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The VOICE of Northern Ireland’s catering, licensing and tourism industry

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The VOICE of Northern Ireland’s Catering, Licensing and Tourism Industry

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n a move potentially paving the way for introduction of Tourism VAT and reduced Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Northern Ireland, should an adequate case be made, the Treasury is seeking IN MEMORY: TRIBUTE WAS PAID TO industry input related to the impact of HOSPITALITY LEGEND SIR WILLIAM the two taxes on local tourism. HASTINGS AT A MEMORIAL SERVICE Writing to the Northern Ireland Affairs HELD IN BELFAST CATHEDRAL ON Committee of MPs at Westminster, JANUARY 5 PS8-9 Financial Secretary Mel Stride said: ‘A call for evidence will enable the Government to fully engage with and understand the concerns of industry, in turn helping the Government to develop a better understanding of the economic costs and potential impacts of those taxes on tourism in Northern Ireland.’ Stride said the Treasury will continue FLOWER POWER: PRIMROSE DERRY to engage and collaborate with industry HAS COMPLEMENTED ITS ON THE at an official level, following the UK QUAY LOCATION WITH A NEW government’s agreement last year to RESTAURANT, DELI, COCKTAIL BAR AND consult on VAT and APD as part of its BAKERY ON STRAND ROAD PS12-13 deal with the DUP. Search online: Hospitality Ulster Search online: Hospitality Ulster Northern Ireland faces a competitive disadvantage to the Republic of Ireland, where APD has been axed and a Tourism VAT of 9% applies. Here, hospitality businesses pay the full 20% VAT rate and APD costs passengers on short haul WIN AN EXCLUS IVE KETING flights flying in or out PAofMCKARAG Belfast around E FROM £13, making flights to and from Dublin and other Republic of Ireland airports THE TOP 100: WHO WILL MAKE THE THE more attractive. COUNTDOWN IS ON... CUT? FIND OUT LATER THIS MONTH W O S N(AND KETBALL AT THE GALA TIC E! IN THE NEXT L A S N EDITION O OF HOSPITALITY REVIEW) PS14-15 SPONSORED BY HU PARTNERS:

“I am encouraged by the UK Treasury’s intention to begin the research with a call for evidence early this year,” said Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster. “This is another positive step forward, coming so soon after the Chancellor’s budget commitment to undertake research into reducing hospitality and tourism VAT and abolishing Air Passenger Duty in Northern Ireland. “Hospitality Ulster has led the campaign for a reduction in the hospitality and tourism VAT rate in Northern Ireland. The 20% VAT rate acts as a brake on the growth of the hospitality and tourism sector, which supports more than 60,000 jobs across Northern Ireland. “Independent research earlier this year showed that more than 2,000 jobs would be created in our hospitality sector if the VAT rate on accommodation and visitor attractions was cut to 5%, with additional research showing a further 4,000 jobs could be created if VAT was cut on food. “We have also been calling for the abolition of Air Passenger Duty for a number of years and we welcome it will also be included in the research. It is clear that APD is a competitive disadvantage to Northern Ireland’s tourism offering and therefore our wider economy.”

The Top 100 Hospitality Business Awards are the only Northern Irish awards by the industry, for the industry- celebrating businesses which; through their premises, staff and product offering encapsulate the very essence of Northern Ireland hospitality.


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Hospitality Ulster CE Colin Neill is pictured with Karen Bradley. @Hosp_ReviewNI


ndustry has welcomed Karen Bradley’s appointment as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, after James Brokenshire stood down last month on health grounds. “Hospitality Ulster is very much looking forward to working with new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley MP following a very positive initial meeting last October,” said Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster. “We are operating in a difficult environment at the moment, but it is massively encouraging to have someone with tourism experience in the job and we are eager to continue to build on the foundations already in place.” FEBRUARY HRNI • 3

editorialcomment THE TEAM & CONTACTS Editor: Alyson Magee Manager: Mark Glover Art Editor: Helen Wright Production Manager: Irene Fitzsimmons Subscriptions: 028 9055 4598 (Price £27.50 UK, £37.50 outside UK) Published by Independent News & Media Ltd: Hospitality Review NI Independent News & Media Belfast Telegraph House 33 Clarendon Road Clarendon Dock, Belfast BT1 3BG Contact: Editorial: Tel: 028 9026 4175 Sales: Tel: 028 9026 4266 The Review is the official publication for: Hospitality Ulster: 91 University Street, Belfast, BT7 1HP. Tel: 028 9032 7578. Chief Executive: Colin Neill Chairperson: Mark Stewart The Institute of Hospitality Northern Ireland Branch Email: Web: Chair: Marianne Hood FIH Vice Chair: Siobhan O’Sullivan MIH Northern Ireland Hotels Federation: The McCune Building, 1 Shore Road, Belfast, BT15 3PJ. Tel: 028 9077 6635 Chief Executive: Janice Gault President: Gavin Carroll Design & Production by: Independent News & Media Ltd Printed by: W. & G. Baird Ltd. The opinions expressed in Hospitality Review are not necessarily those of Hospitality Ulster or the NIHF.

Hospitality Review is a copyright of © Independent News & Media Ltd 2016

Find us on Facebook: Look at our Website: 4 • HRNI FEBRUARY



ell here we are, another festive season has come and gone and, for many in the trade, the first month of the year is time for a muchneeded break. For others, it offers the opportunity to embark on renovations, menu updates and strategic planning. With our local hospitality trade developing so rapidly in recent years, customers have become accustomed to innovation, style and a higher quality of food, drink and service. Rolling out the same offer year after year no longer cuts it, and venues need to respond to evolving demand or lose trade to competitors doing a better job. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily involve abandoning the core values, ambience or positioning of your business if it’s fit for purpose, but rather taking the breather offered by one of the quieter trading periods of the year to reflect on areas in which you could do better. At the beginning of January, many in the trade will have attended the Memorial Service held in celebration of the life of Sir William Hastings, and what better example of a business staying true to its USPs while also constantly evolving. Listening to Howard Hastings’ eloquently amusing tribute to his father at the Service - which the Hastings family very kindly allowed Hospitality Review to reproduce in this edition alongside Julie Hastings’ touching poetic tribute (ps8-9) – you couldn’t fail to be impressed by the entrepreneurial, can-do spirit Sir William brought to the trade, sweeping up properties with “no due diligence, no spreadsheets, no forecasts”. He may have been a large gin, chicken Maryland kind of guy, but that didn’t stop the business he headed from embracing emergent trends from craft gins to Game of Thrones-themed tomahawk steaks. No-one is likely to apply a hipster

“With our local hospitality trade developing so rapidly in recent years, customers have become accustomed to innovation, style and a higher quality of food, drink and service. Rolling out the same offer year after year no longer cuts it, and venues need to respond to evolving demand or lose trade to competitors doing a better job.” tag to a Hastings property, but it will probably still be around long after people have moved on from exposed concrete and bare bulbs to the next big thing. And if you take a look through the pages of this magazine, you’ll find Hastings Hotels’ business acumen and foresight on display from its hosting of a series of digital trends events to securing China ready accreditation in recognition of the growing tourism market. And of course, the Grand Central Hotel, expected to open later this year in Belfast, will no doubt represent another step up and the next evolution of the brand. No doubt exists that Sir William has left the business he built from scratch in very capable hands, with his children clearly inheriting that ability to look ahead with positivity, and get things done. Elsewhere, the local sector continues to thrive and evolve with Primrose Derry’s latest addition to its portfolio featured on ps12-13 and, if we could just get this magazine off to the printers, the HRNI team will be heading over to the former Madison’s Hotel this afternoon to check out its new incarnation as House Belfast…

Alyson Magee @Hosp_ReviewNI




apid progress on a number of new hotel projects is expected to result in the addition of over 1,000 new rooms in 2018, with more opening in the second quarter of the year than previously expected, according to the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF). The Federation has revised its forecast for the sector to reflect the progress, which is focused on the Belfast market. “The mix of projects gives a real edge to the city with the opening of international brands like Hampton by Hilton, AC by Marriott as well as indigenous products from Hastings Hotel with their Grand Central project and a new Maldron in Belfast City Centre,” said Janice Gault, chief executive of NIHF. “Despite the level of construction and warning around a glut of rooms, new projects continue to be announced including The Mission Hotel, a proposed Hotel Indigo for the Titanic Quarter and Flint Hotel in Belfast City Centre. “Performance figures for 2017 suggest a small increase in occupancy, strong

New local hotel rooms opening in 2018.

growth in room rates and an excellent RevPAR figure throughout Northern Ireland. The true impact of new stock is difficult to forecast with any real accuracy. “The bulk of products in Belfast will be in market by summer 2018 and this traditionally busy period may mask their true effect. Derry-Londonderry and the North Coast have a longer lead-time and there are doubts about some of the planned hotels coming to fruition.”


Amanda McBride, director of sales for AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast, joins Lisa Steele, newly appointed general manager, to start the countdown to opening.


C Hotels by Marriott, a global lifestyle brand with properties across Europe and the US, is set to open its first hotel in Northern Ireland in Belfast in April. The international company also confirmed the appointment of Lisa Steele as general manager of the new £25m property, which is situated in the heart of Belfast Harbour’s landmark City Quays development. The contemporary-luxe four-star

Belfast development will be the first Marriott in Northern Ireland, the first AC Hotel by Marriott on the island of Ireland, and the first purpose-built AC Hotel in the UK. It will also be the first in the group’s portfolio of 100 design-led hotels across the world to feature a destination restaurant. Jean-Christophe Novelli will open a bespoke-for-Belfast brasserie in the hotel; the first restaurant the multiMichelin-starred and five-out-of-five AA @Hosp_ReviewNI

fter Christmas sales are taken into account, rum is expected to exceed the £1bn sales mark by the end of 2017. The latest market report released by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association shows that total sales in the UK up to September 2017 reached £991m, up 5% on the same period last year. This is the equivalent of 34.3 million bottles sold in shops and supermarkets, pubs, bars and restaurants. If current trends continue, rum sales in the UK would have been worth over £1bn by the time the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.



ollowing last month’s Memorial Service to celebrate the life of Sir William Hastings, who died at the age of 89 on December 15, Hospitality Ulster has paid tribute. “Known to all in the industry simply as, Billy, he was not just a successful and hardworking businessman but also a true gentleman who always had time and a kind word for everyone,” said Colin Neill. “Often in Irish mythology we talk about legends, but I am privileged to say I actually knew one, who, through his professional and personal life has left a legacy for generations to come.”

Rosette award-winning chef will open in Ireland. With 188 guest bedrooms, AC Hotels by Marriott Belfast will be among the city’s largest hotels, and will offer the complete complement of signature AC Marriott guest services, including gym, library, meeting facilities and AC Lounge. “AC Hotels by Marriott is a unique concept,” said Steele. “The design is thoughtful and purposeful, marrying European sophistication and contemporary elegance to provide a stylish, simplified and frictionless experience which perfectly reflects the needs of today’s busy hotel guest and user.” FEBRUARY HRNI • 5



B t t, o c S an, er. Aikm p r a H


ise pert & Ex . n r o i e Pa s s s ov time e e thr

elfast City Council has taken its first successful prosecution against a business for failing to display a valid food hygiene rating sticker. PGMB, proprietor of Café Fish, 340 Lisburn Road, Belfast was fined £250 and ordered to pay £120 legal costs at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on January 9, for failure to display a valid food hygiene rating sticker as required by the Food Hygiene Rating Act (Northern Ireland) 2016. At the time of the offence, the premises had been rated as one, indicating ‘major improvement necessary’ to comply with the food hygiene requirements. The top rating is five.

The court heard Council officers had visited Café Fish on a number of occasions, repeatedly advising the owner to display the rating before instigating legal proceedings. The venue has since upgraded its hygiene rating to four, indicating a ‘good’ level of compliance with hygiene requirements, with the hygiene rating sticker displayed. Applying to cafes, restaurants, supermarkets, delis and other food shops in Northern Ireland, a valid food hygiene rating must be displayed by law at, or near, all entrances to a food premises where it can be readily seen and easily read by customers.



K pub giant JD Wetherspoon has been dealt a blow in its bid to open a new bar in the centre of Belfast. The company was seeking a licence for a hostelry at premises on Royal Avenue. But Her Honour Judge Crawford refused its application amid opposition from six independent bars already trading in the neighbouring streets. She held that an existing licence be surrendered, as part of the process was not valid. JD Wetherspoon wanted a provisional grant of licence to operate

a new pub at a former JJB Sports store. Other bars in the city centre objected to the move, arguing that there was no need for it. As part of the application, the company was expected to use a licence from another of its outlets outside Belfast. But Belfast County Court heard evidence that alterations made to those premises to increase the drinking facilities had invalidated a renewal of its licence. On that basis, Judge Crawford refused the application, a Courts Service spokesperson confirmed.

TITANIC BELFAST CREATING 70 NEW JOBS perhaps visit us at BREAMBLE.COM and always enjoy responsibly!



itanic Belfast is creating 70 new permanent jobs as part of the tourist attraction’s latest expansion, adding 29 full-time staff alongside 41 roles with varying weekly hours. It will add the jobs at the top tourism spot, along with the SS Nomadic, in areas including ‘visitor experience’, ticketing, hospitality and retail. “At Titanic Belfast, we value our staff

as one of our key assets and reasons for success,” said Judith Owens, chief executive. “Next year, we are preparing for another strong year with more exciting developments in the pipeline. “If you have an interest in tourism, excellent communication skills and interest in both Titanic and Belfast’s industrial heritage - you could have the ‘Titanic-factor’ and be part of our award-winning crew.” @Hosp_ReviewNI




proposed 25p ‘latte levy’ on disposable coffee cups could damage small businesses, cafe owners in Northern Ireland have warned. All disposable coffee cups should be recycled by 2023, and they should be banned if the target is not met, the Environmental Audit Committee at Westminster said. However, the proposal has sparked concerns for two Belfast stores. Established, in the Cathedral Quarter, and The Pocket, based near Queen’s University, both say that such a charge has the potential to seriously damage small businesses here. Bridgeen Barbour, owner of Established with her partner Mark, says there needs to be a more positive way to deal with the recycling issue. “From an environmental point of view, it’s a great idea; however, it’s really difficult to put

into practice,” she said. “We just seem to be getting hammered from every corner but getting people to reuse is quite difficult. “However, we do have quite a few customers who try to bring their own cup already. I think it’s a very easy solution for the Government to get more money from small businesses. It’s the easy route to charge people more money.” The committee is calling on the Commons to introduce a 25p charge on disposable cups on top of the price of a coffee, with the money raised used to improve the UK’s reprocessing facilities and ‘binfrastructure’ to ensure cups and other food and drink packaging are recycled. If the Assembly returns, it would require legislation from Stormont to introduce a levy here. However, other environmental policies such as the



amed publicans Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, both from Belfast, have announced plans to double the size of their award-winning bar The Dead Rabbit on Water Street in Manhattan. Securing a 17-year lease for a neighbouring site, the duo plan to double the size of the venue – named World’s Best Bar in 2016 - to 5,500 square feet, with work already underway. Another bar Muldoon and McGarry operate in NYC, Blacktail, is also to be expanded, while further openings are planned and the successful team have a number of cocktail and whiskey-related publications in the pipeline. @Hosp_ReviewNI

plastic bag tax have been adopted by all parts of the UK. Some shops give money off the price of a hot drink to customers who use reusable cups, such as Pret a Manger, which has just doubled its discount to 50p. But the committee said uptake of these offers was low at only 1% to 2% of coffee purchases, and consumers were more responsive to a charge than a discount based on the success of the 5p singleuse plastic bag levy. The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year. Almost all of them are incinerated, exported or sent to landfill, because their plastic lining makes them costly to recycle. The committee heard that less than 1% of coffee cups are recycled because there are only three facilities in the UK that can split the paper and plastic components. But most people dispose of their coffee cups in recycling bins, believing they will be recycled. Committee chairwoman Mary Creagh said: “We need to kick-start a revolution in recycling.” But Richard Evans, owner of The Pocket on University Road, said that a levy introduction could have a “dramatic impact” on his business, which he runs with his partner Bailey. “We push customers to buy reusable cups, as I do also feel a moral obligation. But like all these things, does a tax introduction on sugar stop obesity?” he said. “Is it really going to stop the problem that we’re facing here? “I suggest having incentives like having consumers paying less, rather than add extra charges on. “When you look at our operating costs, they’re massive for operating a small cafe. We have so many costs to deal with as a small business. This just doesn’t feel fair or reasonable.”



rish beverage exports rose 8% to €1.5bn in 2017, driven by increases of 20% in Irish whiskey sales to €600m, and 10% in cream liqueurs to €300m, reports Bord Bia, while beer exports were flat at €280m. Continued demand for premium spirit and liqueur products is said to be driving a strong performance across key international markets, according to the Irish Food Board’s recently published report, Export Performance and Prospects 2017-2018. Demand for Irish whiskey is expected to continue to grow, with production forecast to double between 2015 and 2020, and again in the following decade; Irish whiskey is the fastest growing spirit category in the world, growing by 131%. FEBRUARY HRNI • 7



Sir William Hastings, 17 October 1928 – 15 December 2017


husband, a father, a brother, a grandfather and an uncle. In that role, he was a man of many parts. First and foremost, he was a teacher. He was the dad who taught us to ride our bicycles; no mean feat in the days before stabilisers. He was also the dad who taught us to swim. He took us to the Inst swimming pool, followed by chips at Stranmillis on the way home. It was the highlight of our week. He was the dad who was sent to sing us to sleep. For ever etched on our memories are the words to Good Bye Old Ship of Mine, and the Mountains of Mourne - yes, all five verses! He taught us the meaning of fairness. Fairness to each other, and to deal fairly with everyone we met. Each of our achievements was celebrated, however modest, and he contained his indifference at our lack of athletic prowess. He also taught us how to be kind. At our Christmas dinner table, there were always a selection of spinsters and widows whom he could not bear to see spending Christmas Day alone. 8 • HRNI FEBRUARY

And later, we learnt from him the value of hard work. He himself had washed glasses from the age of 12 in his father’s pubs. He grew his business leading from the front, with a hands-on approach. Customer service was in his DNA. Despite his superb education at Royal Belfast Academical Institution, in many areas he was self-taught. Architects were amazed at his capacity to read a complex set of drawings, and accountants were impressed at his mental agility with numbers. With Billy, what you saw was what you got. He was straightforward. His pet hate was bluffers, especially the professionally qualified ones. I suppose that was the teacher in him, spotting those who had failed to do their homework. If he was a teacher first and foremost, he was also a creature of habit. There was golf. How he loved it, and his lifelong quest to master the game. His Holy Grail was to find what he described as ‘The Secret’. It was his weekly escape from work. He learned to play at Mahee Island,

where he was Club Captain in 1958. Great delight there was, in peeling the wrapper off a new Dunlop 65 golf ball on the first tee. Whilst he enjoyed the camaraderie at Royal County Down, he played at Malone Golf Club more than anywhere else. He cherished his 8 o’clock tee off time every Saturday morning, leaving home even earlier than he would on a weekday. He played for a pound, never any more, and for the bragging rights if he won. There were two other habits of note. The first was Coronation Street. He loved it, and on occasion invitations were refused and the telephone left unanswered when there was a particularly gripping episode. The second was the Belfast Telegraph crossword. We maintained that the award by Ulster University of a Doctorate in Literature would better qualify him for this task. In the event, it was normally his wife Joy who assisted with the more elusive clues. Then there was church. This may have started as a habit, since he attended twice each Sunday as a child. However, it developed into a deep faith which he cherished, in times both good and bad. Mum and Dad had a fondness for Drumbeg Church where they were married in 1960, and then later for Downpatrick Cathedral, where he now rests. He had the clergy well trained to keep their sermons to eight minutes. However, he often feared theological overload from the pulpit, and so he came armed each week with a pocketful of Brandy Ball sweets. He was never a great fan of that part of the service involving the offering of the Sign of Peace… we think he found it too scripted for his taste, and so once again used this opportunity to dispense boiled sweets to anyone who approached. Needless to say, those in the know formed a queue. There has been much written about his entrepreneurial spirit. Perhaps it was his upbringing in post-war East Belfast. The world seemed a smaller place back then, with less regulation and more opportunities. His earliest business coup was when he sold Ulster Brewery he owned with other publicans to Bass. Then, in the 1970s, he purchased the six Ulster Transport Hotels from Grand Metropolitan Hotels. @Hosp_ReviewNI

inmemory And in 1993 he purchased the Europa Hotel. There was no due diligence, no spreadsheets, no forecasts. The big decisions were as easy for him as the smaller ones. After a couple of sleepless nights contemplating any particular deal, he would assure himself that this was the “right thing to do”. He would agree the price and shake hands, and that was that. Two years later came the opportunity to build the Merrion Hotel in Dublin. And, in his 87th year, he embarked on the Grand Central Hotel project. He liked being his own boss; however at other times he established partnerships with others who shared his vision for a project. Until his older brother Roy’s untimely death when he was 25, they had enjoyed a great rapport, developing the pub trade together. In outside catering ventures, in businesses in the Isle of Man, and at The Merrion he worked with others. Without doubt though, his greatest partnership was with mum. They met on what we would call today a blind date, at a dance on board HMS Caroline. Mum was a former Victoria College Head Girl, and lived on the fashionable Malone Road. He knew he was punching well above his weight when he asked her to marry him. The mutual respect and affection they shared saw them through 57 remarkable years together, and they were a tremendous double act. On several occasions, he was reined in from over-exuberant behaviour by mum’s one word cry of “Billy!” And when confronted with a tricky question, Dad’s kick-fortouch response was “You’d better ask your mother”. Throughout his life, he was definitely what you would call “a joiner”. He enjoyed being in the thick of things. He had lifelong associations with the likes of Dundela Football Club, and Instonians. He was a founder member of East Belfast Rotary Club, and was particularly chuffed to be awarded his Paul Harris fellowship medal at the same time as his rugby idol Jack Kyle. He was an elected member of Belfast City Council, and chaired both the Chamber of Commerce and the Institute of Directors with distinction. He supported very personal, and what some might describe as less fashionable charities, such as Crimestoppers, Chest Heart & Stroke, Help the Aged and Men Against Cancer, raising considerable funds for each along the way. In their tributes, so many people have referred to his great energy, and his ever-cheerful disposition. We believe that his constant engagement with people

A Memorial Service celebrating the life of Sir William Hastings was held at Belfast Cathedral on January 5 - well attended by friends, figures from the hospitality sector and notable local figures including Sir Van Morrison and Dame Mary Peters - and featuring a performance by The Priests as well as tributes by his children Professor Julie Hastings and Dr Howard Hastings OBE, from which this tribute is drawn.

was the source of this strength, be it customers, staff, suppliers, and from so many of the people he met on his daily rounds. He particularly enjoyed the company of his grandchildren, watching them grow. His default setting was to tease them without let-up. On the subject of romantic attachments, he would offer consistent advice to each of them. This came in the form of the three-word mantra - “Just say no”. When it came to food, nobody could deny that Billy knew what he liked. He would never have described himself as a cordon bleu chef, he was more one of the Barbeque Brigade. His palate had a 1970s feel to it. He could never resist a Chicken Maryland, or a Knickerbocker Glory. He always encouraged his chefs to improve the crispiness of their roast potatoes, or the crustiness of their bread rolls. Living at Simmy Island since the early 1980s, it is an idyllic place to call home, with its views of Strangford Lough. He wasn’t exactly a farmer, but each morning fed his eight chickens and collected their eggs. Peacocks came and went, and the local foxes licked their lips. In the middle of last year, he set up his computer at home, and spent more time at Simmy, watching the field of rapeseed ripen and the seasons change. He knew his illness would not improve, and he fastidiously ensured his affairs were in order so that he would not leave any unfinished business behind. He claimed the hardest job during this period was to give away his golf clubs. About six weeks ago, he visited the Merrion Hotel for the last time. He was in a sunny and nostalgic mood, and as he waited for his guest, the waiter offered him a drink. “A Gin and Tonic,” said Dad. “What sort of Gin,” enquired the waiter, proffering an extensive list. “A large one,” came the reply. Life was for @Hosp_ReviewNI

living. The end, when it came, was peaceful. He was in his own home, in his own bed, surrounded by family. It is what he had wished for. Classic FM was playing Christmas carols in the background. In the Bleak Midwinter came on. They say that, of all your senses, your hearing is the last to go. In which case, it is so fitting that he passed away at the end of the final verse. What can I give him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a Lamb, If I were a Wise Man, I would do my Part, Yet what I can I give him; give my Heart.

A TRIBUTE WRITTEN TO THE TUNE OF SIR WILLIAM’S FAVOURITE SONG, THE MOUNTAINS OF MOURNE BY PERCY FRENCH: To reflect on our dad many words come to mind Patient, exuberant, funny and kind So great his presence it was safe to assume As he opened the door he would light up the room. Our childhoods, with such great memories he’d often recall Our dad... An inspiration, a legend and gentleman to all. So now he’s in heaven but we hope he may be Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. And finally, and aptly, again from the pen of Percy French Remember me is all I ask And yet If remembrance prove a task Forget We don’t think anyone will ever forget our dad, Billy Hastings.





had an opportunity recently to meet Professor Nigel Scollan, director of the internationally-respected Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, an organisation which has placed Northern Ireland at the very forefront of international initiatives to tackle the growing challenge posed by food fraud to human health. We look forward to working more closely with Prof Scollan, who has a wealth of international experience in agricultural and food research. There’s much that our companies, especially smaller enterprises, can learn from his knowledge; especially as they seek to grow sales outside Northern Ireland. While our companies have a welljustified reputation in the production of quality food and drink with heritage and provenance, it’s clear that they will have to factor-in greater transparency in the marketing of their produce. Many of our companies, especially farm-based enterprises, are well-placed to achieve this because their supply chains are very short and this feature means they are easily able to trace ingredients, other inputs, and outputs. Their relationships with customers are also extremely close. They are well used to dealing with customers on a face-toface basis. We need to learn more from the Institute to be able to help our companies to step up their efforts to deliver safe, nutritious, sustainable and authentic food that is recognised worldwide and sharpens their competitive edge. This means more methodical record keeping at every stage of the production process. It was hugely important then to see the world’s first completely transparent beer, Downstream, launched here last November by Ireland Craft Beers, a small marketing business, in association with Mourne Mountains Brewery, a producer of craft beers, in Warrenpoint and arc-net, a Belfast technology company that’s pioneering what is now known as Blocknet, essentially a software platform that ensures greater transparency in food production. Downstream is an excellent example of Blocknet transparency in that it enables consumers to scan a barcode


on the beer’s label and scrutinise every aspect, from ingredients grown on the farm through the brewing process – even the people involved – to bottling, packaging, and distribution to the bar and subsequent customer. All this data can be accessed very easily using a mobile phone scanner. The benefits for the licensed and catering sectors, as well as food and drink processors, are obvious, particularly in terms of enhancing trust among consumers. Building a culture of transparency focused on safety and quality is critical for food companies. Transparency is being seen increasingly as a consumer right. This means that those organisations delivering services directly to consumers can expect to be required to ensure the transparency of their products.

Consumers are entitled to accurate information about their food and drink and will increasingly expect as much information as possible about the safety, quality, origin, and sustainability of their food and drink. Access to such data will impact purchasing decisions. Those companies which take advantage of transparency systems, such as Blockchain, can increase their market share. And producers that believe food transparency is not a top consumer priority will be putting their business at risk. So, 2018 should be the year when all food and drink companies here embrace transparency. This should help boost sales, attract local customers and also strengthen Northern Ireland’s appeal to tourists and other visitors. @Hosp_ReviewNI




uch like fashion, trends come and go in the food industry. Quinoa, almond milk, kale and avocados, all relatively unknown foods a few years ago, now feature in many shopping baskets, while gluten-free and lactosefree options are becoming more popular on Irish restaurant menus. So, what new ingredients or trends can we expect to see in the Irish food industry in 2018? THE COMEBACK CARB The last number of years have been dominated by protein packed eating, but carbs are the comeback kid of 2018. Having fallen out of favour thanks to diets such as Atkins and Paleo, this year pasta and breads will be making a return to our plates. We can expect to see more restaurants experimenting with bread flavours as artisanal breads become a more popular option. WASTE NOT, WANT NOT - THE RISE OF ROOT-TO-TIP COOKING Food waste and sustainability was

a hot topic in 2017 and it’s set to continue this year as chefs look at ways to reduce waste. Root-to-tip cooking is the practice of using every part of the vegetable and is actually an old trend which has become popular again. Historically, all parts of the vegetable were used, and 2018 will see this style of cooking come back in vogue. Leftover carrot tops can be made into pesto, leek tops and the outer leaves of romaine lettuce can be used to create stocks and soups, while leftover broccoli stalks can be added to salads. FLOWER POWER This year is set to be a floral affair as chefs, baristas and mixologists ‘say it with flowers’. Whether it’s adding whole flowers and petals to dishes, or infusing the likes of elderflower into cocktails, there will be no escaping this trend. It’s not just chefs and mixologists embracing flowers, coffee will also have a floral tribute so expect to see lavender lattes making their way onto your local coffee shop menu.

TURN TO THE DARK SIDE Say goodbye to rainbows and unicornthemed food, and be prepared to embrace the dark side in 2018 thanks to activated charcoal. A bi-product of burning coconut shells, wood, or other plant materials, it is safe to eat and is responsible for giving food its dark colour. It’s being used in everything from ice cream cones to hamburgers and this eye-catching trend has been popping up on Instagram over the last number of months. BREAKFAST ANYTIME Over the last number of years, brunch as a meal occasion has been embraced with gusto in the Irish market with highend and causal eateries alike offering brunch menus. This year the breakfast trend will continue but as an eating occasion and we can expect to see breakfast extend into the evening time as restaurants begin to offer this option as an all-day item on the menu. Chefs will also experiment with breakfast options as they take influence from breakfast foods from around the world.


a Taqueria on Castle Street in Belfast has been honoured by John and Sally McKennas’ Guides, in which it is described as serving the ‘best Mexican food in Ireland’. The guide notes: ‘Never mind that their funky little restaurant in the centre of Belfast is upstairs over a Mace Express; what matters is that La Taqueria food is the real deal, and not some dumbed-down Tex-Mex mess.’ Andy Rea, owner of La Taqueria which is run by Adam Lynas and his partner Eliza Vignolle, said he was proud of the restaurant’s achievement. Rea formerly worked in Paul Rankin’s acclaimed Roscoff restaurant, and is now owner of Belfast’s Mourne Seafood Bar

and Home restaurants, as well as Belfast Cookery School. “I am over the Moon,” he said. “Adam worked for me in Roscoff and we always kept in contact. I put La Taqueria together, but the food and service is all Adam and Eliza. @Hosp_ReviewNI

“Adam is one of the most talented chefs I have ever come across in my career. There is an absolute passion between the two of them as a couple, and you see it on the plate and feel it in the room.” Rea added that the simplicity of La Taqueria’s food was its selling point. There was further local glory, with Clenaghan’s in Aghalee, Co Down, named newcomer of the year in the same guide. It commented: ‘Danni Barry has been killing it ever since she got the doors open at Clenaghan’s, an old stone building in the middle of nowhere in Co Down. Exemplary technical skills meet with ruddy, agrestic country dishes in a culinary marriage made in culinary heaven.’ FEBRUARY HRNI • 11



WHEN DID YOUR RESTAURANT OPEN AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO OPEN IT? Our new Primrose restaurant and delicatessen opened mid-November 2017 so we are still very new on the scene, although our brand Primrose has been around for six years now. With humble beginnings on Carlisle Road in Derry, we started with a small intimate cafe focusing on good local produce and quality home baking. We then expanded with the opening of our gorgeous riverside bistro in December 2015, and the move of our bakery to a


standalone industrial unit to suffice the demand for our products. Our inspiration has come from lots of travel, as has all our premises; it has a very French-inspired theme running throughout the premises and brand. TELL US ABOUT THE SPACE YOU HAVE The space is an iconic local building in the form of the old T&E Howie lighting building on Derry’s Strand Road; a 6,000-square-foot ground floor building which is now occupied by our flagship site.

Housing our restaurant, it also has a delicatessen showcasing the best in local and artisanal producers, a cocktail bar and our on-site bakery which we have moved also. It is a very unique and spacious restaurant, which we feel is a huge addition to the already thriving food scene in our city. WHAT FEEL ARE YOU AIMING FOR? As in everything we have done previously, we are trying to create a very social and casual dining experience for our customers and, with the addition of a @Hosp_ReviewNI

restaurantprofile continuing to become a problem due to the shortage of younger people coming through our colleges etc. HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR RESTAURANT STAND OUT FROM COMPETITORS? We have a very strong presence on social media, which we continuously refresh and change. The new Strand Road site is quite unique compared to other restaurants, as we offer an all-day dining option from early morning breakfast right through to our evening service. The addition of our Delicatessen with local produce on offer and food to go also allows us to have a particular USP.

fantastic cocktail bar again showcasing the best drinks locally, it really has become a social hub since opening in November. WHAT’S ON YOUR MENU AND WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT? Our head chef Derek Creagh is 100% committed to using only the finest local ingredients; building relationships with local producers and farmers is key to both his and Primrose’s ethos. Derek’s style of cooking is classic bistro with a very strong commitment to local quality produce; uncomplicated and straight forward food that excels in flavour and presentation. Derek has worked with some of the finest chefs in the UK (including Heston Blumenthal at the award-winning Fat Duck in Bray), while other restaurants include Chez Bruce, The Square and Putney Bridge. Most recently, Derek worked at Harrys in Donegal, where he was awarded Chef of the Year at the Georgina Campbell Awards 2015. With our love of pastry, we have also had the pleasure of welcoming one of Ireland’s best pastry chefs to our team, Monto Mansour, and we have been able to further extend the range of the finest French patisserie and pastry on offer at our premises. Monto comes with a wealth of experience, having worked in places like The Greenhouse, Deanes, Saphyre and Harrys. Combined with Derek’s helm at the kitchen and Monto in our pastry kitchen, we really do feel we have one of the best duos in the country. Our current menu has some wonderful winter dishes and flavours:

• Wild Venison cottage pie, chestnuts & truffle creamed vegetables • Breast of chicken, smoked pancetta, artichoke, tarragon, potato cocottes, spinach, roasting juices • Greencastle cod, chorizo, spiced tomato & chickpea stew, cauliflower, lemon couscous • Ham hock salad, pink fir potatoes, crispy hen egg, honey mustard dressing • Onion tart, Coolea cheddar, winter leaves, pickled walnuts & truffle dressing • Butternut squash risotto, aged parmesan, tea soaked cranberry, seed pesto Just a few of what is currently on offer… DOES YOUR MENU CHANGE OFTEN? Our menu changes with the seasons and what produce is readily available to Derek and his team. WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS? Our customer base before would have mainly been local, although our tourist visitor rates in the city have increased dramatically since 2013 City of Culture year leading to a lot more travelling customers from all parts of the country and further afield. HAVE YOU FACED ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES TO DATE? Challenges we face in the industry as an independent trader are the high VAT rates and extortionate property rates placed upon us. The shortage of skilled labour is also an issue the country is faced with, and is @Hosp_ReviewNI

HOW WAS TRADE OVER THE PAST YEAR? We have only opened on Strand Road in November so can’t really comment but trade has been fabulous since opening. But as a whole, Primrose has traded great the last year and continues to grow as a brand. HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR RESTAURANT DEVELOPING THIS YEAR? We have a lot more plans for the new site, which we will keep under wraps at the moment, but our focus will shift to a plan for the round-the-world Clipper Race, which docks with us mid-July. We have previously experienced one of the races two years ago as our quayside location is only 30 yards away from the pontoon on which they arrive and, with visitor numbers into tens of thousands, to see the boats really is a spectacle and needs a few months planning to ensure we maximise the potential business the boats bring to our doorstep. Strand Road Mon-Sat: 8am to 9:30pm Sun: 10am to 6pm Tel: 02871 373744 Primrose on the Quay Mon-Sat: 8am to 6pm (winter); 8am-9pm (summer) Sun: 10am-6pm Tel: 02871 365511 facebook: Primrose”Derry” Twitter/Instagram/ Snapchat: Primrosederry FEBRUARY HRNI • 13

Search online: Hospitality Ulster


Tickets available online at:


Search online: Hospitality Ulster



THE COUNTDOWN IS ON... The Top 100 Hospitality Business Awards are the only Northern Irish awards by the industry, for the industry- celebrating businesses which; through their premises, staff and product offering encapsulate the very essence of Northern Ireland hospitality. Winners are being notified and tickets are NOW ON SALE for our star-studded Gala Ball at Titanic Belfast on 21st February, hosted by TV personality and mentalist David Meade. The winning Top 100 Hospitality Businesses will walk down the iconic Titanic staircase to be presented with their prestigious Top 100 Plaque. But if that wasn’t enough, Top 100 winners attending the Gala Ball will have the chance to win a branded Fiat 500 car for a year*, sponsored by Donnelly Group and Towergate Insurance, plus a dedicated marketing package from U105! Tickets can be reserved by visiting, emailing, or call 02890434320 and asking for Jordan Russell. Tickets priced £95 +VAT. *T&Cs apply – visit for details.




n 2017 Martin McAuley, managing director of United Wine Merchants, announced that HEINEKEN Northern Ireland was being integrated into United Wine Merchants’ business, heralding a new era for the HEINEKEN portfolio in Northern Ireland. Martin and the United Wine Merchants team of 49, including a dedicated

Marketing and Sales team, will manage all brands in the portfolio, including Desperados, Tiger, Sol and the already hugely-successful apple cider brand, Orchard Thieves. This will see the launch of numerous new HEINEKEN beer brands including Amstel and Kronenbourg 1664 and several new pack formats including Desperados 250ml can and new Birra Moretti and Tiger take home packs.

Commenting on the launch, Martin said, “We are incredibly proud to be introducing Amstel and Kronenbourg 1664 into our portfolio in the Northern Ireland market. Both brands have a strong UK and international presence and we are confident with the support we will be putting behind them in both the on and off trade, they will perform very well for us.” Amstel, which NI consumers may have already sampled in draught at the Belfast International Airport, is an almost 150-year-old 4.1% ABV bier that has the perfect balance of taste and refreshment. With a unique honey malt aroma, Amstel delivers a subtle citrus and herbal hop character with a clean bitter finish. The beverage will be launched in both draught and packaged formats across the on and off trade. In 2015, Amstel became a sponsor of the UEFA football Europa League and United Wine Merchants will be activating this sponsorship in outlet

to drive awareness and rate of sale. This partnership, along with Heineken’s existing 10 year sponsorship of UEFA Champions League, cements Heineken and Amstel as the beers of choice for midweek football fans. Kronenbourg 1664 is a beer of exceptional quality where premium Strisselspalt hops, unique to Alsace, have been exclusively used since 1885. Known as the ‘caviar of hops’ by master brewers, Strisselspalt give Kronenbourg 1664 a low bitterness and aromatic quality. Beer connoisseurs will notice a persistent fruity aroma, with notes of citrus peel and spices, and a medium and sustained intensity. United Wine Merchants will be leveraging the position as a premium beer with a unique flavour and will be launching the ‘A Taste Supreme’ campaign throughout the on and off trade. 2018 represents UWM’s dedication to growing the beer category in Northern Ireland and they are already planning for additional exciting product launches throughout the year. For more information please contact your UWM Sales Representative or call 02838 316555.

16 • HRNI FEBRUARY @Hosp_ReviewNI






Jane Boyce recently hosted a Women in Wine dinner at The Boathouse Restaurant in Bangor.


any local ladies, myself included, could lay claim to countless hours devoted to the mastery of wine. Less connoisseurly imbibing aside, however, and Northern Ireland boasts only one genuine female Master of Wine, Jane Boyce. Fine wine manager for JN Wine, the Banbridge native has over 30 years of experience in the wine trade, dating back to a year spent in the Cognac region of France while completing her European Studies degrees at Bath University. Writing her dissertation on the spirit, “it brought together geography, my favourite subject at school, and languages,” says Jane. Settling on wine as her passion and future career, she secured a role as a graduate trainee in London, later returning to Northern Ireland to work as an importer for Hollywood & Donnelly. A career in wine has offered great flexibility, with Jane taking on different

roles over the years to complement her home life, moving on to a part-time position as wine brand manager at Gilbeys NI, where she worked with well-known industry figure Trevor McClintock for five years. “And then I wanted to get back to more wine, and less branding,” says Jane, and she began her first stint at JN Wines, working with owner James Nicholson for around four years. Subsequently moving into freelance work to accommodate raising her two sons, Jane worked as a wine consultant and trainer for hotels, restaurants and Ross’s Auctioneers & Valuers in Belfast, and wine writer across publications from Harpers Wine & Spirit to the Belfast Telegraph. Jane, who speaks fluent French and conversational Russian, German and Spanish, has also joined wine judging panels in Ireland, the UK, Australia, South Africa, Italy and France. It was during her freelance period, in 2000, that she became a Master of Wine – a title held at last count by 368 individuals, living in 29 different countries across five continents. @Hosp_ReviewNI

The prestigious accolade requires candidates to pass all elements of an assessment component; a practical exam comprising three papers each involving the blind tasting of 12 wines; a theory exam totalling five papers; and a 10,000-word report based on original research. There are currently 124 female Masters of Wine and, since 2001, a number of years have featured more women than men among the new Masters of Wine. Six years ago, with her sons off to university, Jane then returned to JN Wines, taking up her current part-time role. Among other activities for the wine merchant, she hosts a series of Women in Wine events, aimed at highlighting the increasingly influential role of females in a traditionally male-dominated domain. With the most recent in the series held at The Boathouse in Bangor, the events feature wines made by or significantly influenced by women, and expertly paired with a fine dining tasting menu. “The whole idea seems to interest people,” she says. “It does seem to capture attention.” However, while female-influenced wine is the theme of the series, it is not exclusively aimed at a female audience with men also welcome to attend. Now back to that wine mastering…




50ml Red Bush 10ml Chardonnay 10ml Sauternes 15ml Elderflower syrup 25ml lime juice



In the latest of a regular series, we ask local bartenders to showcase a signature serve featuring the superb premium spirits brands presented by Proximo. Christopher McQuillan, assistant manager at Oliver’s Restaurant in Ballyhackamore, creates a classic cocktail featuring Red Bush. RED BUSH The featured spirit in this month’s signature serve is Red Bush.

RITZ TO RUBBLE 50ml Red Bush 10ml Chardonnay 10ml Sauternes 15ml Elderflower syrup 25ml lime juice Shaken over ice Fine strained into a sherry glass Topped with thyme and star anise oil

“The light, fresh notes of Red Bush work well as an afterdinner drink,” says Christopher. “I’ve incorporated a lot of ingredients people would perceive as being suitable to drink after dinner, putting it in a sherry glass as, again, it would typically be served after dinner.”

about the bartender Christopher commenced his hospitality career cleaning dishes for his head chef brother at the age of 15, progressing to a bartending role at Madison’s Hotel in Belfast when he was 18. Moving on to the Fitzwilliam Hotel’s cocktail bar, “that’s where I started to learn about cocktails, and it gave me the drive to read more about it,” says Christopher. An opportunity then opened up at Love & Death Inc; at that time “the most innovative, creative cocktail bar in Belfast,” he says. “It was in Love & Death, I started to learn about fermentation, distillation and which flavours pair well together. I got promoted to duty manager there and got to work alongside the likes of Anthony Farrell and Brian McGeown for two years. They are both so creative and natural thinkers, nothing is an obstacle, and they also introduced me to cocktail competitions.” Christopher then followed up Love & Death with stints at AM:PM and Saphyre, where he developed his keen interest in food, before joining friends from the industry at Olivers in Ballyhackamore. “I didn’t know this side of town, but Christopher McQuillan, assistant manager at Oliver’s after I tried a few of the head chef’s dishes, it was a no-brainer Restaurant in Ballyhackamore. for me; the food is amazing.”





TALISKER whisky is the title sponsor of the world’s toughest roughest rowing race, The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Like the rowers in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge the TALISKER distillery is battered by the elements and is one of the most remote distilleries in Scotland, and the oldest distillery on the Isle of Skye, founded in 1830. Each participant in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge represents an inspiring story of passion, confidence, challenge and achievement. The single malt whiskies produced at Talisker speak of the rugged, windblown beauty of their origin on the shores of the sea loch Loch Harport, and are adored for their characteristic seasalty nose, peaty, smoky character and peppery finish. The maritime influence of Talisker has led to close links with challenges on the water, including the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the world’s toughest rowing race, which will see crews from around the world row from the Canary Islands to Antigua in December 2017. Talisker 10 year old, Talisker Skye and Talisker Storm are widely distributed while Talisker 18 year old, Distillers Edition and Talisker Port Ruighe can be found in specialist stores. See and www. for more information. Northern Irish rowing team Home to Portrush are pictured at the start of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.




team of Ulster men from Portrush, including George McAlpin – owner of the Ramore restaurant/bar complex – alongside Alistair Cooper, Luke Baker and Gareth Barton, are rowing the Atlantic to raise money for their local lifeboat charity, Portrush Lifeboat. The gruelling 3,000-mile Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge race will take the team, aptly named Home to Portrush, from La Gomera in the Canary Islands, across the Atlantic Ocean to finish in Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua. With a history of motor racing and marathon running behind him, George is the engine of the team and the chief motivator; personal trainer Ally is a passionate indoor rower who can’t wait to get out on the ocean; Luke has a never-give-up attitude and phenomenal stamina; while Bertie is the youngest member of the team facing his biggest challenge to date. The team will burn around 8,000 calories a day and lose approximately 20% of their body weight over the duration of the race, which started on December 12 with the team expected to finish around January 15. They will experience all of the challenges the elements of the Atlantic can conjure, from tropical storms to 40-foot waves and sweltering heat. Rowing in shift patterns of two hours on, two hours off, rowers must battle sleep deprivation to dig deep and discover what they’re made of in the middle of the ocean.

Alongside the physical challenge, they will need to work together to stay mentally strong as they spend Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve away from their families during this transformational adventure, which lasts anywhere between 35-90 days. Through the hardships, they will also be privy to breath-taking moments, being close to nature, amazing sea life, and beautiful sunsets. The local lifeboat they are raising money for is manned totally by volunteers and can be called upon 365 days and nights of the year, in all weathers and on the cruellest of seas. Saving lives is their priority and every single penny raised will help with fuel, uniforms and day-to-day running costs. Each callout costs approximately £6,000. “Passionate about adventure and invigorated by new challenges, Home to Portrush are a truly unique team,” said Sarah Fleming, brand manager at Talisker. “To us, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is all about supporting and bringing to life the transformational experience and journey of each rower as they immerse themselves in the elements. Our founders, the MacAskill brothers, rowed from Eigg to Skye to found Talisker Distillery in Scotland almost 200 years ago and just like our founders’ row, this challenge represents adventure, strength of character and showcases what it means to be made by the sea.” @Hosp_ReviewNI




cotch, the world’s favourite whisky, will be celebrated across the globe on Thursday, February 8 with a series of events to mark International Scotch Day. Now in its second year, the day is a true celebration of Scotland’s greatest gift, cementing Scotch’s status as both the world’s favourite whisky and the perfect drink to be shared with good company, wherever, whenever. Celebrations will take place in homes, bars, clubs and events across the world, as Scotch aficionados, enthusiasts and fans alike raise a glass to their favourite whisky. “Last year we launched International Scotch Day and its huge success proved what we at Diageo already knew – the world loves Scotch,” said Ronan Beirne, global brand marketing director at Diageo. “This year is going to be even bigger, with celebrations taking place globally, from Scotch Whisky tastings to opening the doors to Diageo’s archive in Scotland, free passes to distillery visitor centres and celebrity events in cities from Manila to Johannesburg.” International Scotch Day is an opportunity to celebrate the world’s favourite whisky and to shine a spotlight on the entire Scotch Whisky category. The popularity of Scotch has been built through its integrity, quality and authenticity, and no other spirit can offer as diverse a range of tastes, textures and

flavours. Ewan Gunn, global Scotch whisky master at Diageo, said: “Scotch is made all the way across Scotland - from the romantic west coast, through the whisky heartland of Speyside, to the vibrant urban central belt of Scotland and, though it is made here, it belongs to the world and is truly the world’s favourite whisky. Hosting International Scotch Day for a second year shows how confident we are about the popularity of this truly international drink.” 2018 celebrity ambassadors and global locations will be revealed in @Hosp_ReviewNI

People interested in visiting the Diageo archive on February 8 should email archive.menstrie@ to secure a ticket. There is no charge, but places are limited. Diageo distillery Visitor Centres will be open free of charge on February 8, 10 and 11. The Visitor Centres are at Blair Athol, Caol Ila, Cardhu, Clynelish, Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, Glen Ord, Lagavulin, Oban, Royal Lochnagar and Talisker. February. Join the celebration and get involved by using #LoveScotch #InternationalScotchDay and #jointhecelebration. For more information,n visit LoveofScotch Please drink responsibly.

ABOUT #LOVESCOTCH: LoveScotch is about getting the world talking, thinking and trying the world’s favourite whisky and celebrates all that gives scotch its unique character, flavour and personality. The LoveScotch annual event, International Scotch Day on February 8, is a day for people everywhere to join in and celebrate during the week of the birthday of one of the world’s most influential Master Blenders - Alexander Walker, the son of John ‘Johnnie’ Walker. FEBRUARY HRNI • 21





aint Valentine (Italian: San Valentino), officially Saint Valentine of Terni, is a widely recognised third-century Roman Saint, commemorated on February 14 since the High Middle Ages and associated with a tradition of courtly love. Terni is a city in Umbria, 65 miles from Rome, so there must be some truth about the Italians being the most romantic nation in the world. So, with this feast day just around the corner, you should be on the hunt for that perfectly romantic bottle to share with your loving partner. Rather than reaching for your usual weeknight vino, take the romance up a notch by choosing from one of these romantic bottles to set the mood. Light some candles, pop the cork, and get to sipping, because nothing says “I love you” quite like a bottle of romantic wine. Given the connection with Italy, you’ve got to start the evening off with a bottle of Italian bubbly. Nothing’s more fashionable that Prosecco at the moment; however you have to trade up. Go for a premium wine such as Sartori Efro Spumante Prosecco Brut (Spumante just means sparkling and Brut indicates that the wine is dry). This beautiful ornate bottle will really show your loved one how much you value them. The wine is effervescent and exploding with peach and pear fruits, finishing with a soft refreshing fizz. If you’re partner prefers pink, it’s got to be Riondo Pink Frizzante (Frizzante means fizzy). This brightly coloured bottle just screams “I Love You”; full of light strawberry and raspberry fruits, it’s perfect with a few chopped strawberries in the glass. After the bubbly, you can move onto a zingy zesty Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand ‘Made in Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’, sure to get the senses tingling. And for the main event, it’s got to be Chocolate Box (Dark Chocolate) Shiraz. Wine and chocolate all in one bottle, what could be more romantic? This Decanter Bronze award winner Shiraz is a fantastic example of Barossa Valley Shiraz. Strong aromas of coffee, chocolate, blackberries and spice fill the glass, supported with sweet vanilla oak. A long, silky, smooth finish awaits all, rich and full bodied, just the way your loved one should be. Serve it alongside that perfectly cooked steak and you’re certain to be on a promise. Always finish with something sweet, this way your breath will be cleared of all that garlic and fatty foods and you’ll be ready for some tongue-to-tongue action. Try a small drop of Nederburg Late Harvest Dessert wine with your Strawberry Pavlova. If you haven’t rekindled the romance after all that, then unfortunately you need relationship counselling.



hen lush blackberries meet superior London Dry Gin, the result is Braemble Gin Liqueur, a gin liqueur that is simple, yet sophisticated and sublime. Set to shake-up the gin scene in 2018, Braemble is developed by industry heroes, Mike Aikman and Jason Scott of Bramble Cocktail Bar in Edinburgh, along with fellow Scotsman and gin-genius Craig Harper. Impressive in both taste and tale, Braemble champions the Scottish heritage, with its founders love for Scotland evident through and through. A bold and proud unicorn logo represents the impressive superstition, myth and legend of the region but also reflects the rare beauty and unique pedigree of Braemble itself. In an ode to Scotland’s most-loved flower, the thistle, Braemble is a dark and glossy purple liquid, rich in aroma, arousing all of the senses. Not without Irish influence, Braemble was designed in Northern Ireland, by Belfast-based Drinksology, the creative team behind some of the world’s best bars including The Dead Rabbit and BlackTail. Braemble Gin Liqueur is a versatile addition to your drinks menu, perfect not only for this coming Valentine’s Day but throughout 2018. Customers can enjoy Braemble in a classic cocktail. Suggested serves include The Braemble, The Braemble Sour and Braemble Royale - see





Love whiskey. Love Whiskey Club. and development of Irish whiskey and hopefully some of these will bring new angles to Irish whiskey and further develop it. I still think the major brands are the ones that are at the forefront pushing the category. I think they have the chance to be a bit more innovative. Export is key with everybody wanting America, but I can really see Asia taking off as a market.


So now to actually tasting Irish whiskey. How do you enjoy yours?

How long have you been interested in Irish whiskey? I suppose my interest goes back decades really. I’ve always had a fascination with it. My father, my uncles, and my grandfather, who had a glass of Jameson every night and lived to 104, were all whiskey drinkers. When I was a student whiskey and coke or with ice was my tipple, but my interest didn’t really develop into anything more serious until 8 or 9 years ago.

How did your interest in Irish whiskey develop into the Irish Whiskey Magazine? 4 or 5 years ago I started going to tastings, doing research, looking at different brands and at the history of Irish whiskey. Then I started doing Twitter posts under @irishwhiskeynews. I was reading online whiskey articles, various blogs, and newspapers features but there wasn’t anything in print that was anything more than an insert or short page in one of the standard magazines. I started Irish Whiskey Magazine as a hobby as I wanted to present not just the whiskey itself but the background, history and heritage of it.

It seems like there’s a close knit community inside of Irish whiskey? Yes, I think for me that’s one of the things I really enjoy about Irish whiskey. Tastings bring people together but there’s also the societies and people sharing stories and knowledge of Irish whiskey. My wish is to see everyone who’s involved in the trade benefit from the success of Irish whiskey.

Irish whiskey and the magazine really seem quite personal to you. I ran my own quite successful business before, but unfortunately I had cancer back in 2005 and I lost the business. It really made me take a deeper look at what I wanted to do with my life and it wasn’t easy to rebuild my social life either. Going to tastings and learning more about Irish whiskey gave me the opportunity to do that. It became a passion, almost an obsession. I eventually bit the bullet, quit my stable IT job and am now fortunate to do something that I don’t consider work.

What do you think the future holds for Irish whiskey? I’m very optimistic because I think we are going to get an explosion of brands coming out. It will be great for the publicity

It really depends on the mood and the company I’m with. If I’m there to taste whiskey and enjoy it and relax I’d have it neat. If I’m out having a casual drink I don’t have a problem with taking it with a mixer or in a whiskey sour cocktail. I love pot still whiskeys and single malts. Powers John’s Lane is my go to whiskey. I also like Redbreast 12, Black Barrel and Teeling Single Grain. To spoil myself I’ll go for a Midleton Dair Ghaelach.

What’s coming up in the next issue of the magazine? We’re going to be looking at whiskey from the bartender’s viewpoint. In terms of the magazine itself we’re doing a digital e-book version which should be kicking off in March and we’ll also be developing the website. For me, the magazine was always meant to be a physical product, something you can hold in your hands. We do recognise the demand for digital; we’re just very careful that we want to do digital well. We’re not trying to replicate the magazine.

Where can people get the magazine? The magazine is available through retail partners such as Celtic Whiskey Shop and Mulligans, and in most distilleries too. You can also visit our website and social media @irishwhiskeymag.

WHISKEY OF THE MONTH: Green spot ChAteau Montelena STYLE:


Single Pot Still






Rich red fruit. Cranberry, maraschino cherries with a touch red apple. Some sweeter notes of strawberry laces and nougat.

Rich and mouthcoating pot still spice with red apple and juicy citrus. A touch of red liquorice.

Thick and sweet. Pot still spice is in perfect balance intense fruit character. Red fruit, pears, raisins and vanilla fade to an off dry finish.



10 • HRNI | APRIL @Hosp_ReviewNI @Hops_ReviewNI FEBRUARY HRNI • 23



9TH FEBRUARY - ENTRY DEADLINE 20TH FEBRUARY - ASSESSMENT DAY 6TH MARCH - INTERVIEWS 18TH APRIL - AWARDS DINNER This is the 15th year of the re-invented Receptionist of the Year and the hotel industry’s largest competition is still about recognising the very best in customer service in a vital role for all hotels. Judging takes place across three categories - two individual and one team. All individuals receive free teambuilding and training as part of the assessment process and winners share a £1,500 prize fund. The event culminates in a glittering blacktie awards dinner, this year being held in the Everglades Hotel in Derry-Londonderry on 18th April. The Hotel Receptionist of the Year 2018 is supported by Tourism Northern Ireland, Net Affinity, Shopper Anonymous, Right Revenue, Derry City & Strabane District Council and Life: One Great Adventure.


14TH MARCH - AWARDS DINNER The competition is now in its 9th year and continues to attract a wide range of entries from large and small premises. It is a team competition with two people on each team and is designed to be fun and educational. Assessment takes place in two categories - under 90 rooms and 90 rooms or more - and the assessment day is a great chance for housekeepers to get out and meet others. Finalists are chosen from this day and a surprise inspection carried out in each premise to determine the winners. The hotels receive free inspection reports and the event finishes with an awards dinner in the Hilton Templepatrick on 14th March. The Housekeeping Awards are supported by Tourism Northern Ireland, Bunzl Rafferty Hospitality, Ecolab, Robinson Services, Linencare and Respa Beds.


22ND FEBRUARY - BELFAST AND DERRY-LONDONDERRY 23RD FEBRUARY - OMAGH These three free seminars will demonstrate the importance of up-to-date information and how it can benefit your business. STR will provide monthly market updates (NI versus performance of key UK & European cities), look at the trends in NI regions and answer questions on how hotels are performing across a range of categories. They are aimed at those involved in sales, marketing, reception and reservations as well as general managers and allow hotels to better understand how they are performing in relation to their competitors.

New legislation on how you handle data comes into force in May 2018. It has significant implications for hoteliers. So far, a lot of the advice and articles on GDPR have made it seem very complicated and onerous to implement. This workshop aims to present a simple summary of what the legislation requires, with some practical examples for hotels to follow. If you want to comply with the new law and be ready for its implementation on 25th May 2018 – you need to take action now. The workshop is supported by O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors and will be held in the Dunsilly Hotel, Antrim.

The Federation has run three previous development programmes to New York’s renowned Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. This fourth course for the hotel and serviced accommodation sector will help participants understand the issues of marketing, leadership and the consumer market. It includes pre-programme exercises, a residential workshop in Northern Ireland, two intensive days at the university, three days benchmarking the very latest hotel developments in New York City, meetings with travel agents and tour operators and a final review day back in Ireland. The programme is supported by Invest NI and run in conjunction with Tourism Northern Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.




s hoteliers, we are constantly battling with the OTAs and 15 years after the first explosion of online travel agents, we are still giving them too much availability; not managing pricing and crying into our cheque books each month when there are commission bills to pay... But what will the next two years bring? Well the experts are predicting that Blockchain technology will rise and the OTAs will become less and less dominant. SO, WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN? If you Google it, you will find the following: In essence, Blockchain is a tool for maintaining transparent and distributed ledgers that can verify financial transactions with minimal third-party involvement. Blockchain is distributed in the sense that the ledger is not held in a central location but rather spread across a network of computers. And it is transparent in the sense that every transaction is made public for all to see. Blockchain solves the problem of trust. If Person A wants to send money to Person B, how do we know that Person A has the necessary funds? Typically, we would need a third party, say a bank, to verify the exchange. But the advantage of blockchain is that it stores an indelible ledger of all previous transactions in a string of ‘blocks’; meaning, we know who owns what and who can send what to whom. And what does this mean for the hospitality industry? The goal for Blockchain is to ‘cut out the middle man’ and would allow customers to buy directly from us as hoteliers. This new platform would allow direct communication and no commission fees! COMPANIES SUCH AS: Trippki - rewards travellers who leave positive reviews or who recommend a friend with a ‘token’ that can be redeemed at the hotel or exchanged for cash. Lockchain - provides a platform where customers can book directly with hotels and cut out the ‘middle’ OTA - so win/win for everyone! Pally - forget the touristy guides and TripAdvisor, Pally not only allows you to get travel tips from locals but also provides a peer-to-peer platform making responses and communication instant and seamless. However, the most interesting for me is Travelchain. Travelchain is a decentralised data-sharing platform where users are incentivised to share their travel preferences with hospitality companies. Imagine if you knew that a traveller was arriving from Spain and liked boutique hotels, loved Italian food and red wine. How powerful is that information? Imagine the offers and incentives you could push that specific guest on a one-to-one basis. The amount of information shared is up to the guest, so this technology feels to me less disruptive, but how powerful would that be for both guest and hospitality provider? Very! We have all learnt in 2017, that the most important thing we can do is to get to know our customers and, when you do, this means you can provide a unique and memorable experience. The OTAs do not allow us to do that; Blockchain technology does. There is of course a long way to go but my advice is to watch this space - this technology is coming and it could be the next great disruptor.

Visit or email 26 • HRNI FEBRUARY


Prof Julie Hastings (centre) and Hannah Corbett (left) from Hastings Hotels were joined by Clara Killen from the SSE Arena to launch 2018 Digi-Talk: The Forum, a monthly event that allows for shared learning of the fast-moving digital industry.


astings Hotels launched 2018 Digi-Talk: The Forum, a monthly event facilitating shared learning of the fast-moving digital industry in January, with its first forum exploring Digital Trends for 2018. Each month, a different expert will cover a topic of relevance providing local organisations with the opportunity to learn more about the growing realm of digital marketing and how it can be applied to help businesses. “We are delighted to launch the 2018 DigiTalk: The Forum and have secured a fantastic programme of speakers who will share their knowledge and provide plenty of topical information,” said Hannah Corbett, group digital strategist for Hastings Hotels. “People scroll three hundred feet a day on their phone and we only have 1.7 seconds to stand out on social media so the forum provides a great opportunity for local businesses, especially smaller ones who might not have budget to invest in digital personnel, to learn more about digital marketing and how it can help.” Throughout the year, a range of topics will be covered including writing for the web, how to succeed at social media, digital PR and social media influencers, video production and the new General Data Protection Regulation. Delegates will have the opportunity to interact and learn from local experts, ask questions and have access to the slides from each presentation. Further information on 2018 Digi-Talk: The Forum can be found at @Hosp_ReviewNI



Marking the anniversary are Alan Walls, manager and Kelly Neill, assistant manager.


hirty years after it was saved from dereliction, The Bushmills Inn is celebrating an impressive awards haul affirming its reputation as a leading light in the local hospitality industry. Among accolades awarded over the past year are Hotel of the Year and Customer Service Excellence (Northern Ireland Tourism Awards); Top 25 UK Hotels (TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards); Reception Team of the Year (NI Hotels Federation); Best Boutique Golf Hotel in Ireland (Golfers Guide to Ireland); and Best Customer Experience Property (Ireland Golf Tour Operators Association). “These prestigious accolades recognise the hotel’s commitment to excellence and the hard work and dedication of all our staff,” says Alan Walls, hotel manager at The Bushmills Inn. “The team works incredibly hard to deliver a unique and unforgettable experience to all our guests, as well as promoting the Causeway Coast and Glens as an exciting and vibrant destination.” Trade, meanwhile, increased by 10% in 2017, while ongoing development included creating a new laundry room to allow for a possible kitchen expansion,

remodelling of the restaurant reception area and a new floor laid in the Gas Bar. Further: “We have also invested in a new website in order to become mobile responsive and drive more business through this medium. Continuing to increase our digital footprint is very high on our marketing agenda,” he says. Refurbishment plans for the coming year include re-carpeting all public areas and renovating 10 en-suite bathrooms. “From a sales point of view, we are focusing on the European market, in particular the RoI market through joint campaigns with Tourism Northern Ireland and the NI Hotels Federation, given that the value of the euro is making it more attractive to travel to our destination in the heart of Lonely Planet’s top Best in Travel 2018,” says Walls. High VAT and corporation tax rates, and the skills shortage, are key challenges for the venue. “We endeavour to pay attractive wages but the knockon effect of the National Living Wage will have detrimental consequences. It will be difficult for companies to absorb these costs as they cannot be passed onto consumers.”

HOTELHUB HOTEL OPENED: 1987 HISTORY: Originally a Coaching Inn with stables dating back to the early 1600s, at the same time Old Bushmills was granted the world’s first licence to distil whiskey, the Inn became a haven for saddlesore visitors on route to the Giant’s Causeway. With the arrival of a Tram in the 19th century, the Inn fell into decline. Extensive development works were undertaken in 1987 by the previous owner and, in 2007, the hotel was bought over by then Manager Alan Dunlop and his wife Zoe who, in 2009, invested a further £2.4m and opened an additional 19 bedrooms and suites, created a new private reception area for residents, renovated the existing Coaching Inn bedrooms to a conference suite and cinema, and extended the restaurant and hotel car park. EMPLOYEES: 65 full-time and 30 part-time ROOM NUMBERS: 41 RATING: 4-star STYLE: The hotel has remained true to its heritage in terms of style. Characterised by turf fires, nooks and crannies, wooden beams and white-washed walls, and individually-designed guest rooms, the hotel exudes warmth and character. MARKET POSITIONING: Luxury, boutique, unique 4-star hotel, well known throughout Ireland and on an international forum (particularly North America) with the reputation of being the hotel of choice for discerning golf travellers. GUEST PROFILE: Winter market is mainly domestic, from both northern and southern Ireland. Summer sees a wide variety of guests, mainly from the US (particularly golf travellers) and Europe, northern and southern Ireland and the UK. USPs: The character, history and building itself; a team of all-local staff who consistently exceed expectations; its location in the heart of the Causeway Coastal Route; and unique features such as a 30-seater cinema, and distinctive conference and meeting rooms such as a hidden library. FOOD & BEVERAGE: An AA Restaurant serving food daily from 7am to 9.30pm throughout the year; breakfast, lunch, a la carte dinner and Sunday Carvery menus with an emphasis on fresh, locallysourced seasonal ingredients. The public Gas Bar is a traditional Irish bar, serving Bar Bites, craft beers, Irish whiskeys, signature cocktails and offering live traditional Irish music every Saturday evening. Al fresco dining on the patio is available throughout the summer months, as well as a fireside menu which includes cream tea.


CHINESE VISITOR FACTS Chinese inbound tourism follows different patterns to that of the typical visitor. They travel between May and October 1, or the Lunar New Year. Unconventional destinations are often a preference for the Chinese tourist, making NI and its upand-coming tourism market a big attraction. The preferential payment method for the Chinese Tourist is Union Pay. • Affluent visitors, businessmen and students from China will be well used to high levels of technology and are increasingly discerning with increasing exposure to foreign goods and services. • China has the largest online population with 550m Internet users of whom 80% are under 39 and 70% are city dwellers - Internet access and wi-fi is very important to Chinese visitors. • China meal times tend to be earlier than in the UK and Ireland. Breakfast from 6.30am, lunch from 11.30am and dinner from 6pm. • While the Chinese tourist is open to trying out Western menus, according to Visit Britain, they will seek out Chinese food on day three of their holiday so Chinese influences on menus pay dividends. • Small dish-style experiences are popular with the Chinese. • Service charges and tipping is not normal practice in China, so service charges should be prominent on bills. • Showing respect and acknowledgement to senior members of groups is always expected, according to Visit Britain, which also explains that in accommodation, the room number four is always considered unlucky! It also claims that larger room sizes should be considered for the Chinese tourist who will be more accustomed to a more spacious offering. • Pubs are not the norm for a Chinese visitor and while they list visiting one as more of a sight-seeing box to be ticked, the environment is very foreign. Soften the experience with a Chinese welcome sign to make your guests feel at ease. 28 • HRNI FEBRUARY



here are some 135 million travellers departing from China annually. They spend $261bn, a figure that is increasing in double digits since 2010, making Chinese tourists the biggest-spending travellers in the world. In fact, the secretary general of the World Tourism Organisation said recently that they spend double the international average so it makes sense that tuning into the desires and demands from this growing market is good for business. And it’s no surprise that Hastings Hotels, which has long set the benchmark for hospitality in NI, thanks to the pioneering methods and ambition of the late Sir William Hastings, is the first hotelier on the island of Ireland to achieve China Ready accreditation. The certificate it received recently, granted by Fáilte Ireland and Tourism NI, coupled with a ‘Welcome Host’ certificate and Quality Label from COTRI (the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute) will allow it to capitalise on this valuable market and publicise its newlyawarded status in tourism promotional

literature and to travel operators serving China. Howard Hastings, managing director of the hotel group, says he “noticed a marked increase” in the number of Chinese guests staying at his hotels and felt it was important to make them feel welcome but also “understand their needs”. Dr Tony Lenehan, executive director Ireland at the Centre of Competitiveness (COC), COTRI, agrees. “Understanding Chinese customers from package-tour first timers to ‘second wave’ sophisticated self-organised travellers and responding to their demands, communicating readiness, and offering the right kind of services to the right kind of market segment is key to success in this market,” he says. “Any organisation that is currently engaging with the Chinese tourist market, or is intending to do so should prepare their staff and their operations to meet the needs of this emerging market,” he says. And with 2018 marked as the EU China Year of Tourism, a drive that will encourage Chinese tourists to visit @Hosp_ReviewNI



For more information on accreditation, contact The Centre for Competitiveness (Ireland) which has offices in Belfast and Dublin, It is the partner organisation in the island of Ireland for COTRI, (China Outbound Tourism Research Institute), the world’s leading independent research institute for Chinese outbound tourism.

Pictured are Howard Hastings (centre) from Hastings Hotels with Gerry Lennon of Visit Belfast, Dr Tony Lenehan from the Centre for Competitiveness and COTRI (Ireland), John McGrillen of Tourism Northern Ireland and Niall Gibbons of Tourism Ireland.

Europe, including NI - there’s no time like the present to hone new skills and inject new practices in the workplace. Couple that with news that the first direct flight from Hong Kong to Dublin will launch in June and the freedom of a new British-Irish Visa Scheme making it easier for Chinese visitors to travel between the two islands, and it makes this emerging market a significant one to be part of. So, what exactly should the hospitality business operator aspire to know and do to cater to this market? “Whether tourism organisations are interested in targeting Chinese visitors for the first time or are finding that their current approach is not working, or if they are simply interested in gaining a better understanding of the Chinese consumer and how to best serve their needs, the China Tourist Welcome (COTRI) initiative will address their needs,” says Dr Lenehan. “The COTRI Training workshop helps tourism service providers and destinations to position themselves at the forefront of the biggest global outbound tourism source market by understanding the different market segments, learning to successfully adapt products and by communicating the special attention given to the market to Chinese tour operators and self-organised travellers,” he says. The Chinese Tourist Welcome Training Programme is recommended by the ETC (European Travel Commission). It has also been endorsed by PATA Pacific AsiaTravel Association and has been awarded the GREAT China Welcome Charter Mark of

VisitBritain. The scheme incorporates a fourhour training programme for key employees who can adjust their product and services to meet the needs of the Chinese Tourist. It is the only one of its kind available here to allow businesses to receive official accreditation. And John McGrillen, chief executive of Tourism NI, tells HRNI that any establishments taking steps to prepare for the Chinese visitor, will not only benefit themselves but play a role in contributing to the wider NI economy. “By encouraging small efforts by staff to assist Chinese visitors, the industry can deliver a world-class visitor experience and give our Chinese guests a reason to share their positive experiences of Northern Ireland and hopefully return,” he says. “As the competition to attract Chinese visitors intensifies, we are working very closely with our overseas marketing partners Tourism Ireland to increase Chinese visitor numbers to Northern Ireland. It is therefore essential that we all utilise this business opportunity and ensure that staff and facilities are equipped to meet and exceed the expectations of Chinese visitors who, on average, stay longer and spend more than many other visitors.” So, will the accreditation be communicated via those overseas marketing partners? Yes, says Dr Lenehan. “Very much so and it will give special consideration to those tourism organisations and destinations that @Hosp_ReviewNI

make a special effort to provide a very special welcome for them in Northern Ireland,” he says. Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Visit Belfast, says: “It is vital that we, the industry, fully understand this market and their specific needs in order to provide the right service and visitor experiences and fully optimise the potential this very special market provides in generating tourism demand and revenue to the city region.” Stena Line’s growth in Chinese passengers is further proof that the industry needs to adapt. It has seen substantial increases in the number of Chinese passengers on its Cairnryan crossings. Ian Bailie, Stena Line’s key account & product sales manager – UK & Ireland, says: “We have embarked on a number of customer service initiatives to make our Chinese guests feel even more welcome. “Recently, Stena Line’s BelfastCairnryan service became the first ferry company in Europe to achieve the Chinese Tourist Welcome certification. “We have made a number of changes on board, including updating our guest services, products and communications to ensure that we are ‘China Ready’ and focused on providing a very special welcome to all of our Chinese and other international guests.” Lennon adds: “Hastings Hotels, Stena Line and Titanic Belfast are leading the way in preparing and welcoming the increasing number of Chinese visitors to Belfast and Northern Ireland. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in the numbers of Asian visitors coming into the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre and our airport VIC, so we are training our visitor servicing and marketing and sales teams accordingly. “If Belfast is to meet the market’s expectations and generate wider visitor growth, it is therefore all our responsibility to follow suit in being China Ready.” FEBRUARY HRNI • 29

tourismnews-attractions IRELAND’S FIRST INDOOR SKYDIVE CENTRE OPENS IN BELFAST Belfast-based adventure centre We Are Vertigo has expanded into the Titanic Quarter with the launch of Ireland’s first and only indoor skydive, representing a £1.5m investment. Opened in December, the Vertigo Indoor Skydive Centre has created 20 new jobs, bringing the total number of staff employed by We Are Vertigo to 200 and its total investment in Northern Ireland’s leisure industry to £5m. The state-of-the-art facility is located in the former T13 building and uses world-leading Aerodium tunnel technology, used by the movie industry to film stunts for award-winning movies.

GAME OF THRONES CAMPAIGN SCOOPS GRAND PRIX AWARD Tourism Ireland’s Game of Thrones tapestry campaign has scooped a top prize at the eurobest awards, the biggest accolade for creative advertising in Europe. The Grand Prix recognised its Game of Thrones tapestry campaign in the Print and Outdoor category, in which it triumphed over McDonalds, Volkswagen and Hasbro. “We are really proud that our Game of Thrones tapestry campaign has been recognised amongst the very best advertising in Europe,” said Mark Henry, Tourism Ireland’s central marketing director. “It has been a privilege to work with HBO and our partners in Northern Ireland, to promote Northern Ireland as Game of Thrones Territory.”

TARGETING LUXURY TRAVELLERS FOR NORTHERN IRELAND Sixteen tourism businesses from Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland joined Tourism Ireland in Cannes, for the annual International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM). ILTM is an invitation-only event for the global luxury travel industry – attracting more than 1,500 influential travel agents and decision-makers working in the luxury travel sector, as well as leading luxury travel editors and journalists from about 170 publications across the globe. Tourism Ireland highlighted a number of key themes at ILTM – including the Causeway Coastal Route and Belfast as well as luxury shopping on the island of Ireland. 30 • HRNI FEBRUARY


Pictured are Debbie MacLean, Golf Holidays Worldwide; Brenda Johnston, Tourism Ireland; Derek Anderson, Golf Holidays Worldwide; and Leanne Rice, Tourism NI, at IGTM in Cannes.


ourism Ireland’s drive to grow the number of golf visitors to Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland continued last month at the International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) in Cannes, France. A number of golf and tourism operators from Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland joined Tourism Ireland at the event, which is now in its 20th year and is attended by more than 1,300 golf tourism professionals

from over 65 countries, including about 400 golf tour operators responsible for 80% of the world’s outbound golf travel market. The companies engaged in oneto-one, pre-scheduled appointments, which provided an excellent opportunity to negotiate and exchange vital contracts for 2018. “IGTM is another really good opportunity to showcase our world-class golf,” said Louise Finnegan, Tourism Ireland’s head of Business Partnerships. “This is just one element of Tourism Ireland’s busy promotional programme to encourage more golfers from around the globe to consider a holiday in Northern Ireland in 2018. Our message is that Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland offers international golfers the complete package – with some of the very best golf in the world, stunning scenery and the warmest of welcomes.”



orthern Ireland was featured in the London Life food section of the Evening Standard, showcasing award-winning food and drink producers and what a great ‘foodie’ destination it is, at the end of 2017. The article would have been seen by about 1.5 million readers in London – or potential holidaymakers for Northern Ireland. This article was part of a four-week partnership between Tourism Ireland and the London Evening Standard to highlight Northern Ireland in GB. The food-focused piece included an interview with Caroline Wilson, founder

of Taste and Tour Belfast, who revealed her top tips for visitors to Belfast. A separate four-page article, meanwhile, aimed to capitalise on the recent Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2018 accolade for Belfast and the Causeway Coast. Northern Ireland is described as ‘a destination you’ll fall in love with’, and the piece including striking images of the Giant’s Causeway, Titanic Belfast and the CS Lewis sculpture. The feature also highlights home-grown food and drink and Northern Ireland’s literary heritage including Seamus Heaney and CS Lewis, as well as the filming locations used in Game of Thrones. @Hosp_ReviewNI


CITY AIRPORT PASSENGERS AND WORLD DUTY FREE SUPPORT CHILDREN’S CANCER Joanne Deighan, commercial manager at George Best Belfast City Airport and Ciara Hamill from the airport’s World Duty Free Store met with Naomi Spence, play specialist nurse to help hand out donated bears to Zara Salme and Seanin Kelly.


or a second consecutive year, holidaymakers and commuters travelling through George Best Belfast City Airport have supported World Duty Free’s festive Buy a Bear initiative for the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity. The plush, cuddly teddy bears were

sold at World Duty Free in the airport in December, with visitors to the store purchasing over 600 bears, which have now been donated to children of the Royal Victoria Hospital Children’s Cancer Unit. Donations of the bears far exceeded



ourism Ireland has teamed up with easyJet, to promote flights to Belfast and winter breaks in Northern Ireland. The month-long campaign includes full-page ads and articles in Metro newspaper, the London Evening Standard and TimeOut London, which have a combined circulation of over 3.6 million readers. The campaign also includes ads for Northern Ireland on Facebook and a feature about Belfast on the easyJet website. Working closely with airlines and airports to build demand for flights to Northern Ireland is a key priority for Tourism Ireland, with the campaign targeting an important ‘culturally curious’ audience in GB. “We are delighted to partner with easyJet to highlight ease of access from GB to Northern Ireland and to help grow tourism numbers in the winter months”, said Julie Wakley, Tourism Ireland’s head of Great Britain. “As an island, the importance of convenient, direct, non-stop flights cannot be overstated – they are absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism. This campaign is part of our expanded partnership programme with key partners in GB, communicating a strong price-led message.” @Hosp_ReviewNI

expectations, meaning all 470 children in the hospital will receive a Red Kay or a Green Lancelot bear, complete with a Christmas jumper. “Our passengers, once again, showed their incredible kindness and we have been able to not only give a little bear to all children in the Royal Victoria Hospital, but we were also able to give them to the Children’s Hospice and NI Cancer Fund for Children,” said Joanne Deighan, commercial manager at Belfast City Airport. “Thank you to all of our passengers who have taken part in this year’s charity gift.” Local charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke has also, meanwhile, received financial support from the George Best Belfast City Airport Community Fund for a project that teaches schoolchildren about the importance of living healthy. The funding provided by the airport will help support the delivery of the programme to over 1,000 pupils in 26 schools across Northern Ireland.



housands of people passing through one of London’s busiest train stations have been seeing eye-catching images and footage of the Giant’s Causeway. Tourism Ireland’s latest initiative to showcase Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland’s promotion the Causeway Coastal Route is a highlighted Northern Ireland in London’s King’s Cross fun ‘augmented reality’ promotion Station. in King’s Cross Station. It has been grabbing the attention of commuters when, what appears to be a normal mirror, changes to reveal the mythical giant Finn McCool breaking through the ceiling, causing the Causeway stones to dramatically burst through the floor. “This promotion in King’s Cross Station is just one element of our busy campaign to boost late season travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and to highlight the wonderful Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2018 accolade for Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route”, said Julie Wakley, Tourism Ireland head of Great Britain. “Tourism Ireland is constantly trying innovative and engaging ways to grab the attention of potential visitors, to ensure ‘standout’ for Northern Ireland. Our quirky promotion certainly proved a hit with commuters as they made their way through King’s Cross.” Great Britain is an important market for tourism to Northern Ireland, delivering 65% of all overseas visitors and around 58% of all overseas tourism revenue. FEBRUARY HRNI • 31


A DAY IN THE LIFE WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB? The best and worst parts of my job involve travelling. I’m just back from the IGTM expo in Cannes and I’m off to Florida for a global golf meet next month. I really enjoy the international shows and getting to showcase Northern Ireland’s diverse golf portfolio to potential holidaymakers from across the world. People in the golf industry enjoy the 19th hole so it’s not all work all the time but I would enjoy a bit more desk time. WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE TOURISM SECTOR? The tourism industry is constantly evolving, and I have to keep a very close eye on tourism markets, and visitor needs in relation to golf tourism. Competition from other golf ready destinations is high so I am particularly interested in learning how best to utilise the most effective channels to communicate with golfers. OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY Every day is different in this role, which is ideal for me. One week I could be at a trade event and the next week I could be working with a golf club to identify ways to promote their tournament in the local market.


PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE I was awarded New Marketing Professional Award at the 2012 Chartered Institute of Marketing awards, which was a great boost for me, and it gave me great confidence to develop my career. Following this, I have won several awards from campaigns I managed with former employees, for integrated marketing campaigns that I led. BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED IN THE LOCAL HOSPITALITY/TOURISM SECTOR There’s never been a more exciting time to work in tourism in Northern Ireland, with record visitor numbers and a real buzz and vibrancy in the industry. I am currently involved in the planning for The Open Championship which will be held in Royal Portrush Golf Club in 2019.

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE? I joined Tourism NI in August last year. As golf marketing manager, my role involves developing and implementing a strategic golf marketing plan to enhance Northern Ireland’s Made for Golf position and to drive the Golf Strategy to increase the value of golf tourism to £50m. My day-to-day activities include coordinating the delivery of all Northern Ireland golf marketing and promotional team activity, optimising “I really enjoy the all planned golf, media and tourism international shows events to ensure consistent marketing and branding. getting to showcase

Northern Ireland’s


WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK? My family live right beside the Mournes and I love escaping to the mountains for a ramble which in my opinion is the best walk we have in Northern Ireland, but I may be biased.

WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN diverse golf portfolio to TOURISM? At university, I spent my placement potential holidaymakers year as tourism officer with Belfast City from across the world.” Council, and I enjoyed learning about the tourism product in Belfast alone. Both my degree and master’s dissertations TELL US SOMETHING were tourism related so I suppose I have always had an interest ABOUT YOURSELF NOT MANY PEOPLE MAY in tourism. I am delighted to join Tourism NI at such an exciting KNOW time for the industry as we welcome more visitors than ever When I was eight years old, I bought two calves with my before who are staying longer and spending more. communion money as an investment. 32 • HRNI FEBRUARY @Hosp_ReviewNI


McCUE AT THE FOREFRONT OF TRANSFORMING HEALTH SECTOR McCue Crafted Fit has been recommissioned as fit out contractor for the new Acute Services Block at the Ulster Hospital in Belfast, following their previous contract fitting out bespoke bathrooms within the Phase B Inpatient Ward Block (pictured).


cCue Crafted Fit has been recommissioned as fit out contractor for the new Acute Services Block at the Ulster Hospital in Belfast. The company has been subcontracted by Graham BAM Construction to provide bespoke interiors and fit out for

126 bathrooms for the project, which is due to begin in March 2018. This is the second project at the Ulster Hospital for McCue, which was previously contracted to fit out 288 bespoke bathrooms within the Phase B Inpatient Ward Block, as part of a

£261m investment that was completed in April 2017. “We are delighted to be recommissioned as fit-out contractor for the new Acute Services Block at the Ulster Hospital in Belfast,” said Les McCracken, managing director of McCue. “This is a fantastic project for us and we are incredibly excited to supply the Ulster Hospital again with the finest infection control materials on the market. “We will be using the ‘Corian’ solid surface material for the walls and surfaces of the bathrooms, because of its hygienic properties in addition to its durability. The product is thermoformed, with no seams or joints, allowing for tighter infection control with the proper upkeep and maintenance. This will be along with our bespoke joinery and other works.”

FIT-OUT FIRM SHARES ITS EXPORT EXPERTISE M JM Group shared its inspirational export growth story with more than 50 businesses from across the Newry and Mourne region at an event held at the company’s Carnbane Business Park facility in December. The event included a tour of MJM facilities, and was organised as part of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Danske Bank Export First initiative showcasing inspirational success stories. MJM Group is an international specialist in interior fit out, refurbishment, refit and services, offering comprehensive and turnkey solutions to clients in the

five decks of the Star Pisces marine, commercial and which will include the private sectors. transformation of casinos, The company was restaurants and retail recognised for its export areas. success by securing “Northern Ireland two awards in 2017 companies such as MJM – the Belfast Telegraph Group have proven time Excellence in Export and and time again that they the Aer Lingus Viscount Pictured at the latest Danske Bank Export can punch well above Awards Exporter of the First event at Newry’s MJM Group are Gary Annett (MJM Group), Ann McGregor their weight on the world Year 2017. (NI Chamber) and Oonagh Murtagh stage through innovative In December, the (Danske Bank). thinking, quality products, company secured a effective strategies and sheer drive and seven-figure deal contract with Star determination,” said Ann McGregor, chief Cruises in China to carry out a series executive of NI Chamber. of works in 15 separate areas across



lobal hospitality software business Guestline is planning for further growth in 2018 following a strong performance in 2017, which included 20% growth in its client base, significant investment in new technology and key markets worldwide, and development of its senior management teams. The company has added to its portfolio of hospitality software technology throughout its 25th year, driven by growing demand from accommodation providers for innovative technology. Guestline’s solutions support distribution

and revenue management, operations and digital marketing to deliver greater profitability. “2017 has been a year of significant innovation, development and growth and this is testament to the hard work of the strong team we have in place at Guestline,” said Andrew McGregor, CEO of Guestline. “Customer feedback is overwhelmingly positive and we have seen strong growth over the last 12 months with bookings via our portals up 30% and a 49% increase in total revenue generated for our customers. @Hosp_ReviewNI

“2018 will see more shifts in the hospitality market and technology landscapes as we prepare for new technology opportunities and the legislation on GDPR. Our continued investment and innovation in technology will help deliver greater efficiencies and greater profitability for current and new clients in the year ahead.” Among developments in 2017, a new office was opened in Dublin with Clio O’Gara and Ingrid Fallon appointed as country manager and regional sales manager respectively. FEBRUARY HRNI • 33



Eimear Callaghan has been appointed as business solutions manager. In her new role, Eimear will be creating platforms for Northern Ireland tourism businesses to engage with international buyers, in particular with the meetings, incentive, conferences and exhibitions sector and international travel trade; ultimately seeking to deliver increased visitor spend in line with the strategic targets of the draft Tourism Strategy. Callaghan joined Tourism NI in 2011 and previously held roles in destination marketing and golf marketing, working on award-winning projects such as ni2012 our time our place, DerryLondonderry UK City of Culture, Giro d’Italia and the Irish Open. A graduate in modern languages from Queens University Belfast, she holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing, a Diploma in Digital Marketing and is a student language guide with Tour Guides Northern Ireland.

Leanne Rice has recently joined Tourism NI as golf marketing manager. In her new role, Rice will work to build Northern Ireland’s profile as a golf destination and grow the value of golf tourism to £50m per annum by 2020. With business-tobusiness and business-to-consumer marketing and promotional activity planned, she will play an integral role in preparation for The Open Championship at Portrush in 2019. An award-winning marketer, Rice has over eight years of marketing experience and joins Tourism NI from Henderson Wholesale, where she managed brand-marketing plans for over 400 stores across Northern Ireland. Leanne holds a BSc in Marketing along with a master’s in international business and a postgraduate diploma in digital marketing communications.

David Daley has been appointed business planning and improvement manager, focusing on business planning, business improvement, performance reporting and liaison with the Department for the Economy. Having joined Tourism NI in 2012 as a senior research officer, David held the role of business improvement officer before being promoted to manager of the team earlier this year. A social policy graduate, he also holds a master’s in social research methods and is a certified member of the market research society.



elfast-based public relations agency MCE – which includes the Beannchor Group among its clients - has acquired Stakeholder Communications, one of the longest established PR firms in Northern Ireland. The acquisition includes the transition of six full-time Stakeholder staff with former Stakeholder Managing Director Tom Kelly to be retained as a consultant. “We had been in discussion with Stakeholder for some time and we are now very glad to get this deal agreed, retain all of the staff and move the clients across seamlessly to MCE,” said Paul McErlean, managing director of 34 • HRNI FEBRUARY

Paul McErlean, managing director of MCE

MCE. “Our business has deliberately aimed to grow in our three main business areas: public and stakeholder affairs, corporate and business public relations and consumer and lifestyle communications.

“We have also added specialist events and digital functions in recent times and, with this acquisition, we will now have a full-time graphic design function also. The deep experience and networks of Tom and his team have been built up over many years and we are really looking forward to deploying that expertise on behalf of our clients. “The world of public relations is changing rapidly and we believe that this broadening and deepening of MCE’s offer will assist us greatly in our efforts to add value to our existing clients and help us win new business here and further afield.” MCE now has 24 full-time staff. @Hosp_ReviewNI






DEADLINE: Editorial: FRIDAY 2 FEBRUARY Contact: Alyson Magee T: 028 9026 4175 e: Advertising: FRIDAY 9 FEBRUARY Contact: Mark Glover T: 028 9026 4266 e: @Hosp_ReviewNI





Ryan Brown 07971 508739 Carla McGreevy 07971 508732 Tel: 01962 762100

COUNTERPOINT WHOLESALE IRELAND 14 Kilbegs Road, Antrim, Northern Ireland. BT41 4NN Tel: 0808 1011 610 Email: Web: National Sales Manager: Cathy Fox Tel: 07974 319551 Key Accounts Manager: Brenda McGale Tel: 078017 53562 Wine Manager: Jonny Callan Tel: 078017 53603 Account Development Executives: Belfast Denise Stone Tel: 078017 53552 Co Down Brendan Kearney Tel: 077958 17279 Armagh, Tyrone & Fermanagh Marie Mcintosh Tel: 077203 48111 Derry, Antrim & North-West Tyrone Emma Nugent Tel: 078017 53590



4 Annagh Drive, Portadown, Craigavon, BT63 5WF Tel: 028 38333102 Fax: 028 38335916 Company Chairman: Paul Hunt Managing Director: Robert Davis Sales Manager: Michael Millar

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NEW ZEALAND Villa Maria Estate Esk Valley Mud House Leftfield AUSTRALIA Hardys Banrock Station McWilliams Hanwood Estate Evans & Tate CALIFORNIA Barefoot Gallo Family Vineyards Dark Horse Apothic Geyser Peak CHILE Errazuriz Caliterra Gato Negro 35 South Acon Cagua Montes La Palma ARGENTINA Nicholas Catena Argento La Celia SOUTH AFRICA Boschendal Tall Horse Douglas Green FRANCE Cordier Mestrezat Chateau La Chablisienne Jean Durup Chablis Cellier Des Samson Bougrier Guy Saget Louis Bernard Louis Jadot GERMANY Three Princes ITALY Orsola Prosecco Bolla Prosecco Canti Villa Lanata Antinori Cantine Settesoli Gruppo Italiano Vini Santi SPAIN Faustino Raimat Legaris Bodegas Campillo Señorio De Labarta Pleyadas Codorniu Cava CHAMPAGNE Laurent Perrier Alfred Gratien Piper Heidsieck



38 • HRNI FEBRUARY @Hosp_ReviewNI



CONTACT US @NSCraftBeers Conall: 07813178552 Derek: 07908728710 Peter: 07789507559









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40 • HRNI FEBRUARY @Hosp_ReviewNI





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NEXT ISSUE... MARCH 2018 Need the recipe for sucess? Whether you’re a hotel, restaurant,

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LISTENING TO: Depeche Mode, The Singles 86-98 FAVOURITE BAND: Pink Floyd LAST BOOK READ: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire FAVOURITE CELEBRITY: Simon Cowell












HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THIS ROLE? Seven months. Titanic Hotel Belfast opened in September 2017, and the management team was brought on board three months prior to the grand opening. It has been an incredible experience to be part of the launch of the world’s most authentic Titanic-themed hotel, right in the heart of where she was designed, Harland & Wolff and these historic docklands. DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY? I review my activity (set in advance) for that day, in order of priority, and try and stick to it as much as possible. I try and keep daytime activity as sales focused 42 • HRNI FEBRUARY

as possible – communicating and engaging with existing and potential clients; sales calls and site visits for everything from conferences to wedding days. I call it my ‘selling time’. Then in the evening I would catch up with emails and administration work. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB? A restaurant cashier in a hotel restaurant.



WHAT FOUR PEOPLE WOULD YOU INVITE TO A DINNER PARTY? Simon Cowell, Jack Black, David Hasselhoff, Tony Robbins ONE ITEM YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT? Mobile phone WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL JOB? Creative writer WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE OF YOUR LIFE? Sandra Bullock FAVOURITE QUOTE? “Look in the mirror, that’s your competition.” THE MOST IMPORTANT LIFE LESSON YOU’VE LEARNT? “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail!” Never “wing it”. @Hosp_ReviewNI


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Hospitality Review NI February 2018  

Hospitality Review NI February 2018

Hospitality Review NI February 2018  

Hospitality Review NI February 2018