes to food.” Fresh food: “The freshness part is the [most important], that you’re working off fresh food and you’re willing to let stuff go after three days.”

and saying ‘Yeah, we have this, so we’ll keep to that’. That’s the whole point of planning everything out – to improve it each year, start refining things and moving on so that everybody is improving together, and pushing ourselves so that the standard isn’t static, it’s flexible, [moving] upwards,” he says after a pause for thought. “Scott would be the same and Chris would be the same – we don’t want to relax and we don’t want to keep it the way it is... it’s that kind of constant improvement all of the time. As well as that, you don’t become complacent or selfcongratulatory, we’re not just sitting there telling each other how brilliant we are. [We are] actually trying to criticise what we’re doing and say ‘Is there something we can do to make this better?’” So far, so good.

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Tel: (051) 421 239 Mob: (087) 252 0137 Fax: (051) 422 866 Email: Liz@hartedesigns.ie Butlersland Industrial Estate, New Ross, Co Wexford, Ireland

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04/09/2018 12:40


INTERIORS

Interior DESIGN The Renovation Edition

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Faithlegg House Hotel Faithlegg showcases the results of a recent refurbishment and rebranding project.

Old Ground Hotel, Ennis We take a look at The Old Ground Hotel's €300,000 makeover of its Banner Room banqueting suite.

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INTERIORS

Faithlegg HOTEL

Faithlegg Hotel has completed a recent €1.5 million rebrand and refurbishment project.

LIZ HARTE INTERIORS Liz Harte has vast experience in interior design for commercial interiors, working in this sector for many years. She works closely with clients to present new ideas and concepts to enhance an existing building or a complete design – the client brief and vision is always the starting point, with budget, timescale and turnaround time major considerations. Previous feedback from hotel guests is always considered at the planning stage as comments or suggestions can often influence the layout and ambience of an area. Every project is different and hotels and bars now strive for uniqueness and individuality as the expectations of the customer ever increase. Liam Moran and his team at Faithlegg House Hotel were fantastic to work with and Liz wishes them every success in the future. T: +353 (0)87 252 0137 E: liz@hartedesigns.ie

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aterford’s Faithlegg Hotel recently unveiled its new rebrand and refurbishment, the aim of which was to encapsulate everything Faithlegg has to offer and more, a visual rejuvenation that would capture a sense of old-world charm (albeit clean and polished), a modern and fresh brand with a timeless quality where the first visit feels like coming home. Overseen by designer Liz Harte, 14 master bedrooms were upgraded in the hotel’s old Manor House, with 68 deluxe bedrooms revamped in the hotel’s new wing. Fresh and vivid new colour schemes were employed by Harte, paired with curtains and accessories in complementary shades and patterns (working with Waterford-based Ormond Soft Furnishings). Colours vary from room to room, such as warm heather and lilac colourways with box pelmets or a bold pink shade with an abstract floral design matched in the cushions and pelmets. Furnishings include four-poster beds or deeply buttoned upholstered headboards, wingback chairs and polished mahogany tables. Alongside the restaurant, the Adelaide Blake Suite has also been refurbished using shades of old gold, silvery grey and rich I JUST THINK THE cream, alongside classic plaid carpet, GREATEST PART and subtle patterned wallpaper. The Board Room, meanwhile, OF THE DELIVERY now features vibrant colours such as WAS LIZ HARTE’S apricot, coral and burnt orange – vintage handblock-style wallpaper EXPERTISE. with birds and flowers echoes the views of the gardens beyond. “I just think the greatest part of the delivery was Liz Harte’s expertise,” notes General Manager Liam Moran. “Her remit was to make sure that she delivered on that old-world charm and that all of the design and colour schemes were in keeping with that, but equally a sense of luxury. She certainly delivered on that.” For more information see www.faithlegg.com.

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INTERIORS

EVERGREEN INTERIORS Evergreen Interiors now specialise in very high-quality artificial planting, to enhance your bar/ restaurant/reception areas. We import direct from source, so can offer very competitive pricing structures. T: +353 (0)21 477 2068 W: www.evergreeninteriors.ie

ORMOND SOFT FURNISHINGS A well-established company based in Waterford, Ormond Soft Furnishings prides itself on its family ethos and a commitment to an approachable and highly personal service, which results in distinctive designs that really work for its clients – including Faithlegg Hotel. The business provides curtains and Roman blinds, a range of beautiful fabrics and wallpaper, curtain trimmings like fringes and fan edges, and various accessories and haberdashery. Ormond Soft Furnishings can work with a blank canvas, provides a free detailed estimate from approximate measurements, matches existing schemes, and operates a call-out service. T: +353 (0)51 820830 W: www.ormondsoftfurnishings.ie

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QUALITILE One of the most recognisable names in tiles and tiling in Waterford and the southeast, Qualitile has become synonymous with quality, value and style – Sean and his team have over 40 years’ experience in the industry. They have everything you need under the one roof, from traditional tiles to ultra-modern bathroom furniture, and offer a personal design and installation service, samples on request, area and quantity calculation, technical advice, and delivery nationwide. Qualitile is proud to have contributed to the fantastic project that has been recently completed at Faithlegg House Hotel. T: +353 (0)51 852522 W: www.qualitile.ie

CASTLEINCH CARPETS LTD. Castleinch Carpets Ltd., based in Brownstown, Castleinch, Kilkenny, imports, supplies and installs highquality carpets directly to the hospitality industry around Ireland. We are very pleased to be associated with the recent refurbishment of Faithlegg House, a significant project in Waterford, to which we contributed in terms of a visual revitalisation of the hotel as it sought to incorporate a sense of timeless quality. Contact us to discover more about our services and how we can help on your next project. T: +353 (0)56 772 9037 M: +353 (0)87 252 4774 E: bosco.nolan@gmail.com Director: John Nolan

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INTERIORS

MIRRORS.IE Mirrors.ie is delighted to have been involved in the fit-out at Faithlegg House Hotel, working closely with interior designer Liz Harte. The company supplied and fitted mirrors to all bedrooms and bathrooms. Two bespoke gilt-framed mirrors (140cm x 140cm) over dressing tables and full-length (60cm x 200cm) to bedrooms. One silverframed mirror (100cm x 100cm) to bathrooms. Mirrors.ie works closely with sister company twglass.ie on all major hotel fitouts. More recent contracts this year include Cahernane House Hotel Killarney, The Riverside Park Enniscorthy and The Tower Hotel, Waterford. T: +353 (0)51 355935 W: www.mirrors.ie

CREMINS MOISELLE Cremins Moiselle worked with Liz Harte on the interior design of the hotel, supplying highquality wallpaper designs across the premises. At the heart of the company is a passion for relationships – with their fabrics, with clients, and the relationship their clients develop with the quality, design and dependability on offer. Their focus lies in sourcing the highest-quality materials with inspirational textures, colours and patterns. They work with you to bring out the character of the spaces they create – spaces that speak with personality and emotion. Share in their passion and together create something beautiful. T: +353 (0)1 204 2848 W: creminsmoiselle.com

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Castleinch Carpets Ltd Are very pleased to have been chosen to supply and install Axminister carpet to Faithlegg House refurbishement.

Best wishes to Liam and his team.

Mirrors.ie Phone: 056 772 9037 • Mob: 087 252 4774 Email: bosco.nolan@gmail.com Address: Esker Lodge, Brownstown, Castleinch, Kilkenny.

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Custom made dressing mirror, full length dressing mirror and framed bathroom mirror supplied and fitted to all rooms at Faithlegg House Hotel

www.mirrors.ie Tel: 051 355 935 or 086 074 0942

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24/08/2018 10:15

HASSETT LEYDEN & ASSOCIATES CHARTERED ARCHITECTS, ENGINEERS AND PROJECT MANAGERS

Evergreen Interiors have been providing Interior Planting to the Hotel & Catering Industry since 1987. We specialise in High Quality Artificial Planting which we import directly, to guarantee competitive pricing.

Contact us on (021) 477 2068 (087) 257 2155 info@evergreeninteriors.ie

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Hassett Leyden & Associates is a quality-oriented architectural and engineering company based in Ennis. Regardless of the size and complexity of the project, they produce exceptional solutions to customer design needs while satisfying the intangible aspects of customer desires including the essential requirements of building regulations and planning laws.

4 Bindon Street, Ennis, Co Clare Tel: (065) 682 0379 Fax: (065) 682 0379 Email: hlamail@hassettleyden.ie

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INTERIORS

The Old Ground The Old Ground Hotel in Ennis has unveiled a major upgrade of its banqueting facilities.

HOTEL

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he Old Ground Hotel in Ennis, a member of the Flynn Hotel Group, has completed a significant €300,000 makeover of its Banner Room banqueting suite, following substantial wedding trade in recent times. The refurbished suite combines the warmth of a country house with the luxury of a contemporary Irish hotel – a space to rival the finest wedding venues. The four-star hotel is steeped in history and is situated right on the doorstep of the Cliffs of Moher and the Wild Atlantic Way, boasting immaculate private gardens. Part of the project requirements was the need to respect and maintain the feeling of grandeur while upgrading to create a luxurious, contemporary space. Shades of golden sand and teal blue throughout the room reflect the hotel’s proximity to the Wild Atlantic Way, while soft grey panelling complements the rich golden embossed wallpaper featuring a platinum floral pattern finish. Other highlights include plush ceiling to floor velvet curtains, luxurious soft carpet, crushed velvet upholstery on couches and chairs, elegant chandeliers, tall table lamps with suede shades, and a fabulous ice-grey marble-topped bar counter in place of the old bar - the new addition was designed by Paul Haffey Design, Belfast. The project was led by Lucinda Batt from The Interior Library, who has a 20-year association with the hotel and has worked in interior design for the past three decades; proprietor Allen Flynn provided significant input on all elements of the refurbishment. “The ballroom is of a standard of any of the five-star hotels,” she notes. “I love colour and I know, most importantly, that you do something that will stand up to the test of time.” As part of a total bedroom refurbishment project throughout the property, two air-conditioned Deluxe bedrooms were added to the hotel’s Manor House, featuring luxurious furnishings and a colour palette of pale duck egg blue, soft grey, soft beige and rich cream. “Over the years, countless brides and grooms have chosen to let the team at The Old Ground Hotel take care of them on their special day,” said Mary Gleeson, General Manager. “Our team is committed to making dream weddings come to life by ensuring that every detail is executed to absolute perfection, and our newly-renovated Banner Room is the ideal space to celebrate with loved ones and create memories to last a lifetime.”

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HASSETT LEYDEN & ASSOCIATES Hassett Leyden & Associates is a quality-oriented architectural and engineering firm based in Ennis. Regardless of the project size and complexity, it produces exceptional solutions while satisfying intangible aspects including building regulations and planning laws. The firm has had a long-standing relationship with the Old Ground Hotel over the past 20 years, being involved in the restoration and remodel of many sections including the dining room, Poet’s Corner and the main ballroom. The firm also provided its expertise in the hotel’s expansion; designing and managing the ambitious extension including the provision of an additional floor and the restoration of the old house to executive bedrooms. T: +353 (0) 65 682 8422 E: hlamail@hassettleyden.ie

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UTILITIES

say no to

SINGLE-USE A number of Irish and international businesses are removing their reliance on single-use plastic items.

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arlier this year, the world’s first plastic-free supermarket opened in Amsterdam. A collaboration between organic supermarket chain Ekoplaza, Dutch advocacy group Plastic Soup Foundation and British environmental group A Plastic Planet, everything on its shelves is packaged using glass, paper, aluminium or biomaterials. Plans are in place to expand this across their chain of 74 branches throughout the country. That move is part of a worldwide war on single-use plastics, with around 50 per cent of all plastic items produced used just once before they’re thrown away. At the beginning of the summer, the EU announced an intended crackdown on single-use plastics to help reduce marine pollution, proposing a ban on items with readily-available and affordable alternatives. “Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food,” said the

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HOTEL

EU Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans at the launch of new proposals back in May. Foodservice is well-placed to take a stand in this regard, given the high use of disposable items across the sector. In Ireland, a number of businesses are taking a proactive approach. McDonald’s will be providing paper straws in future and has committed to sourcing 100 per cent of its packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025. The GAA will be banning single-use plastic items (e.g. coffee cups, straws and cutlery) in Croke Park and replacing them with environmentally-friendly alternatives by the end of the year. Several coffee chains have brought in compostable coffee cups and others are encouraging customers to bring their reusable cups into stores. The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) is among those calling for a ban on single-use items, urging its members to take the step. “Sustainability is very important to the Restaurants Association of Ireland and the banning of single-

use items will have a significant impact on the environment, along with significantly cutting down on overheads for restaurant owners,” Adrian Cummins, RAI Chief Executive, told Hotel & Catering Review. “The average consumer in 2018 is highly environmentally-conscious and we as an industry have to support this. A number of our trade partners are also on board with this initiative including Musgraves and Hugh Jordan who offer a wide selection of reusable or compostable items for the hospitality industry.” So how can you help? If you need to provide disposable utensils or straws, look for ecofriendly, compostable alternatives. Take Corkbased Down2Earth Materials, which provides sustainable, compostable food service packaging for Irish businesses. Or you could become a ‘Refill Business’ by partnering with Refill.ie, a voluntary scheme through which businesses allow the public to refill their reusable bottles for free, thereby reducing plastic drinking bottle waste. No change is too small – as one retailer might say, every little helps.

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SUPPLY LINE

In-room

Hospitality Boost your bedroom facilities with the addition of an innovative minibar solution. BRUMMEL MINIBAR SYSTEMS Minibar Systems, founder of automated minibars, provide a range of technological, ecological and advanced systems to some of the world’s most prestigious hotel chains and groups as well as independent and boutique hotels. Their portfolio includes the cutting-edge SmartCube 40i, which (in fully-automated format) features an LED usage indicator light, low energy consumption, keyless locking, a handheld unit for tracking sales and refills, management reports and intelligent infrared sensors. “Our core values are defined by our mission to provide the most technological, ecological and advanced systems backed by the industry’s most knowledgeable and well-trained team of sales, operations, technical and customer service professionals,” the company states.

Italian manufacturer Brummel offers a range of upscale minibar options, including the BAREGO6 measuring 70cm x 117.5cm x 40cm. The bar weighs 54kg and can store a range of bottles and glasses in-room. Though the image depicts the ‘makassar’ finish, a variety are available. Visit www.brummelcucine.it for more information.

To learn more, visit www.minibar.ch.

JENN-AIR Jenn-Air’s 24-inch under counter beverage centre is a more elegant option for storing cheeses, meats and beverages (including 14 bottles of wine). Features include independent temperature zones, six preset temperatures, interior LED lighting, a UV-resistant thermal glass door, and a fully flush, built-in design with a quality stainless steel exterior. For further details see jennair.com.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS COLLINET: Coriande Mini Bar Discover more at www.collinet-sieges.com. DOMETIC: Hi-Pro Line For more visit www.dometic.com. BARTECH: Automatic Minibar See bartech.com.

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CATERING REVIEW

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HOSPITALITY TECH

HOSPITALITY

TECH ESSENTIAL PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE

PERCIPIA

SIGN OF THE TIMES Percipia, the telephony solutions company, has worked with the popular hospitality operations platform ALICE to provide in-room digital signage to guests at the Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Texas. Any itinerary developed for a guest at the hotel can now be displayed on an in-room device. This will make it more convenient for patrons at the Post Oak to stay on top of their schedule, as well as provide a user-friendly way for the concierge to communicate with their guests. The improved in-room controls, which allow for digital signage and express in-room dining, are assisted by Percipia’s LATTITUDE mobile application. “We are eager for our guests to benefit from the merging of technology between these two well-known service providers,” said Craig Thomas, the hotel’s VP of sales and marketing. To learn more, visit www.percipia.com

Photo: junce

VOUCH

CHAT TO BOTS

BAIDU

Hong-Kong-based tech manufacturer Vouch has launched ConcierGO at the Andaz Singapore Hotel in Singapore. ConcierGO is a chatbot system designed to enhance and improve the overall guest experience through technology. This sophisticated digital concierge will use artificial intelligence to converse with guests and make their stay as stress-free as possible. The more people who use ConcierGO, the more the system learns and the better it works. The implementation is supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) as part of the ‘Tourism Innovation Challenge for Hotels’.

Baidu, the mammoth-sized multinational tech company and China’s answer to Google, has teamed up with InterContinental Hotels Group to deliver the next generation of intelligent hospitality. Their new Smart Rooms, powered by artificial intelligence, are expected to redefine the customer hotel experience. The impressive tech will allow you to embrace voice control technology to allow for more natural human-computer interactions. Guests will even be able to switch between work and leisure modes depending on the kind of stay they desire. The rooms are currently being trialled by visitors to InterContinental Hotels in Beijing and Ghangzou.

Visit www.vouch-tech.com to discover more.

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SMART ROOMS

For more info, visit www.baidu.com

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BOOKSHELF

GOSE – BREWING A CLASSIC GERMAN BEER FOR THE MODERN ERA

Author: Publisher: RRP: Available:

Fal Allen Brewer’s Publications $19.95 (€17) Amazon

LA GROTTA ICES Author: Kitty Travers Publisher: Penguin

RRP: £18.99 (€21) Available: Eason As the founder of La Grotta Ices, a small creative ice-cream company based in London, Kitty Travers is something of a cold dessert specialist. Her new book contains recipes for 75 refreshing and dynamicallyflavoured seasonal ice-creams, sorbets and granitas. Travers is an obsessive experimenter and her dedication to the craft has resulted in some truly inventive flavours by way of pure and natural ingredients.

KHAZANA Author: Saliha Mahmood Ahmed Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton RRP: £16.99 (€19) Available: Amazon Gose-style beer, an age-old top fermented beer that was all the rage in mid-16th century Germany, has been enjoying a renaissance. Fal Allen’s book explores the history of this lightly sour style of beer, its traditional ingredients and special brewing techniques. Learn brewing methods from the Middle Ages and how to translate them to the modern day beverage. Experiment with Gose recipes from some of the best-known craft brewers of our time, and see how the distant past has become a contemporary influence.

Book SHELF Make some more room on your shelf.

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Written by last year’s winner of Masterchef UK, Khazana is an Indian cookbook and contemporary take on the food of the Mughal Empire that ruled over the nation from the early 16th century to the 19th century. The Mughals brought with them a strong Persian influence and left behind an enduring culinary legacy. Ahmed’s book is a testament to the lasting cultural impact of the empire’s art, history and food on the Indian subcontinent. Be transported back in time with these exquisite and unique South Asian dishes.

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A QUICK CHAT

“My mother really nurtured my passion and enrolled me in a culinary arts course when I was 17.”

CULINARY BEGINNINGS

I started cooking at around six years of age at home, trying out recipes, testing them on my family. My mother and father are amazing cooks and allowed me the space to make a mess and get creative.

NIAMH FOX MENU HIGHLIGHTS

Our Moyhill salad – it changes daily. It’s been a fairly heavy courgette season up there so we have been pickling courgettes, stuffing the flowers with St. Tola’s goats cheese, making fritters, courgette coleslaws and making marrow burgers, to name a few!

“[I enjoy] freedom to create and the enjoyment that brings to me and I think [it] shines through in my cooking.”

“Having worked in the industry for 14 years now I have been part of a huge waste cycle. In Little Fox, we are working towards zero waste, so one of the elements is that we have a small daily changing menu.”

COOKING STYLE

I am inspired by produce, doing the best for each ingredient really is my thing, using the entire vegetable or fish or whatever the produce [is] from top to bottom or taking the surplus from producers that they deem as waste and turning it around.

“I am looking forward to providing nourishing food and showcasing the amazing produce we have in the area.” 44

HOTEL

Photos: Dan Dennison

Niamh Fox, founder and operator of the recently-opened Little Fox restaurant in Ennistymon, chats about the road ahead.

WHO INSPIRES YOU?

Ireland’s amazing food producers – they are the real heroes.

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Hotel & Catering Issue 8 2018  
Hotel & Catering Issue 8 2018