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What Price is the Right Price for Ireland’s Hotels?

(and is there anyone really interested in buying them?) Aramark Rebrands ✛ BATTLE FOR BRITAIN ✛ Designing Lyons

inside... February 2011 - Volume 44, Number 02



12 46

41 FEATURES 12 TOURISM The Irish Solution to the British Problem? 18 COVER STORY Valuing Hotels 24 REBRANDING Eddie Scaife on Aramark’s New Look 26 COMMUNICATION Crisis Management 46 FIVE MINUTES WITH...’s Nigel Pocklington


FOOD 28 MENUS Spelling Out Nutrition 34 RECIPES Tempting Fare from Team Ireland 37 SKILLS Dip in to Oils 39 SEASONS The Best of Spring 40 FOOD NOTES Canapé Treats

6 NEWS Occupancy Holds in the Hotel Sector 19 AWARDS Supreme Winners at this Year’s IASI Awards Numbers at the Biggest Show in Town 41 DESIGN New Look for Lyons

30 CATEX Record

EDITOR Sarah Grennan DESIGNER Jeannie Swan CONTRIBUTORS Marilyn Bright, Tim Magee PRODUCTION Jim Heron CIRCULATION & EVENTS Nicola Hickey ADMIN Marian Donohoe, Josie Keane MANAGING DIRECTOR Simon Grennan CHAIRMAN Frank Grennan Printing: SPS/Conway Media, Wicklow HOTEL & CATERING REVIEW is published by JEMMA PUBLICATIONS Broom House, 65 Mulgrave Street, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, t: 01 214 7920, f: 01 214 7950, e:, w:, © No part of Hotel & Catering Review may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form without the prior permission of Jemma Publications. ISSN: 0332-4400 SUBSCRIBE For annual subscription rates visit our website



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editor’s letter...

Time to Hit the Road, Jack Rugby aficionados watching Chris Ashton’s exuberant swallow dives in Cardiff and Twickenham may hardly relish the Rugby League convert’s arrival in Dublin at the climax of the Six Nations Championship next month, but tourism operators will be licking their lips in anticipation of a tidal wave of English supporters spilling their way across the Irish Sea for the finale at Aviva Stadium. With the British market hitting the Irish tourism headlines for all the wrong reasons (holidaymakers travelling to Ireland are down a staggering 50% over the last three years), this side of the pond we’re grasping at whatever shoots we can to try and lure our neighbours over for a shindig – whether it’s a visit from the Queen, or dare we say it, a Six Nations title decider (at time of print still a distinct possibility). For a country which spent much of the last 800 years trying to convince the British to leave Ireland, the irony that we are now desperately trying to think of ways to attract our Anglo Saxon friends back again for their holidays is not lost on us. Once again, we find the prospects of both nations inextricably linked. Chancellor George Osborne justified reaching into the British public coffers to give us a dig out last November by pointing out to backbenchers in the House of Commons that Ireland is a ‘major trading partner’, with an ‘interconnected banking sector’. Among the queue of Irish exporters eager to trade with the UK in return is the tourism industry, which is desperate to stem the decline from what is our largest and most important source market. But just like us, Britain has its own economic woes, and as well as deeper problems regarding Ireland’s attractiveness to British holidaymakers (we’re not different, they say, not considered ‘properly’ abroad), we equally have to contend with pressures on consumer spend and the added headache of unpalatable exchange rates. In this month’s issue of Hotel & Catering Review we ask, what is the Irish solution to the British problem? As well as comments from leading stakeholders in the industry on page 12, we’ve also had feedback from readers of Hotel & Catering Review’s Weekly Bulletin. This year’s Battle for Britain kicks off in earnest next month when Tourism Ireland launches its St Patrick’s Day festival (see News for details). Now is the time for the Irish tourism sector to hit the road, and tell Union Jack flag-carriers why there has never been a better time to visit Ireland, and why although we have many similarities, we’re more different than they think. Back in those dark days of November, George Osborne said ‘Ireland is a friend in need and we are here to help’. The way they can really help is by coming back to us to holiday. By letting us take care of them when they visit here, our British friends will prove most helpful indeed.

Contact Us… Editorial: Our editor Sarah Grennan can be reached at tel: 01 214 7970, email: or fax: 01 214 7950. She is always happy to hear your news, views and feedback. Advertising: If you have any advertising queries, please contact Simon Grennan at the numbers above or via email to Subscriptions: To subscribe to Hotel & Catering Review contact our circulation and events manager Nicola Hickey at or tel: 01 214 7920. Subscribe to Hotel & Catering Review’s free Weekly Bulletin ezine service. Join the database by submitting your email address online at


Top: The landmark London Eye is to be turned green once again as part of Tourism Ireland’s St Patrick’s Day campaign in the UK





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Mixed Picture for Hotels as Occupancy Holds & ARR Declines Revenue per available room (revPAR) in Irish hotels dropped by 1.8% last year in what was a significant improvement on the market collapse of 2009, benchmarking firm CityOccupancy has revealed. It published its Annual Hotel Index in association with Savills last month which showed that whole occupancy increased by 2.9 percentage points last year, delivering a growth of close to 5%. However, with the home holiday market incentivised by lower prices, average room rate suffered with a 6.3% decline. Cork proved to be Ireland’s best regional performer in 2010, registering a revPAR growth of 3% amidst 11 straight months of occupancy growth. Cork’s occupancy is now 69%, according to the online rates benchmarking firm. In the capital, revPAR fell by

7% year-on-year which was below the national average. Dublin was particularly impacted by very competitive hotel pricing, says CityOccupancy. The City of the Tribes registered the highest average room rate (ARR) at e76.50, 6% higher than Dublin. Including VAT, the average customer cost in Galway was almost e87 room only. For the first time in five years occupancy in Limerick increased, up 2% points to 53%. This remains the weakest city. In terms of market segments, the five star hotel sector was hardest hit, while the four star sector turned in the best performance – winning greater share from the three star market. Weekends remained buoyant at close to 80% occupancy, with Saturdays averaging 84% occupancy in 2010, says CityOccupancy.

National Statistics All Hotels




















































Three Star

Four Star

Five Star

Source: CityOccupancy

12.9% Drop in 2010 Visitors, But Q4 Decline Slows

Total overseas visitor numbers to Ireland fell by 12.9% in 2010, however, the rate of decline showed signs of stabilising towards the end of the year, Central Statistics Office figures indicate. Stats for quarter four 2010 show that overseas trips to Ireland fell by 2.2% in September-December, compared to the same period in 2009. Trips from North America rose by 13.9%, visitors from Other Areas increased by 9.2%, while trips from Other Europe remained static. The picture from our largest market, Great Britain, was not as positive however, with the number of British residents visiting Ireland falling by a further 8.7% to 657,600 over the three months. (See Tourism for more on the British market.) ‘2010 proved to be one of the most difficult years on record for overseas tourism to the island of Ireland. However, the figures show a strong turn-around and a welcome return to growth from North America, France, Germany, the Nordic Region and from Australia and developing markets,’ noted Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons. ‘This is an encouraging basis on which Tourism Ireland will build in 2011 - the year we see as the turning point for tourism from overseas. Restoring the Great Britain market to growth is the top priority for Tourism Ireland in 2011.’ PERIOD







Quarter 1







Quarter 2







Quarter 3







Quarter 4







Franziska Tops TMDP Graduates

Franziska Hintner, a native of Germany who now lives in Cork and works in the Carlton Hotel, Kinsale, was announced Graduate of the Year at this year’s Fáilte Ireland Trainee Management Development Programme (TMDP) graduation ceremony held in Fáilte Ireland last month. Over 30 trainee managers graduated at the event, marking the highest number of students to graduate over the 21-year history of the programme. The graduates were awarded with a Higher Certificate in Business Studies (Hotel Management), awarded by GMIT and accredited by HETAC, and placed on the National Framework of Qualifications at Level 6, as well as a joint IHF, IHI, Fáilte Ireland Certificate in Hotel and Catering Management. ‘The TMDP provides an ideal opportunity for hotel employees to equip themselves with the management skills needed to operate a hotel and in these current challenging times, graduates prove to be a welcome addition to any team, offering experience in all hotel departments and the flexibility and willingness to contribute to all aspects of the business,’ said Sean O’Malley, manager of education operations at Fáilte Ireland.


Sean O’Malley, Failte Ireland, pictured with Franziska Hintner at the TMDP Graduation.


World to Go Green for St Patrick’s Day Table Mountain in South Africa will go green for St Patrick’s Day

BITE SIZE Nando’s Expands

Nando’s has continued its Irish expansion, launching a new restaurant in Cork. The group now operates four restaurants in Ireland, in Belfast, Cork and Dundrum and Swords in Dublin. Plans are afoot to open a further two Dublin restaurants this year.

Danby Joins Best Western Danby Lodge in Rosslare, Co Wexford has joined the Best Western portfolio. The hotel is the 16th member of the group here in Ireland.

Carrig Goes Blue

Major international landmarks are set once again to be turned green next month as part of Tourism Ireland’s international St Patrick’s Day campaign. Joining last year’s London Eye and Empire State Building to be decked in green will be Table Mountain, South Africa’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Sky Tower in Auckland, which will be the first venue to mark St Patrick’s Day with a party for Irish ex-pats. The St Patrick’s Day festivities are being used as a spring board for Tourism Ireland’s E28m spring promotional campaign, which is the largest St Patrick’s Day campaign undertaken by the tourism agency to date. As well as the greening of iconic sites – a move achieved with a nominal investment of E6,000, says Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons – the agency is undertaking promotions in 26 countries

worldwide, from Cardiff to Cape Town and Stockholm to Shanghai. In Britain, Tourism Ireland’s television advertising campaign will kick off on 7 March and run through to June, with further TV advertising scheduled for September-November. Run on major British networks, the advertisements will potentially be viewed by 17 million holidaymakers. Promotions in Glasgow, Birmingham, Cardiff and London are also scheduled, culminating with a reception in the Palace of Westminster on 16 March to be attended by Prime Minister David Cameron. A range of consumer promotions will also take place in the North American market, while Tourism Ireland will sponsor NBC’s live coverage of the St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York. Tourism Ireland’s spring marketing campaign in France

will commence on 16 March and has the potential to reach 14 million visitors. As well as advertising, the campaign will be supported by online promotions with partners including Aer Lingus, Air France, Irish Ferries, Brittany Ferries and B&B Ireland. Germany’s E2.5m campaign – which kicked off last month – is to get a St Patrick’s Day twist next month with a two-week campaign on radio station HR1 (joint Tourism Ireland-Aer Lingus promotion), as well as TV ads running on seven major networks. ‘Over 70 million people around the world claim links with the island of Ireland and St Patrick’s Day is a truly unique opportunity to reconnect them with their heritage and to showcase our wonderful tourism product to a huge global audience,’ notes Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons.

MINIMUM WAGE Reduction Introduced

Reductions in the National Minimum Wage came into effect this month. It was announced in Budget 2011, as part of the Four Year Recovery Plan, that the National Minimum Wage would be decreased by 12% (E1 from the full rate payable). The new rates are: experienced adult worker E7.65; those aged under 18 E5.33; workers aged over 18 and in first year of first employment E6.09; workers aged over 19 and in second year of first employment E6.86. Employees aged over 18, in structured training during working hours: first onethird of course E5.72; second third of course E6.09; final part of course E6.86. Legally, companies may not reduce employees’ pay to the new rate without the prior agreement of the employees and new contracts must be agreed by both parties. The O’Callaghan Hotel Group hit the headlines in February when staff began picketing outside its Davenport and Mont Clare Hotels in Dublin following a dispute with five workers who refused to sign contracts reducing their pay to the new rate.

Ireland’s Blue Book has welcomed Carrig House in Co Kerry to its membership. The property joins 37 other Irish country houses, historic hotels, restaurants and castles in the group.

Limerick Redevelopment

Shannon Development has secured close to E6m to redevelop the 13th century King John’s Castle in Limerick. Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Tourism, Culture & Sport will provide E4.7m in funding for the project, with the balance met by Shannon Development. Work is expected to complete on the castle in time for its 800th birthday celebration in 2012.

AIPCO Members

The Association of Irish Professional Conference Organisers have announced two new members. Keynote PCO and Event Plus have joined as associate members.

King’s Speech Boosts Roly’s

Irish tourism interests are hoping a visit from the Queen of England will give business a boost, but in Dundrum Town Centre, restaurateur Roly Saul says it is The King’s Speech which has given his eatery a lift. Following a difficult December as a result of the arctic weather conditions, January was given a boost by a mixture of sales, deferred Christmas shopping and the much talked about Colin Firth movie, with patrons booking in to the restaurant to eat before or after the film. ‘We haven’t seen so much of that kind of business since Sex & the City,’ said Saul.



Wage Setting Review Due for April The proposed review of the Employment Regulation Order and Registered Employment Agreement systems is expected to be completed in April. Minister Mary Hanafin appointed Labour Court chairman, Kevin Duffy, and Dr Frank Walsh, lecturer at UCD’s School of Economics to chair the review, which was promised under last November’s National Recovery Plan. Friday, 25 February was set as the deadline for submissions on the ERO and REA systems which set wage rates in a variety of sectors, including the catering industry and the hotel industry outside Dublin and Cork. The outgoing Government requested the review be completed within approximately six weeks of the closing date for submissions.

Monart Among World’s Best

Monart Destination Spa in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford was voted the third best retreat spa in the world by readers of Condé Nast Traveller. The Griffin Group spa was awarded 94 points by readers, just one point behind the outright winner, The BodyHoliday at Le Sport, St Lucia. This is the second year in a row that Monart has been voted in the top three.

Social Buzz for Ireland

Tourism Ireland has been generating a buzz on social media platforms. Since launching its Facebook accounts last year in 14 markets it has notched up more than 230,000 fans, says Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons. The agency’s Twitter accounts have over 16,000 followers in eight countries. Tourism Ireland has also seen a huge bounce in traffic to its German website following the launch of its German campaign last month. Visits to the site were up 108% in January versus the same month last year. The British site has recorded a 10% increase in traffic, while the French site is up 82%.

Food Closures on the Rise Three food businesses were served with closure orders by environmental health officers in January, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has reported. The closure orders were served on: • Rezmerita Plus supermarket, trading as Polonez (deli and butcher area only) in Athlone Shopping Centre, Co Westmeath • Wok In Takeaway in Leixlip, Co Kildare • The Burger Hut Foodstall in Knockcroghery, Co Roscommon. Improvement orders were also served on: • Roma Takeaway in Palmerstown, Dublin 24 • Bassetts at Woodstock Restaurant, Inistioge, Co Kilkenny. The number of food businesses closed by EHOs increased by 68% last year, said the FSAI. A total of 57 food operations were closed in 2010, compared to 34 in 2009. Total enforcement orders served last year were up by 35%, from 54 in 2009 to 73 in 2010. As well as the 57 closure orders these included four improvement orders and 12 prohibition orders.

Sodexo Ireland staff with their Green Hospitality Awards

Green Honours for Sodexo

Management and staff at 16 of Sodexo’s client sites were presented with Green Hospitality Awards at CATEX. ‘In each site location, we benchmarked and monitored the level of utilities like water, gas, electricity and landfill recycling used in the catering operation and other support services managed by us,’ explained Aidan Walker, the Sodexo Ireland account director with overall responsibility for the programme. ‘The typical savings were between 15-20%. For larger clients, this meant a significant saving of between e50,000-e100,000 annually in overhead for those areas.’



Steep Decline in Air Passengers Analysis from Anna Aero, the airline industry news organisation, highlights that Irish airports performed the worst out of 37 European countries last year when the country attracted 13% fewer air passengers. Ireland was the only country to record a double-digit decline, with our IMF-funded friends in Greece registering the second highest decline in air passenger numbers at 5%. Shannon Airport was the worst hit, registering a 37% decline last year, while Kaunas Airport saw the largest increase at 77%.

Air Access Boost

Air Passenger Increases & Declines, 2010 v 2009 1.

Ireland: -13%

Russia: +25.4%


Greece: -5%

Lithuania: +23.7%


UK: -3.4%

Turkey: +20.1%


Slovenia: - 3.2%

Morocco: +14.9%


Slovakia: -3.2%

Latvia: +14.7%

A daily new Aer Lingus service between Shannon and Gatwick is to start on 27 March. Declan Kearney, the airline’s director of communications, said: ‘This new daily service will provide Aer Lingus customers with the first early morning flight from London to the Shannon region. It will complement the existing London Heathrow service, which operates three times daily, broadening the choice for business and leisure travellers in and out of the mid-west region.’ The airline has also announced plans with Aer Arann to launch a new route between Shannon and Edinburgh. The five times weekly route will also start on 27 March. Welcoming the announcement, Michael Vaughan, chairman of the Shannon Branch of the Irish Hotels Federation, said: ‘The route will give us greater access to the wider Scottish market of over five million people and will allow us to link in with niche markets such as golf tourism from the US where many visitors seek to combine a holiday playing links golf in both Ireland and Scotland.’ Ryanair meanwhile has launched a new twice-weekly service from Cork to Milan Bergamo. The new route will commence on 2 June. The company has additionally announced plans to increase the frequency on its Dublin-Manchester route from four to six flights daily as part of its summer schedule. The extended service will commence on 14 April.

Aer Lingus Decline in January

The industrial dispute at Aer Lingus added to a drop in passenger numbers in the first month of the year. Booked passengers declined by 17% to 552,000 in January. However, due to cancelled services the number of passengers the airline carried was 4% less than the booked figure. Short haul passengers booked were down 17.1% (504,000) compared to January 2010, while long haul numbers were down 15.8% to 48,000. Aer Lingus’s load factor – how full the planes are – was down just under 5% to 62.8%, it said. Ryanair’s booked passengers rose by 5% to 4.66m, compared to January 2010, while its load factor increased by 1% to 71%.

Green Wheels for Aramark

Aramark Ireland is boosting its green credentials with a new electric car that will be used to transport personnel and goods throughout the large Intel business campus in Leixlip. ‘This is yet another initiative in a number of energy saving and environmentally friendly measures introduced across our operations on the Intel business campus,’ explained Joan O’Shaughnessy, chief executive of Aramark Ireland. ‘The car, which has an operating distance of 50 miles before requiring a recharge, will help to reduce carbon emissions and increase productivity on site.’ Aramark works closely with Intel Ireland to continually introduce new measures to reduce energy costs and increase environmental benefits. These measures include the introduction of napkin dispensers, composting over 750,000 tea bags each year and supporting the Intel led introduction of travel mugs to replace paper cups which has helped to reduce the number of paper cups going to landfill by over 600,000. Joe Kenny, general manager, Aramark at Intel and Joan O’Shaughnessy, chief executive of Aramark Ireland, with the new electric car.

Fulvio in the US

Seven million US viewers tuned in to NBC’s Today Show recently to see Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House & Cookery School present a cookery segment with presenter Natalie Morales (pictured). The segment was organised by Tourism Ireland in New York.


NEWS BITE SIZE Maldron for Wales

The first Maldron hotel outside Ireland is on course to open in two months. Dalata Hotel Group’s new Maldron Hotel, Cardiff will open on 6 May, delivering an additional 216 rooms to the Welsh capital.

Pembroke Rated Highly

Kilkenny’s Pembroke Hotel is celebrating coming out on top for Tripadvisor reviews. From more than 1,700 reviews on the Marble City, the hotel is rated number one by Tripadvisor users. ‘We are continually investing in the hotel and are very proud that our commitment to exceptional customer care and service has been rated so highly by visitors to Kilkenny. At The Pembroke we strive to deliver an outstanding experience and help guests make the most of their Kilkenny break,’ says the hotel’s owner, John Ryan.

IHF Launches Home Holiday Drive

The Irish Hotels Federation has launched a new campaign to encourage Irish people to holiday at home this year. The campaign, which is running through in association with, is offering entrants a chance to win an Irish holiday package worth e12,000. The lucky winner will scoop a prize of 12 luxury weekends away to share with a friend. Prizes include a trip to Kilkenny’s Cat Laughs Comedy Festival and a stay in Lyrath Hotel; a visit to the Galway Races and stay in the Ardilaun Hotel and a winter spa break in Dromoland Castle, Co Clare. The competition has been launched by the IHF to mark the revamp of its website. See for more.

Over 55s Support Irish

Over 60% of over 55s intend to take a domestic holiday this year, with 48% planning a hotel break, according to organisers of the Holiday World Show, which ran in Dublin and Belfast last month. An online survey of 1,250 Irish people in the 55+ age bracket was conducted to coincide with the show and found that 36% were planning to take two holidays this year, while 28% will take three holidays.

Healthcare Cleaning Association

The Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals has established two new branches in Ireland. The branches are located in Dublin and Belfast. See for more.

Stephen Hanley and Maeve O’Healy-Harte at the launch of MOHH

Competition judge George Hook with Unilever Foodsolutions business development chef, Mark McCarthy, and customer director, Ireland, Unilever Foodsolutions, Jim Reeves

Hook Hunts Hair Extension for Best Carvery for Radisson Galway Broadcaster George Hook is getting ready to hit the road The Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Galway has extended its guest services with the addition of a new hair salon at the hotel. MOHH Salon is run by Maeve O’HealyHarte, president of the World Hairdressing Organisation for Western Europe. ‘The Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Galway has always prided itself on providing our guests with the best we can offer in terms of food, entertainment and pampering so the MOHH Salon is the ideal addition to our ever-growing site,’ said general manager Stephen Hanley. He is pictured with Maeve at the official opening of the new salon.

Brennans At Your Service

At Your Service, the hospitality advice show fronted by Francis and John Brennan on RTE, is about to start filming its fourth series and producers are looking for industry operators to take part. If you are interested and would like more information, contact Michelle O’Dowd, tel: 04890 427646, email: michelle@ or visit


once again this year to judge the Unilever Great Carvery of 2011. Now in its second year, the competition is designed to identify Ireland’s best carvery. This year’s competition is split into two categories – Great Carvery Pub of the Year and Great Carvery Hotel of the Year – and will be judged on creativity, the use of seasonal ingredients and value for money. The winners will receive marketing and PR for their business as well as a commemorative board. The deadline for entry to this year’s competition is 31 March and the winner will be announced in June. For more information visit company/sales_team.

Barry & Fitzwilliam Triumphs in Cork Barry & Fitzwilliam, the independent Irish drinks distributor, was presented with Cork Chamber of Commerce’s Company of the Year Award in the SME category in February. ‘This award means a lot to us, and in particular to our loyal staff, who have worked tirelessly with us to cement our position as a market leader in the Irish drinks distribution industry. I’ve always believed that we have a fantastic team and it is a great thrill to be recognised in your own home town, the place where it all began in 1982,’ said Michael Barry, managing director of Barry & Fitzwilliam. The company distributes over 100 premium international drinks brands and will have an expected turnover of E70m in 2011.


New Pub Scheme to Raise the Bar

Pictured at the launch of ‘Raising the Bar’, the national pub accreditation scheme, were VFI president Gerry Mellett and Tony Lenehan of Fáilte Ireland.

Fáilte Ireland joined forces with the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland last month to launch the authority’s new National Pub Accreditation Scheme. Entitled ‘Raising the Bar’, the quality-based approval system is designed to ensure that Ireland’s best pubs are recognised and promoted at home and abroad. Participants in the scheme will have to meet a set of national minimum requirements which are based on the typical customer journey, and Fáilte Ireland believes the system will increase the consistency and quality of service provided in Irish pubs. ‘In the current environment, quality is the key to boosting your business and improving your profits with customers and visitors demanding high quality experiences,’ noted Tony Lenehan of Fáilte Ireland. ‘With this in mind we developed Raising the Bar with the Vintners Federation of Ireland, the aim of which is to bring Irish pubs another step closer to delivering a high quality experience, while meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations. Pubs taking part in this new accreditation programme, the first of its kind in Ireland, will also benefit from a number of distinct advantages including access to direct business supports, marketing opportunities through Fáilte Ireland and free listings on the domestic and international Discover Ireland websites.’ Publicans interested in applying for the scheme can register their interest on

First Aid Training for Tour Guides

The Association of Approved Tourist Guides of Ireland has introduced a series of first aid training courses as part of its ongoing training for its 250 members. ‘We strongly believe that our members have to be excellent not only in their guiding skills but also in other skills which are important in their daily life. First aid skills have to be a compulsory part of their knowledge,’ said Barbara Hunter, the AATGI’s new chairperson. ‘Spending from one day to two weeks on the roads with visitors from all over the world, our guides can face difficult health issues among their audience and even death. They have to be prepared and correctly trained to act as swiftly and efficiently as possible. Doing the right thing and easing the medical team’s work can save lives.’

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The Battle for


Last year’s cataclysmic ash cloud and double snow debacles had a catastrophic effect on Ireland’s international tourism performance. But aside from the elements Mother Nature threw at us, we also had to contend with the continued erosion of the British market, which has declined by a third from the peak of 2006 when we attracted 3.8 million visitors from across the Irish Sea, to an estimated 2.5 million in 2010.


he public disagreement between the Irish Hotels Federation and Tourism Ireland over the airwaves last September may have got listeners of Morning Ireland thinking about the decline in visitor numbers from Britain, but within the tourism industry this is a problem which has preoccupied the trade for a much longer period. At 18%, the fall off in 2010 was stark, but it is even more alarming when it comes on the back of three successive years of decline going back to the peak of 2006. Zone in on the important holiday segment, and the picture becomes more worrying still. The holiday sector showed little or no growth in the 10 years to 2007, says the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation, which notes that after this watershed year, the holiday market went into freefall, declining by almost 50% over three years, from 1.8 million British holidaymakers visiting Ireland in 2007, to less than one million last year. In a manifesto produced by ITIC and the Irish Hotels Federation to put tourism at centre stage in the Irish economy (Tourism Opportunity, see page 16), the tourism interests maintained that the collapse of the British market is important, not just because it is our largest market accounting for 45% of all visitor numbers, but because Ireland has been losing share of British outbound travel over the last number of years. The report noted that in 2010 the number of outbound holidays taken by British residents declined by 7%, but British holiday visits to Ireland fell by more than double that at 15%. ‘Furthermore, it would appear that Ireland is being less successful


in winning first-time holiday visitors, a standard metric of the effectiveness of destination marketing,’ it stated. Which begs the question, what’s going on and how are we continuing to lose business from our largest and most important customer? When the Irish Hotels Federation issued a press release calling for the appointment of a ‘Tourism Tsar’ to take the helm of the ailing British market last September it clearly pointed the finger in the direction of Tourism Ireland, the agency tasked with promoting tourism to the island of Ireland overseas. IHF president Paul Gallagher went on the nation’s most popular morning radio station, Morning Ireland, to tell listeners about hoteliers’ concerns, but the sub-heading on the Federation’s press release was enough to tell the story of their frustration. ‘Catastrophic Failure of Tourism Ireland’s British Marketing Strategy, say Hoteliers’ it declared. While it is true that hoteliers have been concerned with Tourism Ireland’s marketing efforts in Britain over the last number of years, it is also fair to say that the decline in tourism from our nearest neighbour can’t be put down to marketing alone.

The Challenges

‘There are big factors working against us,’ notes Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, when considering the British market. ‘The economy is under pressure, and the deficit in the UK is nearly as high as it is here. As a result, more and more are choosing to

TOURISM holiday at home. The number of British people travelling abroad is back to 2001 levels, while the number of people travelling to Western Europe is back to 1998 levels. There has been a huge increase in the amount of domestic competition on the marketing front, which has seen our share of voice reduce dramatically. We have had a 40% change in the value of exchange rates, which is something that we can’t do anything about, and access has declined from 172,000 seats out of Britain into Ireland in 2008 to 132,000 seats now. In the latter case, the Air Travel Tax had a big impact as major airlines decided to move their routes elsewhere.’ While making his point about the complexity of the British market, Niall Gibbons doesn’t mention the elephant in the room – price. ITIC chief Eamonn McKeon acknowledges that the high price of holidaying in Ireland over the Tiger years took its toll on our attractiveness. ‘In fairness to the industry and the agencies, we have to acknowledge that the problem in Britain started years ago. We haven’t

comments on our GB Facebook page, up from a standing start last year.’ Indeed, rather than being off-putting, it is our similarities which may attract us to British holidaymakers. ‘We speak the same language, we drive on the same side of the road, we have similar food, and we’re not too far to travel to, so that may be appealing for many visitors,’ agrees Eamonn McKeon. There are a number of incoming factors which may boost Ireland in the fashion stakes, believes Shaun Quinn. ‘Our own falling prices, the recent cut in the Air Tax, the rise in VAT in the UK and the growing strength of sterling to the euro all combine to make Ireland an even more attractive and accessible option for potential British visitors. Taken together, these factors should provide an additional wind in our sails as the tourism sector intensifies its efforts to target the British market and maximise all the possibilities offered by our nearest neighbour,’ he said.

The number of British visitors travelling to Ireland last year fell by 18%, accounting for approximately half the total decline in international visitor numbers. had a growth in pure holidaymakers and new visitors for a number of years. While the British economy is going into recession and the pound sterling is very weak we also have to look at our own pricing. Successive Visitor Attitude Surveys highlighted concerns with the cost of living in Ireland, and while our competitiveness has improved recently, it takes time for this to filter back to consumers. Things like the e5 pint get in to folklore and it is very difficult to break the perception that we are a high-cost destination. It’s not going to happen overnight.’ While price dented our appeal, Eamonn McKeon notes that we did score in terms of experience. ‘At no stage did the British say that they didn’t have a good holiday or that they wouldn’t recommend Ireland. But they did so with a health warning, advising that a holiday here was very expensive. It could be worse if they said we were cheap and awful – at least we have something to work with.’


orking together to boost the ailing British market is critical if Irish tourism is to return to growth this year, explained Fáilte Ireland chief executive Shaun Quinn at the authority’s presentation of its prospects for 2011 in January. ‘While our performance there was poor last year there are still opportunities, particularly around London and the South East, where prospects in Britain are much stronger. Indeed, our research from 2010 indicates a strong attachment, goodwill towards and keen interest in Ireland amongst potential British visitors of all ages that could be tapped into further.’ Niall Gibbons agrees that Ireland is still popular in the eyes of Britons. While there has been some commentary in the trade that Ireland is no longer popular with the British, that they don’t perceive us to be different, that we’re not considered ‘properly overseas’, he is quick to scotch these rumours. ‘What research points to that? All our research indicates that Ireland is still very attractive in Britain. We’re ranked the seventh most popular destination, while 68% of British holidaymakers polled recently indicated that they plan to visit Ireland in the near future. All our stats show us Ireland is still popular in Britain. We’ve seen a 10% increase in traffic to our UK site in January, while we’ve had 2.5 million

An additional wind in the sales could be the added funds Tourism Ireland has now allocated to the GB market, with a large bulk of its marketing budget for 2011 to be concentrated on this vital sector. The agency’s spring campaign is to be given a major shot in the arm with activities around St Patrick’s Day, which will be Ireland’s largest ever Paddy’s week promotion. The campaign will include television advertising across major networks, including ITV, which will be broadcast to a potential 17 million holidaymakers; radio promotions with a potential listenership of 16.4 million; direct marketing to more than five million people; and additional positive publicity worth e65m. The programme includes the greening of the London Eye, as well as a reception in the Palace of Westminster on 16 March to be attended by Prime Minister David Cameron. And then, of course, there is the upcoming Six Nations climax at Aviva Stadium, and a possible visit from the Queen touted for April. Should she arrive she would be the first ruling British monarch to visit Ireland since George V 100 years ago. ‘A visit from the Queen has the capacity to be one of the greatest publicity generators in Britain,’ believes Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons. ‘In terms of marketing Ireland to the British it could be absolutely massive.’ But, despite the positive vibes, questions still surround the marketing of Ireland in Britain, particularly in the face of the unpalatable double digit losses in 2010. While publicly the Irish Hotels Federation and Tourism Ireland are eager to play down last year’s airing of grievances over the RTE 1 airwaves, privately many hoteliers still voice concerns about Tourism Ireland’s advertising efforts in the UK. And for their part, while the Tourism Ireland team say they share the industry’s concern with the British market and understand their views during this extremely difficult time for businesses, privately they must be hurt with the way the matter was dealt with in the public domain. Tourism Ireland recently unveiled its 2011 marketing plans for Britain to the trade, and while there was approval for the additional resources the agency was providing for the market, many stakeholders told Hotel & Catering Review off the record that they were disappointed Tourism Ireland was using creatives from a two-year- 8

British Visitors and Holidaymakers to Ireland 1999-2009 1999











Visitors (000s)












Revenue (em)












* Source: Fáilte Ireland




British Visitors to Ireland

Quarter 1


Quarter 2


Quarter 3


Quarter 4


old advertising campaign. ‘If it didn’t work two years ago you can be certain it definitely won’t work now,’ said one operator. ‘People are judging our advertising by their own attitudes to it,’ says Niall Gibbons. ‘We research our advertising every year and we know that they are performing in line with industry norms.’ At the Irish Hotels Federation, Tim Fenn says the increased marketing for 2010 couldn’t come at a moment too soon. ‘While we have encouraging immediate plans to start the process of recovery in the GB market, we’re facing this in the context of an industry running out of resources very quickly. Given the fact that we have problems of overhanging debt and lack of working capital, we’re running out of time. To grow demand we have to upscale our competitive approach to the British problem because we’re trying to recover our market share from other destinations.’ ITIC chief executive Eamonn McKeon meanwhile would like to see a broader distribution of Ireland’s marketing spend, rather than confining it to short bursts. ‘There’s no use in being brilliant and all over the place for a week or 10 days. In the old days we took ads around Paddy’s Day and Christmas, but that won’t wash now. You need to create brand awareness throughout the year. Kellog’s cornflakes, for instance, is on the shelf 52 weeks of the year. I would rather see less advertising, run more consistently than in peaks.’ What all parties agree is that Irish interests need to work together to improve Ireland’s reputation in Britain, and around the world. Tim Fenn called for Irish personalities – from politicians to stars – to launch a concerted good news campaign to strengthen ‘Brand Ireland’. Eamonn McKeon agrees. ‘We need a senior minister charged with selling the message of Ireland overseas. We still have a great product and we have great value, but we need to get the message out there. During the Troubles there was a very actively managed good news campaign, where members of the industry worked in tandem to get good news stories placed internationally.’ Tourism Ireland is already endeavouring to spread the good


The landmark London Eye is one of a number of iconic structures around the world to be greened by Tourism Ireland as part of their campaign to mark St Patrick’s Day.

news, with Niall Gibbons expressing frustration that it is the bad news stories in the Irish media that always get picked up by the international press. ‘The perception of Ireland is still very strong internationally, but the perception of Ireland at home has never been as low and the coverage of the IMF is getting us headlines for all the wrong reasons. We are actively trying to generate good news stories internationally and have done a lot of interviews with media such as the Wall Street Journal to promote Ireland. We get so caught up in all the bad news, but no one ever talks about the e230m equivalent advertising we have got in good publicity for Ireland.’ While e230m-worth of positive publicity is great news for all in Team Ireland, we hazard a guess that in the industry the only figure they’re really interested in is how much such an all-important market will bounce back this year. ‘The economy in the UK is getting tougher, which is going to make it difficult. You’d be happy if you had a 6%-7% growth this year. We missed out with the horrible weather and the ash cloud last year, so I think 6%-7% is achievable,’ says ITIC’s Eamonn McKeon. But of course, no one could have foretold what last year threw at us, including the eruption from a random Icelandic volcano whose name most cannot spell, much less pronounce. So what happens if we have another major crisis and we face declines again this year? ‘It is imperative that we turn the market around this year otherwise we will have to start asking ourselves some difficult questions,’ continues Eamonn McKeon. ‘If it goes down again we will have to ask, are we looking at the wrong market? Should we be looking elsewhere?’ Perish the thought, we say. ‘Well you know, we do have good things in our favour. We still have loads of sea and air capacity, and the British still have an interest in visiting us,’ says Eamonn. ‘We’re not looking for all of them – we’re just looking for about three million of them.’ How nice that would be. u

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Marking the

Political Card With election fever kicking off pre-Christmas, candidates and political parties were busy canvassing for votes in the build up to the 25 February polling day. But the politicians weren’t the only ones putting their manifestos out there. Tourism interests were keen to get their voice heard too.


he Irish Tourist Industry Confederation joined forces with the Irish Hotels Federation, IBEC, Chambers Ireland and the Irish Farmers’ Association to make their own political statement in January ahead of Brian Cowen’s trip to the Park to dissolve the Dáil. Their message was simple: Tourism Matters. As Ireland’s largest indigenous industry, it has the potential to provide over 200,000 jobs, growing to an annual industry worth e6bn, said the members of the coalition in their report, Tourism Opportunity, Driving Economic Renewal. Irish tourism could create an additional 21,600 jobs, in addition to the current 180,000, generate


e6.2bn for the economy and raise over e1.7bn in taxes for the Exchequer by 2015 if it is adequately supported, said ITIC and its colleagues. They proposed a 10-point plan to kick-start Irish tourism in the recession, by ramping up marketing and introducing supports for the industry. These were: 1. Recovering Ireland’s damaged reputation abroad through an intensive and coordinated campaign to promote brand Ireland, involving the Government, agencies and high-profile personalities 2. Relaunching Ireland as a tourism destination, working in conjunction with other sectors to develop

Irish tourism could create an additional 21,600 jobs, in addition to the current 180,000, generate e6.2bn for the economy and raise over e1.7bn in taxes for the Exchequer by 2015. a Brand Ireland identity to boost the country’s image overseas 3. Capitalising on quality and value as Ireland regains competitiveness, with Government support needed to reduce the burden of public sector charges and the speedy review of employment agreements 4. Focusing on winning a greater share of overseas markets as the domestic market remains static, with recovery from Britain an urgent requirement, along with increased penetration of the top markets of USA, Germany and France. More ambitious targets should be set 5. Getting the marketing right by undertaking an urgent review of messaging and channels; harnessing the Irish diaspora; leveraging traditional trade distributors better for quick wins; strengthening research and development appropriate to evolving consumer needs; engaging in more joined up planning with carriers; and aiming to be world class in emarketing 6. Selling to our strength including our heritage, culture, activity holidays and the unique appeal of the West of Ireland; boosting the promotion of Dublin as an international gateway and increasingly popular city destination; creating a more ambitious programme of events; increasing Ireland’s share of the international conference, meetings and incentive travel markets 7. Establishing an industry-led tourism recovery taskforce to work with state tourism agencies to design and monitor a turnaround implementation plan 8. Re-engineering tourism agency structures, undertaking a root and branch reform to improve synergies, reduce complexity, improve flexibility, deliver greater efficiencies and increase spending on front line marketing 9. Introducing a business loan guarantee scheme 10. Establishing a high level inter-departmental working group to work with the Irish Hotels Federation to address issues of oversupply.


he Irish Hotels Federation also produced its own manifesto, educating election candidates about the challenges facing the industry and the steps needed to support it. Its four -point plan entitled A Strategy for Job Creation and Economic Growth called on the incoming Government to prioritise: 1. Effective marketing of Ireland abroad, promoting Brand Ireland, focusing on gaining share in Britain, USA, Germany and France, increasing marketing funds 2. Greater cost competitiveness, particulary

in Government controlled costs. The IHF called for the introduction of an interim emergency provision for a 30% reduction in Local Authority rates; the abolition of the Joint Labour Committee system and the accelerated liberalisation of the energy market to address unsustainable increases in energy charges 3. Appropriate financial support through the introduction of a business loan guarantee scheme 4. Removal of excess capacity with solutions to be identified by a high level interdepartmental group to work with the Federation.


he major political parties in turn produced their own plans to help revitalise Ireland’s tourism industry. Fine Gael was first off the mark with the launch of its policy document in January. The party targeted a return to 2007 levels of performance, suggesting a number of initiatives to facilitate the bounce back over the next three years, including the provision of barrier-free access to visiting Ireland; the positioning of Irish tourism as a quality, friendly, green destination that is rich in culture; and the enhancement of Ireland’s competitiveness as a tourist destination. It also proposed moving the offices of Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland to the same premises in a new ‘Tourism House’ to help streamline the organisation of tourism in Ireland and facilitate better communication between the two bodies. Plans to address competitiveness included proposals to introduce a three-year freeze, and where possible, reductions in local authority and public service charges; a reduction in PRSI costs for staff earning less than e356 per week; a reform of the Joint Labour Committee system and review of current Employment Regulation Orders within three months; and a reduction on VAT on hotel accommodation and restaurant meals to 12%. Fianna Fáil targeted an increase in visitor numbers to eight million by 2015, an objective which will have the potential to deliver up to 15,000 extra jobs for the sector, said party leader Micheál Martin. It aimed to achieve this through a number of measures, including competitive airport and port charges, competitive and tourist-friendly immigration and visa arrangements and cooperative marketing support programmes with air and sea carriers. Fianna Fáil also planned to maximise the potential of ‘niche areas’ such as food, cultural, golf and all sports tourism, while positioning Dublin as a centre for sports and recreational tourism. u

The Gold Medal Awards are Coming… The 23rd Annual Hotel & Catering Review Gold Medal Awards will launch in next month’s edition of Hotel & Catering Review.

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for entry reminders and news about this year’s Awards.

Click for More: See for more on ITIC’s plans to turnaround Irish tourism.



Selling Out With the Four Seasons Hotel hitting the headlines last year when it became the most high-profile hotel to land on the market, and with bidding kicking off for the unfinished hotel building next door to Dublin’s spanking new Grand Canal Theatre late last year, things are stirring in the Irish hotel property market. But with the banking crisis deepening, negative publicity surrounding Ireland at an all time high internationally and stories covering the oversupply and insolvency of the hotel market regularly hitting the headlines at home, are there really buyers interested in Irish hotels, and do they have the resources required to pick up the tab? Hotel & Catering Review reports.


hen Chief O’Neill’s Hotel in Dublin’s Smithfield successfully sold last year it was notable for three reasons. First of all, and most positively, it sold, and in doing so it became the first significant Irish hotel transaction for two years. Secondly, it sold to Patron Capital, a big US fund which picked up the site to turn it into a high-end Generator Hostel – the deal proving that in some cases there can be alternative uses found for hotels in a chronically oversupplied market. Finally, it sold for in the region of e8.5m – a hefty discount on the e21m which was touted for the hotel three years previously. This last point perhaps sums up the current state of the hotel market most accurately. Yes, there are buyers out there, but they are searching for such massive discounts that lenders are still finding it too unpalatable to bite the bullet and take the hit. A Mexican standoff is taking place, but how long can lenders hold off, and at what stage will buyers consider Irish hotels to be a good deal?


oday, the most high profile hotel on the market in Ireland is the landmark five star Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 which was offered up for sale by its owners in the Nollaig Partnership last September after posting losses of e2m. The 18-member consortium, comprising a raft of big name Irish businessmen including the hotelier Francis Brennan, had borrowed e50m from Anglo Irish Bank back in the good days to build on the site owned by the RDS. So what is the right price for one of Ireland’s foremost luxury hotels? Considering that it was not that long ago that many developers were ratcheting up debts of e100m-plus to build hotels, e50m for a hotel of the Four Seasons calibre may sound like a reasonable deal. Even in today’s climate for bargain builds, it


would be a challenge to build a hotel of the quality and finish of the Four Seasons for the same cash, say industry insiders. But these are challenging times, and while the property’s agents at CBRE are keeping schtum on the asking price, rumours are knocking around the industry that offers in the region of e20m have been submitted – a turn off being the watertight long-term contract held by the Four Seasons management, plus the significant costs involved in running the business – including a hefty rates bill plus considerable ground rent to the RDS. ‘Why would e50m sound like a good deal if you’re paying for losses of e2m?’ asks Pat McCann of Dalata Management Services. ‘You’d have to make approximately e1.5m to pay the rates and rent before you get started.’ Negotiations at the Four Seasons are hotting up, and a deal is said to be close to completion, but another Dublin property attracting attention is the yet to be finished building next door to the sparkling new Grand Canal Theatre. The Dublin Development Docklands Authority is peppering to get its flagship Grand Canal Square completed, but construction at the hotel has come to a standstill, leaving an eye-sore adjacent to the new Daniel Libeskind-designed theatre. Bank of Scotland (Ireland) is looking for buyers for the building which was developed by Terry Devey and the hotel is on offer either by itself or in a lot with 84 adjoining apartments. The bank may consider holding on to the apartments, which are ready for letting, but with approximately another e8m needed to finish off the build and FF&E on the hotel site, it is keen to get the property off its books as it endeavours to exit the Irish market. While figures of e15m-e20m have been touted for the sale, we are aware of some parties who have come to the table with bids of e8m-e10m for the site.


Market Movers? The Four Seasons Hotel, Ballsbridge and the unfinished hotel at Grand Canal Square in Dublin are two of the most high-profile properties on the market today.

While negotiations on both properties are ongoing at time of press, Hotel & Catering Review has learned that a number of offers have also been rejected on sites currently in examinership and in the hands of lenders or NAMA. NAMA is understood to have turned down an offer of e8m on Tulfarris Hotel & Golf Resort in Co Wicklow, while an offer of e7m was rejected for the Fleet Street Hotel in Dublin, which faces on to Westmoreland Street and Fleet Street in Temple Bar. ‘The bank is holding out for e10m, but they are unlikely to get it,’ said our source. One operator, acting on behalf of a number of investors, expressed his frustration with the National Asset Management Agency. ‘I have been approached by a number of separate investors who have identified key sites of interest in the NAMA portfolio but NAMA will not engage. They are willing to buy, but NAMA is not interested in talking to them right now.’ Another hotelier, who also wishes to remain off the record, concurs. He notes that, while a number of foreign-owned banks are playing a waiting game with the Irish hotel sector, so too is NAMA. ‘We are seeing a lot of frustration with NAMA. People are approaching them with offers but they don’t seem to get any response. NAMA has a long-term brief with a window of 10-15 years to recoup their losses and so they feel that now is not the right time to sell in Ireland. They’ve sold some of their London properties because the market is great in London at the moment, but they don’t see the sense in selling in Ireland now.’ But for how long can this waiting game go on? NAMA declined to comment on this article, so we have no official estimate, but one hotelier who has approached NAMA believes that, despite the agency’s long-term remit, we can expect to see movement by the end of this year. ‘NAMA will get stretched for funding and will have to sell – probably in the latter half of 2011. The hotels to sell will be good properties in prime city centre locations.’ Pat McCann of Dalata disagrees. ‘NAMA isn’t ready to move yet

and doesn’t want to giveaway too quickly.’


hile at last count NAMA had 87 hotels on its books, the agency isn’t the only one in control of distressed assets, and with 55 hotels in Ireland now in receivership or liquidation, plus at least a further 40 expected to go through the courts system by the end of the year, foreign owned banks also have troublesome properties on their ledgers. The banks’ stance to date has caused much anger in the hotel industry, with many hoteliers citing unfair competition as they claim lenders are opting to bankroll their distressed assets rather than extending credit to viable businesses, but with pressure cranking up in the economy, can we now expect the banks to take the hit sooner rather than later? ‘They’re coming to terms with it,’ says one property agent of the haircut required to get the property sector moving again. ‘The banks are getting past the denial stage. They’ll take small hits but don’t ask them to take a e50m hit on a e70m loan, particularly if the hotel is generating enough cash to wash its face.’ With only one notable hotel sale in the last two years to be concluded, estimating just how much a hit banks will have to take is something of a guessing game, but one property analyst 8


COVER STORY expects the average hotel discount to be up to 50%, while other commentators estimate average discounts could range from 30% to as high as 70% in some cases. Recent accounts filed by hotel companies may go some way to identify some of the discounts which can be expected however. Accounts for the Clarion Hotel Dublin Airport which were reported in The Irish Times, for instance, claim that the hotel is now worth e12m, down 72% on the e43m it was valued at in 2008. The hotel’s Anglo loan has been transferred to NAMA. ‘We have heard some horror stories,’ says an industry stakeholder with his finger on the pulse of the market. ‘There could be up to e100m spent on Kilternan which could be sold at a 70%-80% discount. In Cork, a resort that cost between e30m-e35m to the build now has a guide of e10m.’ Receivers are starting to recognise the discounts required. For example, Kilkea Castle in Kildare was on the market with an asking price of e16m last year. Now the receiver, Jim Hamilton of BDO, is looking for e6m for the sale.

Location, Location, Location

The old property adage ‘location, location, location’ couldn’t be more apt in today’s market, with little interest displayed in hotels on the market outside the capital at present. However, to say there is no interest in Irish hotels is false, says Paul Collins, executive director of CBRE’s hotel and licensed division. ‘There is a misconception that the market is dead, it’s not dead. There are quite a lot of cash buyers out there, and they are active up to a certain level – e3m, e4m, maybe e5m. We are also seeing a lot of international buyers but they

EBITDA whereas in the past in Dublin it was calculated on the value of the site, not EBITDA.’ While basing decisions on EBITDA makes sense, the problem for hoteliers and banks trying to sell out in the current market is that EBITDA has hit the floor due to plunging rates and revPAR. ‘Values based on current EBITDA will not be reflective of how hotels can perform once the market improves,’ notes Jim Murphy. ‘People will price in some element of recovery,’ believes Tom Barrett, head of hotels and leisure at Savills, who points to CityOccupancy’s 2010 Hotel Index which noted a slowdown in the rate of decline in the sector (see this month’s News). ‘Some stock is exiting the market little by little and there are some positives that can be seen. The trouble is that there’s nothing to benchmark against. If the sales of the Four Seasons and the hotel at the Grand Canal Square go through they will go some way to providing a benchmark, but buyers will need to remember that these deals are complex – the Four Seasons is losing money and the hotel at Grand Canal isn’t open yet – and so they will have been priced accordingly.’ While investors may be looking to buy now at a bargain in the hope of future growth, one estate agent warns that the initial buying price is only part of the picture. ‘Most hotels will need further spend, whether through capex, working capital, or even bank-rolling it if it’s loss-making for a few years. Purchasing the hotel is only the first step. Buyers may also need to put another 20%-30% in before they see a return. Many investors are asking themselves if they would be better off putting their money into international bonds.’ A private equity adviser who has been approached by hotel management firms seeking investors ponders the same question.

‘If the sales of the Four Seasons and the hotel at the Grand Canal Square go through they will go some way to providing a benchmark, but buyers will need to remember that these deals are complex – the Four Seasons is losing money and the hotel at Grand Canal isn’t open yet – and so they will have been priced accordingly.’ are very specific about what they want – they require prime city centre hotel assets which are branded or could be brandable and are 100 bedrooms plus. Their preferred locations are in Dublin 1, 2 and 4.’ The improving fortunes of the hotel market in Dublin – Paul Collins anticipates a positive revPAR growth in Dublin this year – coupled with recent developments such as the new Convention Centre Dublin makes the city an interesting option for many buyers. While there are many investors who are put off by the negativity surrounding the Irish economy and the Irish hotel sector, there are many more – both Irish and international – who are circulating in the hope of picking up a bargain. ‘There are guys flying in to Ireland thinking they can buy The Shelbourne for e10,000 a room but then they soon realise that Dublin is not for sale,’ says one agent, reiterating the banks’ and NAMA’s reticence at selling at a major loss. ‘We have been approached by a number of people interested in the hotel market,’ says Brendan Curtis of Vision Hospitality. ‘They’re coming mainly from a business background or large private equity houses or wealth funds, and they are both Irish and international. A lot of people in the industry have been put off by what has been going on for the last few years but there are those outside the sector who are interested in investing.’ Jim Murphy of PREM Group, which has been busy expanding its business overseas in the downturn, has witnessed a significant pick up in Europe. ‘We have never made so many presentations as we have since Christmas. There is a lot of interest in the European hotel market at the moment,’ he says, adding that this may extend to Ireland, and predominantly Dublin, providing the right hotel in the right location came up at the right price. ‘Dublin, particularly between the two canals, will always have appeal but investors today are very specific about what they will buy. The value is dictated by


Management companies are touting returns of 7% for investors today, but that is not enough, he maintains. ‘A liquid investor who invested 50% of his portfolio in fixed interest and 50% equity would have received a return of 8.2% per annum from 1988-2008. Any investor in hotel space would need to beat this liquid hurdle rate of 8.2% if they were to invest in a project. The investor needs to be paid for tying up his capital in a private equity deal with the expectation of a return higher than this hurdle rate. If you’re offering a 7% return this is not attractive.’

Show Me the Money

Of course, agreeing the deal on whatever the discount is immaterial if you don’t have the money to back it up – which explains why it is largely venture capitalists, high net worth individuals and private equity houses which are interested in the Irish hotel market at present and not, as Brendan Curtis notes, existing industry operators. With little chance of the banks loosening the purse-strings, young hotel managers who saw the crash as an opportunity to get on the ladder themselves will need to find investors willing to take a chance on them and on the Irish hotel market. ‘The cost of entry is a lot more accessible now but the difficulty is that funding of any sort is challenging. At the moment most of the activity is around cash buyers. We look for proof of funds before we enter into serious negotiations on any transaction now,’ explains Paul Collins of CBRE. What is needed is a change in the system, notes Jim Murphy, who believes that there are great opportunities for Irish hotel managers if they can get the backing. ‘Somebody needs to get behind the young managers in the industry. If there was someone willing to get behind them, like a small business bank, it would make a huge difference and help get the market moving again.’ u


Clean Sweep at the

IASI Awards Top row: Niamh O’Brien, Hayfield Manor Hotel, Cork; Patricia Collins, Willow Park School, Blackrock, Co Dublin; Vivienne Brogan, Emmaus Conference Centre, Swords, Co Dublin; Ann Lane, Bridhaven Nursing Home, Mallow, Co Cork Front row: Michelle Kilgallon, Abbey Court Hotel, Nenagh, Co Tipperary; Veronica Buite, St Mary’s Hospital, Phoenix Park, Dublin 20; Ines Guerra, Irish Accommodation Services Institute president; Mandy Earle, Brooks Hotel, Dublin; Moira Gibson, the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle, Co Down


embers of Ireland’s accommodation services fraternity donned the gladrags and turned out in their droves for this year’s prestigious Irish Accommodation Services Awards held at the Red Cow Moran Hotel, Dublin last month. Close to 70 hotels, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and conference centres were honoured at the Awards, which drew a record number of entries this year. Organised by the Irish Accommodation Services Institute, the Awards champion best practice in accommodation services, and as well as the 70 bronze, silver and gold award winners, a total of eight supreme awards were presented to the best of the best – the top performers in each field. This year’s Supreme Award winners were: Five Star Hotels – Hayfield Manor Hotel, Cork Four Star Hotels – Slieve Donard Hotel & Spa, Newcastle, Co Down Three Star Hotels – Abbey Court Hotel, Nenagh, Co Tipperary Boutique Hotels – Brooks Hotel, Dublin Hospitals – St Mary’s Hospital, Dublin 20 Nursing Homes – Bridhaven Nursing Home, Mallow, Co Cork Conference Centres – Emmaus Conference Centre, Swords, Co Dublin Colleges & Schools – Willow Park School, Blackrock, Co Dublin As well as the supreme, gold, silver and bronze awards, a special Lifetime Achievement Award was also presented to Dan O’Connell of Lissadell, who was further surprised when the IASI council sneaked his family in for the surprise presentation.

Pat Power, finance director of the Moran Bewleys Hotel Group, was guest speaker at the event, and congratulated the ‘unsung heroes’ of the Irish accommodation services industry. The black tie event, which was attended by more than 150 accommodation managers from across Ireland, followed the IASI’s annual general meeting and conference earlier in the day, which was chaired by Micheline Corr from The Firm catering recruitment specialists. u

Irish Accommodation Services Institute council members at the AGM Front row: Mary Flannery, vice president; Ines Guerra, president; Josephine Ryan, secretary; Angela Kennedy, membership Second row: Louise Duggan, treasurer; Marian Murnane, sponsorship; Rita Kilroy, public relations; Kathleen Heraghty, assistant treasurer Third row: Hannah Duignan, membership; Patricia Collins, sponsorship; Ingrid Brett, assistant secretary; Pauline Rogan, sponsorship Back row: Murali Dharan, newsletter; Cathrine Cerna, membership Missing from the picture: Lara Cullen and Milanie Monte



New Kitchen Gives Fitzwilliam the Confidence to Grow With a membership of over 2,300 and an expanding foodservice offering, Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club sought help from Mulcahy Technical Services to create a state of the art new kitchen to cater to demand.


he hospitality facilities at Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club in the heart of leafy Dublin 4 have come a long way since the last time the kitchen was refurbished 12 years ago. Today, Fitzwilliam’s 2,300 members can choose from a wealth of foodservice options – from top-notch fine dining in the club’s main dining room, to terrace dining overlooking the tennis courts, all day bar food in the Players’ Bar, and a bustling carvery and buffet lunch in the lounge, as well as a very busy private banqueting service. Foodservice kicks off with early morning breakfast and runs through the day until late in the evening. The hospitality facilities in the award-winning Sam Stephenson designed clubhouse have been expanded over the years to cater to the broadening tastes of members, but the additions of a range of food and beverage offerings brought with them their own challenges for the kitchen team. ‘When we last refurbished our kitchen 12 years ago it suited our facility at the time, but we have developed our offering substantially since then. Our members expect quality and we have worked hard over the years to keep our offering fresh with a range of different options. As a result, our kitchen wasn’t able to cope with the demand,’ explains the club’s general manager, Terry Jermyn. Terry and the team approached a number of kitchen suppliers to design a new kitchen to cater for their growing needs. ‘Mulcahy Technical impressed us for two reasons. They came to us with a new brand which was very efficient, and they also have a strong service culture which is very important to us,’ explains Terry. The new brand was from Giorik, an Italian company which


manufactures kitchen equipment purely for distribution under its own brand name. Supplier Mulcahy Technical Services works closely with Giorik and, as their sole representative in Ireland, offers a complete back-up service to all Giorik products. ‘We went to visit Giorik in Italy and we were very taken with their operation,’ notes Terry. ‘They start with a piece of steel coming in the back door and manufacture the entire equipment themselves. The fact that they could supply everything so that we were only dealing with one kitchen manufacturer was also very appealing.’ Mulcahy’s introduced, Wexiodisk, a new washing equipment manufacturer in Sweden to Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club who is now the only operator in Ireland and the UK to feature a state-of-theart Wexiodisk pre-rinsing system with rack dishwasher and potwasher – a highly efficient solution. This completely automated system works by connecting the prerinse water to the main machine, thereby ensuring less water is used throughout all cycles. Meanwhile the inclusion of basket recognition technology has a double benefit, users simply load the baskets and the machine does the rest. It only washes when the baskets are full – further reducing waste. This is an important eco-friendly inclusion and helps offset rising rates and costs to the end user. ‘Both manufacturers produce equipment which is extremely energy efficient, which was a key requirement for us,’ explains Terry Jermyn. ‘Giorik provided us a range of energy saving equipment, including induction which only fires up when a pan is placed on the hob, and salamanders which switch on when a pan is placed underneath them. They go from zero to 300ºC in six seconds, cutting back on


75% of energy consumption. The Wexiodisk dishwashers are also highly efficient, reusing heat and hot water so that they don’t have to be extracted. As a result we have eliminated energy waste from the kitchen, while our chefs are now working in a much more pleasant environment.’ As well as working in a more pleasant working environment, head chef John O’Brien and the team are relishing their newly designed kitchen. ‘The induction is great to work with and is as good, if not better, than cooking with gas,’ says John, ‘and the equipment is much easier to clean now.’ As well as installing the new kitchen, Mulcahy’s designed the kitchen for ease of use, including self contained work stations and a poured resin floor with curved edges to the wall, making floors easier to clean. ‘The design of the kitchen was very important,’ explains Terry Jermyn. ‘We needed to go from one kitchen line to three to cope with all our offerings. I went to Mulcahy’s with our requirements and they designed this kitchen for us.’ Fitzwilliam expanded the kitchen, building an extension over the canopy at the entrance of the club to contain a new washingup facility and with the space saved in the existing kitchen area Mulcahy’s was able to install three new kitchen lines. ‘We now have lines for our bar service, fine dining and banqueting options, which makes us very efficient. The lines are self contained so we can close them off when they are not in use, for instance on Mondays when the restaurant is not open. We’ve gone from one to almost three kitchens which may sound like a luxury but for us it was important that we had a facility that would be able to grow with the

club,’ says Terry. ‘We didn’t want to spend a fortune, but we wanted something that would give John the opportunity to develop his menus going forward and enable us to cope with whatever the market throws at us. In the past, there was so much demand for our various offerings that we used to have to finish our bar food at 9pm – now we can cater to everyone, no matter how busy it gets.’ Mulcahy Technical Services also completed the installation of PVC walls, poured resin flooring, new ceilings, all mechanicals and electricals, and an extraction and fresh air system. In short this was a ‘totally turn key’ project, requiring the stripping out all of the old services, wall and flooring and a complete renovation of the premises within three weeks. ‘It was great to work with Terry and all his team. They had the foresight to see the benefits of what we, at Mulcahy Technical Services, are introducing to the market. Our solutions deliver immediate savings in all areas while we also understand that price and value is all important in today’s climate,’ said Eddie Kehoe and Eamon Devoy of Mulcahy Technical Services. u

For information on how Mulcahy Technical Services can help you improve your catering operation call 01 450 4755, email: or log on to


New Name

But Same Ethos for Ireland’s Largest Caterers More than 40 years after it was founded by Paddy Campbell, Campbell Catering has rebranded as Aramark Ireland. But the name change is the only difference. The company’s ethos and commitment to quality remains the same, says the group’s commercial director, Eddie Scaife. He talks to SARAH GRENNAN.


ampbell Catering’s official rebranding under the Aramark Ireland banner this month will not require too much of a leap for the company’s customers and staff who have seen the US giant’s name being slowly introduced to the group since Campbell joined the Aramark stable back in 2005. Known as Aramark/Campbell Catering for the last number of years, the catering firm will now officially go by the title Aramark Food Services from this month, as part of a major rebranding of Aramark’s Irish divisions.

While many companies have retrenched in the last few difficult years of the recession, Aramark has expanded its interests here, acquiring the business interests of Veris plc in 2009 in a e50m deal which brought Vector Workplace & Facilities Management, Vector Environmental Services and the property management Irish Estates and Glenrye companies into the Aramark fold. While Aramark had been actively on the acquisition trail, its significant investment in Ireland was ‘a strong vote of confidence in the country and our management team here,’ says the group’s commercial director Eddie


Scaife, pointing out that when the deal was landed at the end of 2009 we were already ‘well into the teeth of the recession’. The Veris deal is also a clear signal of intent that Aramark plans to grow its operations beyond catering here in Ireland, and farther afield. Major catering companies have all identified that the facilities management sector offers clear potential for growth, and by acquiring Vector, Aramark brought the country’s largest facilities management operator into the fold, where it now sits alongside Ireland’s largest contract caterer.

REBRANDING ‘We have sites that are hiring and expanding right now and others that are consolidating, but the common thread everywhere is that companies are watching what they spend. Our job is to help them achieve greater efficiencies.’ ‘We can definitely see the benefits that moving into facilities management can bring the company,’ says Eddie Scaife. ‘By offering more services to our clients we can help them streamline their businesses and cut costs. Companies today are asking themselves if they need to worry about all those things that are not core to their business – such as maintenance and security – and that’s where Aramark Ireland can step in. By providing one point of contact we can help them reduce costs.’ Providing options is the name of the game in the business today, Eddie notes. ‘There are no sacred cows anymore. Things that we might have thought were untouchable in the past are now up for grabs. We are trying to push the boundaries and show our clients what’s possible. We have had to be proactive and go to our customers to show them how we can improve their offering. If you wait for them to come to you then you’ve lost the game.’ With a 45% share of the contract catering market, Aramark’s 400 sites across Ireland offer plenty of scope to grow the facilities management offering, while the group’s new additions also offer prospects for the catering division to grow their business in return.


oday, Aramark Ireland comprises four businesses, Aramark Workplace Solutions (formerly Vector Workplace & Facilities Management), Aramark Food Services (Campbell Catering), Aramark Property (Irish Estates/Glenrye) and Aramark Environmental Services (Vector Environmental Services), and while the names of the various divisions have changed, the fundamentals remain the same. ‘The brand is changing but the people, the ethos and the heritage will not change at all. That’s why we didn’t rush into the name change. It’s a year since we bought the Veris interests, but we wanted to take our time and communicate the message properly. Customers don’t like change so we needed to communicate why we bought the companies and what the deal will mean to them. We’ve explained that they’re still going to get great service, and now we can show them what else we can do for them.’ Aramark was also keen to carefully communicate the reasons for the change to employees and began roadshows late last year to explain the process. ‘We’ve been saying to our own people, if you feel that Campbell

Catering is in your blood, that’s fine. We don’t want to change that knowledge, we want to build on it,’ says Eddie.


as the group worried that by putting a US name above the door they would risk alienating customers at a time when there is a growing movement to support Irish? ‘It is something that we thought about,’ he acknowledges, ‘but we have clearly communicated to our customers

rate of growth in the facilities management business being higher, where we are coming from a lower base,’ says Eddie. The acquisition also enables the Irish operation to spread its wings overseas. Vector operates in 12 countries, employing more than 400 staff and while Aramark has existing operations in the UK, Germany, Spain and other European countries, the nature of Campbell Catering’s relationships with its international customers meant that in the past when the clients expanded

Opposite Page. Pictured at the announcement that Campbell Catering and Vector are to be rebranded as Aramark Ireland are Eddie Scaife, commercial director; Donal O’Brien, chief development officer; Derry Robertson, general manager, Aramark Workplace Solutions; Joan O’Shaughnessy, chief executive, Aramark Ireland; Michael Ferguson, managing director, Aramark Environmental Services and Grainne Kelliher, managing director, Aramark Property. 2. Eddie Scaife, commercial director, Aramark Ireland 3. Paul Breen, Food Development Manager; Joan O’Shaughnessy, ceo, and Derek Healy, facilities technician, at the official launch of Aramark Ireland

that we are an Irish company staffed by Irish people who live and work here. We spend e37m a year on local produce, our staff live in the community, we want our customers to know that we’re committed to supporting their local communities.’ The Veris teams are busy moving into Aramark’s offices at Dublin’s Northern Cross this month as the rebranding process completes. It is a learning curve for both teams, notes Eddie, as they get to know each other. ‘Sometimes we have been working with the same companies and we didn’t know it.’ Under the new-look Aramark Ireland umbrella, two-thirds of the business will hail from the Food Services division, with the Property and Facilities Management operations accounting for a third of the group’s combined annual turnover of approximately e200m. ‘Certainly we see the

overseas, the caterer often followed them into countries where Aramark didn’t have an established presence.


ooking at Aramark’s client base it’s a tale of two economies, says Eddie. ‘A number of our customers are in the export market and they are doing very well at the moment, but obviously there are companies working in the domestic market that are finding business very challenging at present. We have sites that are hiring and expanding right now and others that are consolidating, but the common thread everywhere is that companies are watching what they spend. Our job is to help them achieve greater efficiencies.’ And whether that is through catering, facility management, or property management, Aramark Ireland now appears to have all the bases covered. u



Managing a Crisis The recent tragic events in Kinsale and Mauritius may have prompted many operators to question how they would handle a major crisis, and the resulting media storm. Don’t wait for the worst to happen, advises TIM MAGEE. Prepare for every eventuality by devising a crisis management plan.

‘...As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know...’ said Donald Rumsfeld in that infamous press conference. Robin Williams paraphrased Rumsfeld beautifully on stage: ‘I don’t know when. I don’t know where. But something bad is going to happen.’ That paraphrase should be the mantra for managing the media in a crisis. Sooner or later if you’re in the hospitality business an unforeseen issue will strike and it will warrant media attention. How well you are prepared for that event will determine the reputational and

revenue damage that it causes. If you manage a business that is about bringing complete strangers together in one building for the most personal of activities: sleeping, eating, to get married, to work or just to let their hair down it is even more important to have a plan for dealing with negative news. Fortunately my working day generally centres around the positive – helping businesses find newsworthy positive stories about their businesses. If it’s a hotel, and a new client, they come to us typically to increase their profile (and lower their ad spend). The initial process is simple. We ask the business to describe their strengths, and nine times out of 10 these descriptions are mired in platitude and using the exact

same language as their competitors: great location, beautiful views, really friendly staff, gourmet food, well appointed rooms (God help us) and world-class spa or golf course. After working through examples that highlight the fact that none of those descriptions actually mean anything to their customers, we tease out the little details that do: what proves your spa is world class, how are we going to get independent endorsements on what’s so great about your food or the view, which of your staff have a story worth telling? Putting some generic back-slapping text into an ad won’t cut it in 2011. Blowing your own trumpet these days isn’t going to keep you in business. You need someone credible to do it for you, so you need an armoury of independent commentary. The restaurants and hotels that are doing better than others aren’t successful solely because of price, location, or managing Sunday pay rates; they are successful because they are credible. The move has already started, but this year we will see a serious shift in credible healthy businesses leaving the herd. Helping businesses discover and communicate that credibility quickly is our bread and butter, but credibility can be easily and immediately destroyed, and occasionally it can be destroyed by a one-off dramatic event, and often the response of a business can be more damaging than the crisis itself. A case of food poisoning or

Communication in a Crisis: 1. Don’t be forced to react. Help your customers, your staff, and your business and have a plan on who to contact and what to say in the event of a crisis. 2. Appoint an owner of the plan and a media spokesperson. 3. Pick a crisis management team and get some basic media training. 4. Map out the possible issues. You can’t guess everything but the more likely reallife examples you can show the people involved the more they’ll understand. 5. Roll out the plan to all of your staff and stakeholders. A throwaway comment by a staff member on Facebook can damage your reputation. 6. Update the contacts, training and media breakdown of your CMP regularly to keep it relevant.

In my experience most independent operators don’t have a crisis management plan, and most big chains do, but there is a lack of awareness and training for those at the coalface. A simple media plan that is understood by all concerned not only helps to protect your business but it is better for the victims. 26 HOTEL & CATERING REVIEW ❖ FEBRUARY 2011

COMMUNICATION somebody tripping, badly handled, can lead to your business featured on Joe Duffy for all the wrong reasons. I started PR in crisis communication. It’s called Issue Management nowadays but it can still become a crisis if it isn’t managed properly. Over the last decade I’ve run into most issues. Mostly they have been minor but occasionally they are very serious and require you to drop everything and move in with the client until the situation is managed. I’ve had a five star operator and resort part company quite suddenly, a Prime Minister propositioned by prostitutes, a Caribbean island nation trying to deal with a leaked report on soaring crime levels and, the worst moment in my professional career, the sudden death of a guest’s child. The best piece of advice I can give is don’t wait for it to happen. Have a plan. In my experience most independent operators don’t have one, and most big chains do, but there is a lack of awareness and training for those at the coalface. The disparate and terrible events in Mauritius and Kinsale should be warning shots to everyone in this business. A simple media plan that is understood by all concerned not only helps to protect your business but it is better for

the victims. Putting together a basic crisis management plan is simple. At its core the plan outlines how we behave, what we say and who we talk to when a crisis hits our business. Any plan needs an owner. That owner of the CMP needs to have authority and communications skills. That go-to person should be the spokesperson where possible. The PR should never be your spokesperson; neither should it be the lawyer, accountant or an owner’s representative. A good PR can advise and inform on exactly what needs to be done but the information should always come directly from a recognisable customerfacing role within the business. In Ireland, we have seen some cases of a solicitor, priest or other third party delivering public statements on the most sensitive of issues and all it does is distance the business from the media and the public. The CMP owner should get basic media training. That person then needs to pick a team that reaches all of the parts of your business quickly, effectively and repeatedly. If nothing else, the CMP document and training should help all of your staff understand who they contact in a crisis and how they respond to media enquires. Too

many hospitality businesses assume that the media will call and ask for a comment from a manager, but they may not. They are just trying to do their job and will try and get the story from wherever possible. In this age of social media all your staff need to know what to say – which is essentially ‘I will get back to you’ – and all should be able to record and report the media query accurately. After you have mapped out who the emergency contacts are and what to say, then let the team work through what the most likely issues are that may come up. If the CMP owner has had some media training they should impart it to their team, and if they haven’t there should at least be an understanding of who the media are, how they work and why looking for the truth behind a story is a perfectly legitimate thing to do and should be treated with respect. Finally, all of this is a waste of time if the plan sits on someone’s PC desktop and if the training isn’t kept fresh and integrated into the business. It is a low-cost, simple, ongoing activity that may stop your reputation and your business from being damaged or destroyed and should be a priority on that basis. u

TIM MAGEE is managing director of Host PR, Ireland’s only dedicated hospitality and travel PR company.



We Are What

We Eat

so what do our menus say about us? Irish chefs and restaurateurs are faced with the dilemma of acting now to put nutritional information on menus, or maintaining the status quo and risk having further onerous regulations thrust upon them by Brussels in the not to distant future, guests at a recent Unilever Food Solutions debate in One Pico Restaurant, Dublin heard. SARAH GRENNAN reports.


aula Mee, the well-known nutritionist, presented some startling facts at Unilever’s nutritional information debate in Eamonn O’Reilly’s multi-award winning One Pico Restaurant this month. Ireland has the second highest rates of obesity in Europe, she reported. Some 23% of Irish are now considered obese, one in two are considered overweight, while a worrying 25% of all Irish children are obese. In real terms, this means that we now have over 327,000 obese children in Ireland, with a further 11,000 becoming obese every year. Approximately 2,000 deaths in Ireland are linked to obesity every year, with obesity and related diseases costing the economy e4bn per annum. And of course, we’re not the only ones with the problem. Our friends in the UK top the euro weight scales, while the far side of the pond, obesity is a chronic healthcare problem. The US spends e160bn on obesity-related diseases each year and this figure is expected to double by 2016.

(l-r) Jim Reeves, customer director, Unilever Food Solutions Ireland; Paula Mee, Nutritionist; Eamonn O’Reilly, chef proprietor, One Pico Group; Tracey Rogers, managing director, Unilever Food Solutions UK & Ireland; and Paolo Tullio, restaurant critic at the Unilever healthy food debate in One Pico.


Simple lifestyle changes can go a long way to eradicating the problem, said Paula Mee. The World Health Organisation believes it is possible to prevent up to 80% of coronary heart disease, up to 90% of type two diabetes and approximately one-third of cancer cases by changing lifestyles. Knowing what you’re eating is a good place to start.


esults of Unilever Food Solutions World Menu Report shows that nine out of 10 people are looking for more information about food when eating outside the home. Their top three information requests are (1) where the food was sourced, (2) how it was prepared and (3) its nutritional value. Although research was not conducted in Ireland, the seven nations (UK, Germany, China, USA, Brazil, Russia and Turkey) give a good indication of worldwide trends, said Tracy Rogers, managing director of Unilever Food Solutions UK & Ireland, and she believes that Irish chefs now have the power to change the health of the nation. ‘It’s a big challenge, but it’s one we think chefs can rise to.’ Paula Mee, a nutritionist at the coalface as well as on television, concurred that there is a growing appetite in Ireland for more information about the nutritional content of food, and the way it is prepared. She startled guests at the debate when she recounted details of a recent trip to a prominent Dublin girls’ school. ‘Many of the students chose to bring jars of baby food in for lunch as they were able to tell the exact nutritional content of the food. They didn’t want to eat the food in the canteen as they didn’t know what was in it.’ While nutritional information has a clear role in the preparation of food in institutional catering facilities such as healthcare, and now clearly – if not somewhat alarmingly – in schools, this desire for more information about how food is prepared and what diets it is suitable for is spilling into the restaurant sector. While waiting staff have become accustomed to diners – particularly women – asking for more information about the content of dishes, many seek more details and are not comfortable asking about it. ‘I have my own weight issues,’ acknowledged One Pico chef-proprietor Eamonn O’Reilly at the event. ‘I would love to be able to get more information about food on menus when I eat out – and I’m a chef. People who aren’t chefs must find it even more confusing. I would feel embarrassed going into a restaurant

Eamonn O’Reilly’s Light Lunch Menu Seared Red Mullet, Escabeche, Shaved Fennel Salad, Saffron 150 kcal, 1g saturates, 0.5g salt Beetroot & Goats Cheese Salad, Sakura, Walnuts, Pine Nuts, Cabernet Sauvignon Dressing 225 kcal, 4g saturates, 0.3g salt Crab Salad, Piquillo Pepper, Curry Spice, Light Crème Fraîche, Pink Grapefruit, Crisp Pain d’Epice 120 kcal, 2g saturates, 0.7g salt


Paula Mee asked gathered guests at the debate - including chefs, restaurateurs and food writers - to fill out the forms above. Can you guess the right answers? Surprisingly, considering the expertise among guests, no one correctly guessed the answers to questions two and four. *

Sea Bream, Paysanne of Vegetables, Baby Spinach, Vermouth Fish Stock Reduction, Razor Clam 175 kcal, 1g saturates, 0.2g salt

and asking a lot of questions, particularly if I was there While Dylan has managed to eradicate cream and with a group. If the information was there on the menu sugar, he hasn’t managed to find a replacement for salt. it would be a great help as I would be able to make my New York restaurants – prompted by Mayor Michael decision myself.’ Bloomberg – waged a war on salt in 2009, three years Eamonn devised a three course menu for the group after successfully launching a campaign to eradicate of food experts, industry representatives and journalists artery-clogging artificial trans-fats from their menus. who gathered at One Pico for the Unilever debate, Here in Ireland, McGrath and many of his peers don’t setting out clearly the nutritional content of the food think banning salt is as easy. ‘I have learned to replace (see left). It was no easy task, he acknowledged. ‘It took sugar, but is there a substitute to salt? If there is I haven’t Braised Short Rib of Beef us about a week, between devising the menus and found it yet. I personally don’t want to have to cook Terrine, Bourguignonne training, but now that we have taken this step we’re without salt. I cook from the heart and salt enhances the Garnish, Onion Purée, looking at putting healthy options on the menu with flavour.’ Shaved Potato (GF) a list of three starters, three mains and three desserts. Paula Mee reassured chefs that salt doesn’t have to 250 kcal, Customers can choose from this or go with our regular be outlawed in order for food to be healthy. ‘Certain 4g saturates, menu. People like myself feel excluded in restaurants. foods have to have salt,’ she agreed. ‘What I object to 0.2g salt If I can change the perception to one of inclusion it is certain fast food restaurants which poor salt in to should make a real difference.’ season.’ She continued: ‘I don’t think restaurants need It was this sense of inclusion that prompted Dylan to change their menus, they just need to explain them. Free Range Fermanagh McGrath to go down the healthy route with his new Legislation is going to come down the line anyway, so if Chicken, Leek & Black Bacon restaurant Rustic Stone. ‘I aimed my whole restaurant restaurants don’t move on it they will be told how to put Croquette, Fricassee of at women as I felt it was women who predominantly nutritional information on menus.’ Salsify, Shitake & Spring choose which restaurants to eat out in. This encouraged Restaurants Association of Ireland president Paul Onions me to put more healthy options on the menu. Also, Cadden explained that moves are already afoot 300 kcal, I can see among my friends that my generation is in Europe to introduce regulations governing the 3g saturates, becoming more body conscious. There are a lot of description of food on restaurant menus. ‘I sit on 0.4g salt people who don’t care what the nutritional content of HOTREC (the European community of hospitality their food is, but there is also a huge amount who do.’ associations) and what is coming down the line Like Eamonn, Dylan noted that introducing more regarding food labelling is very scary. We took the *** healthy options to menus has its challenges. ‘We were suggested criteria and applied it to the menu of trained in the classics, which doesn’t necessarily go hand Hugo’s (on Merrion Row, Dublin) and it worked out Natural Yoghurt & Vanilla in hand with healthy eating. In college, we were trained at 58 pages. We had to lobby our MEPs about it as Pannacotta with Bramley to make espanol sauce, and from that we got a demithe suggested regulations in their current form are Apple & Green Apple Sorbet glace which we used for other sauces. We were trained completely unworkable.’ 135kcal to work with flour, then when gluten-intolerances came HOTREC has adapted a ‘wait and see’ attitude but Irish in we went with cream. Now we’re taking out the cream restaurants need to be more proactive, said Paul. ‘I think so I’m going with relishes. Nutrition conflicts with the we need to have our own code. We need to have a Plan B Winter Berry & Champagne natural rules of cooking for generations. It’s a brave new because if we don’t take steps to do something about this, Jelly with Goji Berry & world out there. It’s actually very tough.’ then Europe is going to step in and do it for us.’ u Blackcurrant Granite 100 kcal *Answers: (1) 46% (2) salmon and spinach quiche (3) gluten free/lactose free/low fat/suitable for vegans (4) beef burger



Thousands Flock to Biggest Show in Town R

ecord numbers descended on the RDS Simmonscourt for CATEX 2011 this month when the Bunzl and Calor sponsored event ran from 8-11 February. More than 9,000 operators from the foodservice and hospitality industries visited the show over the three days to do business with CATEX’s 200-plus exhibitors and learn about new products and trends for the sector. Owned by the Catering Equipment Association (CEA), CATEX has grown substantially over the years since it was first held in 1967. This year’s show was packed with innovations, competitions and ideas on how to boost business. ‘The CEA and our industry partners are thrilled with our exhibitors and visitors’ response to CATEX 2011. In difficult economic times, the hospitality, on-trade and foodservice sectors have demonstrated their resilience through the numbers of visitors who flocked to the show,’ commented CEA chairman Michael Flannery, adding: ‘It has been an honour to preside over CATEX 2011 and I have no doubt that the show will continue to flourish and grow in the future. On behalf of the CEA, I would like to extend


our gratitude to our industry partners, the participating exhibitors and all of the visitors who attended CATEX. We specifically developed CATEX to meet today’s challenges and I hope that every visitor and exhibitor left CATEX 2011 with new opportunities, insightful thinking and contacts that will be of real benefit to their businesses for years to come.’

No Business Like Show Business

In tandem with innovations and ideas displayed by suppliers, visitors to CATEX were treated to a theatre of competitions over the three days. Identifying the cream of the country’s talented chefs, baristas and mixologists the competitions included: The Avonmore Irish Barista Championship – won by Vicky Fitzhenry from Butlers Chocolates, who beat off stiff competition from more than 40 of her peers in the coffee sector. Vicky will now represent Ireland at the World Barista Championship in Bogota, Colombia this June. The Robert Roberts Irish Cupping Championship – won by David Walsh



of Marco Beverage Systems, who also followed Vicky into second place in the Barista Championship. It was a back-toback cupping win for David at CATEX, who won the same competition last year and went on to take second place in the World Cupping Championship last year. David will once again represent Ireland at the World Championship this year, and will travel to Maastricht for the event in June. The National Cocktail Championship, sponsored by Edward Dillon & Co – scooped this year by Patrick Thomas of Lost Society in Dublin, whose Guncotton Mark 11 cocktail set him apart from his peers in the competition. Pat also won the championship’s Fancy Cocktail category, while Vitor Oliveria from Mantra in Maynooth won the Pre-Dinner Cocktail category; Roberta Espinosa of The Gresham Hotel, Dublin, landed the After Dinner award; and Lukaz Wojcik of FXB’s picked up the Long Drink title. The Panel of Chefs’ Restaurants of Nations, sponsored by Stephens Catering Equipment and Calor – a key attraction over the three days of the show-four international teams pitted their skills against two Irish teams (junior and senior) at the competition. This year Team Italy triumphed at the event, wowing with their innovative menu and culinary skills. Team Canada came in second, while Team Ireland, who won the event in 2009, were placed third.

Also on Show

Hundreds of visitors from the on-trade flocked to CATEX’s newest innovation, Pub Kitchen, at this year’s exhibition, where publicans were offered a wealth of practical advice about offering food in their businesses. Catering equipment providers Kaneco were on hand to provide kitchen advice, while the stand was sponsored by Musgrave Foodservices. Elsewhere at CATEX Bord Bia showcased its ‘Taste of the Best of Ireland’, promoting indigenous Irish food suppliers such as G’s Gourmet Jams, Paddy’s O’Granola, Couverture and more.


Triumphant Chefs: Winners from this year’s Chef Ireland Competition Day




Tuesday 8 February

Larder Class Junior

Diarmuid Ryan


Alternative Breakfast Open

Annmarie Molony

Crown Plaza Hotel

Chicken Sauté Open

Stacey Scott

South West College, Enniskillen

Open Vegetarian

Adrian Poczynski


Irish Lamb Junior

Susan Murphy

MacNean Restaurant

Global Pizza Challenge Open

Niall Byrne

Gotham South

Irish Fish Open Class

Stephen McKenna


Gastro Pub Main Course Open

Colm O’Halloran

Kilcooly House

The Culinary Ability Awards

David Hamill

The Orchardville Society

Pasta Junior

Patrick Kean


Irish Potato Open Class

Olena Baglij

Colaiste Íde

Industrial Meat/ Poultry/ Fish Open

Paul Duffy

Sodexo, City West

Game Cookery Open Class

Aymar Gourdet

Annamar’s Restaurant

Open Duck

David Byrne

The Westgrove Hotel

Open Pasta

Kim Leen Yek

The Westgrove Hotel

Irish Pork Open Class

Visham Sumputh

Green Hen

Pastry Competition sponsored by Pallas Foods Open

Kevin Ward Avril O’Connor


Mystery Basket Competition Open

Michael Thomas Derek O’Brien

Radisson Blu, Sligo

Wednesday 9 February

Thursday 10 February

Ethnic Cuisine Open

Lynn McDonald


Irish Lamb Open

Visham Sumputh

Green Hen



What are the Cupping Championships? The Cupping event is run by the Irish Chapter of the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE). This event is a fun way to test the palates of coffee enthusiasts throughout Ireland. Each contestant is presented with eight sets of coffees; each set has three coffees, two coffees the same and one different. The contestant must try each coffee and put forward the coffee they deem to be the different one. If there is a tie, the winner is the person who completed their eight sets in the fastest time. Robert Roberts provided 12 single origin coffees for the competition, each coffee was uniformly roasted (light to medium) by Garath Scully to ensure consistently. The coffees included; Sumatra Lintong, Colombian Supremo, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Monsoon Malabar, Dep Lam Robusta, Tanzania Buffalo, Peru CecoVesa, Brazil Bourbon, Papa New Guinea Sigri A, Nicaragua SHG, Kenya AB and Brazil Daterra Bruzzi. In the finals, origins closely matched on taste were used to make it more difficult. The winner, David Walsh, managed to get all 16 sets correct. 1. Sarah Kinsella and Sarah McDonnell of Couverture 2. Restaurants of Nations winning team, Team Italy, with Brendan O’Neill, Panel of Chefs (far left) and Derek Walsh from Failte Ireland, pictured centre 3. Patrick McCloskey and Martina Byrne of McCloskeys Bakery 4. Rozanne Stevens and Amanda Ryan, brand manager, Avonmore Milk on the Avonmore stand 5. Team Italy 6. Contestants compete at the Cupping Championships sponsored by Robert Roberts 7. Natalia Piechaczet and Dominika Szcukupak at the Bartenders National Cocktail Championships  





Show and Tell More than 200 exhibitors showcased their products and services to record numbers at this year’s CATEX 2.

1. 7.

3. 4.

1. The Marco stand at CATEX where visitors could check out the lastest in cutting-edge coffee and tea equipment, as well as sample Cup of Excellence coffee prepared on the stand by baristas. 2. Garret Buckley of Eventhaus, organiser of CATEX, at the show. 3. Neil McGowan, CEA executive at IBEC with Liam Mongey, secretary, Catering Equipment Association (CEA). 4. Conrad Greene and Gerard McGea of Stephens Catering at the company’s stand, with Ries Goes of Florigo, centre. Stephens Catering sponsored Chef Ireland and the Restaurants of Nation at CATEX 2011, providing the equipment for both kitchens.



5. Dirk Schonkeren, master chocolatier with Helena Chocolates, treats visitors to some heavenly chocolate creations at the Callebaut stand. Callebaut is hosting two chocolate workshops for the trade this year, the first of which will be held at DIT Cathal Brugha Street from 15-16 March. A second course will be held at Fairyhouse Food & Wine School from 24-25 May. See for more details. 6. Paul Skinner from Derrynaflan Foods at CATEX. 7. Izabella Donnelly, grand-daughter of CEA chairman Michael Flannery, was the youngest exhibitor at this year’s show.





3. 9.


1. Larry Smith and Ciara Toomey of Calor with CEA chairman Michael Flannery at the Calor stand. Calor was one of two main sponsors at this year’s show. 2. Pat Power, Moran Bewleys Hotel Group; Sean Martin, Bunzl and Anne Power, Westgate Services, at the Bunzl stand. Bunzl was a main sponsor of this year’s show. 3. Eamon Devoy, Richard Rust and Eddie Kehoe at the Mulcahy Technical Services stand. The company showcased the top-of-the range Giorik equipment at the show. 4. The Pallas stand buzzed with buyers over the three days of the show, with Patrick Clement of Pallas hailing this year’s CATEX as the ‘best ever’. ‘We brought a lot of suppliers from Ireland and overseas here this year to meet our customers and we received a great response. The show generated a lot of quality leads for us and we received a large number of orders.’


5. Fáilte Ireland shared details of its new Food in Tourism strategy at this year’s CATEX. Pictured are Nicola O’Riordan, Tony Lenehan and Helen McDaid


6. A new initiative at this year’s CATEX was Pub Kitchen, sponsored by Musgrave Foodservice and Musgrave Marketplace. Experts on hand to offer advice at the stand highlighted how publicans could introduce a new or extended food offering to their business with minimum fuss and maximum profitability. 7. At the Hugh Jordan stand were Conor McKenna, David Rowland and Adrian Kelly. 8. Online food supplier,, was a first time exhibitor at CATEX this year and to celebrate the company’s involvement it offered a 10% discount to buyers at the show. Pictured at the stand were the Fairfayre team.



9. Keelings showcased a range of fresh fruit and veg at the show.



RECIPES To Start Fillet of Hake with a Cheese Herb Crust, Smoked Mackerel Brandade Dillisk Pancake, Pickled Vegetables, Jellied Vinaigrette and a White Wine Cream Fresh Hake Crust: 200g Mossfield cheese 100g dill, parsley, chives 50g oatmeal Pancake: 50g dillisk 50g sweet potato, cooked 200g self-raising flour 1 egg 250ml milk

Dish of the Nation

Team Ireland took third place at the hotly contested Restaurant of Nations competition in CATEX this month. Team manager Audrey Crone of Baxterstorey shared their recipes.

Sauce: 250ml fish stock 250ml cream 100g butter 100ml white wine 1 shallot, chopped Brandade: 150g smoked mackerel 1 clove garlic Lemon juice to taste 100g potato 200ml milk 200ml cream Salt, pepper Vinaigrette: 1 large beetroot 100g white wine vinegar 50g sugar 25ml olive oil 2tbsp Agar-Agar Pickled Vegetables: 4 x ¼ baby carrot 8 x baby corn baton sugar snap peas 8 x diamonds 8 x radish slice 8 x ½ silver skin onion Dressing: 2 x fresh lime 150ml white vinegar 50g sugar 100ml water Garnish: Rock chives, coriander cress and shiso cress

Team manager: Audrey Crone, executive development chef, Baxterstorey Ireland Team captain: Kwanghi Chan, executive chef, State Street, Baxterstorey Team: Alan Fitzmaurice: head chef, Castle Dargan Hotel, Sligo Deirdre Clinton, head chef, Smugglers Creek Inn, Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal Bried Devlin, sous chef, Ballyliffin Lodge and Spa, Donegal Joe Clinton, Paul Davies, Denise Bradley & Liam Mc Evoy Pastry: James Richardson, chef proprietor, Old Barn Steakhouse, Markethill, Co Armagh Pastry mentor: Paul Kelly, Merrion Hotel, Dublin


Blend cheese, herbs and oatmeal together. Roll out to size needed. Chop dillisk and add to cooked sweet potato. Combine all ingredients to make a thick batter – cook pancakes in non-stick pan.


Sweat shallot in a pan add, white wine, reduce, add fish stock and cream and reduce again, mount with butter and pass. Cook smoked mackerel in the milk and cream with garlic and potato. When cooked blend, add milk and cream to make into a fine puree. Correct seasoning with lemon, salt and pepper and pass through a fine sieve. Cook fresh beetroot with all ingredients, except Agar-Agar. When beetroot is tender blend and pass. Add Agar-Agar to 200ml of liquid, bring to the boil, pass. Pour over a tray and allow to cool. Blanch and refresh all vegetables separately in vinegar. When cooled coat with a little of the dressing. Combine all items and bring to the boil, reduce and cool. Trim a small amount of each cress and reserve to garnish. Serves 4

For the Main Roast Rump Of Hogget wth Braised Shank, Pan Fried Sweetbreads and Broad Beans, Fondant Potato, Stewed Carrot Purée, Sweet Creamed Garlic, Morel Powder, Au Jus 4 x rump of Hogget (aged two weeks) 1 braised lamb shank 8 pieces of lamb sweetbreads 200g girolle mushrooms 1ltr lamb stock 200ml red wine 100ml balsamic vinegar pinch of brown sugar 1 white of leek 200g broadbeans, peeled 4 rooster potato 3 whole carrots 2 x chicken carcass 50g black bacon lardon 50g thyme 100g rosemary Bouquet garni



Sea salt Black pepper corns 6 garlic cloves, peeled 200ml cream 454g pure Irish butter Rapeseed oil 1 punnet pea shoots

Chocolate Mousse filled with Bitter Orange Brulee served with Bitter Orange Jelly, Milk Chocolate Croquant and Butterscotch Ice-Cream

Braise the lamb shank and flake the meat, discard any fat and bone. Reduce the lamb stock with balsamic and red wine to a glaze. Prep and sauté the mushrooms with garlic and shallot than add the shank meat when the mix is tender, add the lamb stock reduction. Set aside to cool. Prepare the sweetbread removing any veins and membrane, roast in butter and finish with jus glaze. Make the chicken stock from the carcass by roasting the bones in oven in deep dish, add lardons of black bacon lardons, and root veg. Add rosemary and thyme with water and leave in oven. Skim the fat, and strain after 45mins. Use the chicken stock to braise the carrots for 90 minutes until tender. Strain and puree in a Thermomix and pass though a extra fine drum sieve. Set aside. Boil the garlic clove in water and refresh 11 times. Transfer it to a pan with cream and bring down by half to a thick consistency and puree. Repeat the same process as the carrot. Blanch and peel the broad beans. Cut potato in shape and cook at low heat in clarified butter, until cooked and golden. Sear the rumps and finish with garlic and rosemary in the pan, and roast in the oven at 180°C until 60c in the centre. Let it rest, covered with butter paper. Blanch the leek and lay out strips on cling film. Roll the shank mix in a small cylinder tube, heat in steamer and cut into cylinder. Make a dressing from the rapeseed oil and balsamic and dress the broad beans. Assemble on plate and dress with a few pea shoots.

Dark Chocolate Mousse: 500g 67% dark chocolate 1000g semi-whipped cream 5 x gelatin leaves 300ml Sauce Anglaise Melt chocolate down to smooth consistency. Soften gelatine and add to warm Anglaise, dissolve. Mix chocolate and Anglaise together and fold in semi-whipped cream. Bitter Orange Brulee: 500ml cream 500ml orange concentrate 16 egg yolks 200g sugar Bring cream and concentrate to boil. Whisk sugar and yolks together and slowly add to boiling liquid. Place in bain marie and bake in oven at 120°C for 40-45mins. Remove and cool. Chocolate Spray: 600g white chocolate 400g cocoa butter purple colour Melt white chocolate and cocoa butter together, add dry colour and blend. Place into spray gun and keep in warm place until you are ready to spray. To assemble, place mousse into mould and pipe brulee into centre. Seal the top and put into freezer for one hour. When hard, remove mould and from distance spray mousse with purple chocolate. This will produce a velvet texture on outside of mousse. Serve with milk chocolate croquant, butterscotch ice cream, orange jelly and coconut crumble. u

Who Did What

Alan and Deirdre developed the starter together which evolved over many practices, sourcing ingredients local to the Sligo, Donegal area. Kwanghi was responsible for the main course. Paul Kelly developed the dessert. Due to work commitments Paul had to withdraw from the competition, so he coached James to produce the dessert on competition day. HOTEL & CATERING REVIEW ❖ FEBRUARY 2011 35



The Circle of Success BIM’s Seafood Circle continues to champion the best of Ireland’s seafood providers.


s indigenous food plays a greater role in our Irish tourism offering and as consumers continue to hanker after healthier and lighter menu options featuring tasty and nutritional fare, Irish seafood is coming into its own, playing a starring role on the best dressed menus this year. Just as Irish seafood surges in popularity, so too is BIM’s Seafood Circle enjoying an ever greater regard with a total of 193 members across the three categories (hospitality, seafood specialists and supermarket seafood counters) in 2011. Since the Irish Sea Fisheries Board first began awarding and promoting Ireland’s best seafood purveyors through its Seafood Circle initiative, it has grown to become a recognised hallmark for quality in the foodservice and retail sectors. Today, 97 of the Circle’s 193-strong membership hail from the hospitality industry, with members reaping the rewards of a scheme which helps them promote their business directly to seafood lovers, while also providing a wealth of back of house support – from tips for working with seafood, to menu 2.


ideas, recipes, and news of emerging seafood trends. This year’s winners of the Seafood Circle Awards highlight the standard and quality of the scheme’s members. Fishy Fishy Café in Kinsale, the restaurant run by RTE seafood presenter and chef Martin Shanahan, led the charge at the 2011 awards, scooping the much lusted after title of Restaurant of the Year. This landmark Cork restaurant, which is synonymous with quality seafood, was joined in the winners’ enclosure by the who’s who of Irish seafood purveyors. King Sitric in Howth, a stalwart in the Dublin restaurant industry, was given the nod for its Most Informative Menu, while Denis Vaughan, the Clare chef at the helm of Vaughan’s Anchor Inn in Liscannor, once again proved he was a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen when he banked the Seafood Chef of the Year Award. These businesses know the value of engaging with a scheme which provides marketing support and expert advice to the industry in these challenging times. For information on membership of the Seafood Circle visit u 4.

Roll of Honour Ireland’s Top Seafood Caterers

Seafood Restaurant of the Year 2011:

Fishy Fishy Café, Kinsale, Co Cork

Seafood Chef of the Year 2011:

Denis Vaughan, Vaughan’s Anchor Inn, Liscannor, Co Clare

Best Customer Service 2011:

O’Callaghan-Walshe, Rosscarberry, Co Cork

Newcomer of the Year 2011: An Port Mór, Westport, Co Mayo

Most Informative Menu 2011:

King Sitric, Howth, Co Dublin 5.

1. Martin Shanahan of Fishy Fishy Restaurant in Kinsale celebrates winning the prestigious Seafood Circle Seafood Restaurant of the Year Award with Donal Buckley, business development and innovation manager, BIM. 2. Frankie Mallon, Isabelle Hawkshaw and Shteryo Yurukov of An Port Mór are pictured with their Newcomer of the Year Award. 3. BIM’s Donal Buckley presents Denis Vaughan of Vaughan’s Anchor Inn with his award for Seafood Chef of the Year. 4. Joan McManus of King Sitric scooped the Most Informative Menu Award. 5. Sean Kearney receives O’Callaghan-Walshe’s Best Customer Service Award from Donal Buckley.

Oil Slick FOOD


When it comes to cooking oil, there’s more to choose from than the stalwart olive oil, writes MARILYN BRIGHT.


rent crude may have surpassed $100 a barrel, but it’s only in the ha’penny place when it comes to some of the oils in the modern chefs’ repertoire. Ounce for ounce, the range of specialised culinary oils can be more expensive than the black stuff, with the likes of single estate olive oils and topline truffle oil overtaking vintage clarets in price. Workaday oils like groundnut/peanut oil and sunflower oil have long held their place on kitchen shelves as most popular cooking and frying mediums. Now they are being joined by an array of oils pressed from seeds, nuts and fruits presenting a new palette of flavours for creative chefs. Drizzles and flavourful oil-based dressings are replacing many of the classic cream and butter sauces, catering for today’s taste for lighter foods and clean natural flavours. Most ubiquitous of all is olive oil, reflecting our adoption of Mediterranean ways and many kitchens stock several types, with a light mild oil perhaps for frying, a golden extra virgin oil for dressings and marinades and maybe a dark green robust oil for flavouring, giving up the scent of sunny olive groves in the merest drop on a dish. Mild olive oils are often the carrier for other flavours, such as the truffle scented oil flavoured for risottos, or the chef ’s own versions of dish enhancers using aromatics like garlic, chillies or herbs. At Deane’s Brasserie in Belfast, Michael Deane serves up an open ravioli of goats’ cheese with tomato infused oil, while mushroom pasta has a finish of curry scented oil. At Brown’s Restaurant in Derry, Ian Orr sources single estate Italian olive oil, and an orange and lemon scented version of the oil is drizzled over his vanilla panna cotta with poached rhubarb at the table for maximum effect. In the EU, olive oil is divided into several categories depending on the level of acidity in the oil. Extra virgin is the top category with a maximum acidity of one per cent, followed by virgin olive oil with a maximum of two per cent. Any oil simply labelled ‘pure’ will be refined by cleaning and filtering, possibly from a third or fourth pressing using heat as well as mechanical means of extraction. Most chefs opt for virgin or extra virgin quality of olive oil. When it comes to deep fat frying, the smoking point of various oils is all-important. This is the point at which fats




When it comes to deep fat frying, the smoking point of various oils is allimportant. This is the point at which fats burn and become very unpleasant. burn and become very unpleasant. Olive oil has the lowest smoking point of the popular frying oils at about 200ºC, but is still within the recommended frying temperature of about 188ºC, and is much used for this in Spain. Irish produced rapeseed oil is a relative newcomer and is fast being taken up by chefs interested in reducing food miles and supporting home industry. Kitty Colchester in Urlingford, Co Kilkenny is producing extra virgin rapeseed oil under the Second Nature – Happy Heart label, using seed grown on her parents’ farm. She recommends it as an all purpose oil for frying, baking and roasting, pointing out that it is high in desirable omega-3 and has a higher smoking point than olive oil. ‘It’s the only Irish organic rapeseed oil,’ she says, ‘and it’s super fresh as it is cold pressed every two weeks from the seed that is harvested twice a year.’ Nut oils like walnut oil and hazelnut oil are delicious but expensive, with flavour valued for dressings and finishing a dish. Garret Byrne, chef-proprietor at Campagne in Kilkenny uses both but warns they’re best used cold. Hazelnut oil goes into a dressing with port, mustard and hazelnut liqueur to finish a dish of foie gras garnished with a

scattering of roasted hazelnuts. Duck breast is served with pickled walnuts and a drizzle of walnut oil and duck jus. Almond oil is pale and very lightly flavoured, mainly used in baking and confectionery. It’s useful for oiling baking tins, soufflé dishes and moulds for jellied desserts as its delicate flavour doesn’t interfere with the main ingredients. Confectioners often use almond oil to oil marble before turning out mixtures like toffee or boiled sugar sweets. Grapeseed oil is a valuable spin-off from the wine industry and is increasingly popular for its neutral but pleasant taste. It can be used for frying, but some professionals find it most useful for diluting the more intensely flavoured oils like sesame and hazelnut in dressings and mayonnaise. Sesame seed oil is most often associated with oriental food and used in marinades or seasoning at the end of cooking in stirfries and vegetable dishes. Its nutty flavour enhances salad dressings and makes an excellent drizzle for grilled fish. The colour of the oil is determined by the degree of toasting given the seeds before pressing and very dark sesame oils have the most intense

flavour. Sesame oil burns easily so is usually added to hot food after removing from the heat. Pumpkin seed oil has something of the same character, though darker and thicker than sesame oil. Garret Byrne uses it as a finish on roasted pumpkin dishes, but only sparingly he says, as too much can be bitter – best just sprinkled on hot vegetables. Pure citrus oils are expressed from the skins of lemons, oranges and grapefruit, remarkable for their aroma and concentration. These expensive essential oils are used in tiny amounts, just a few drops needed to permeate a mixture such as custard or creams for cake fillings. The Kilkenny Shop café’s orange butter scones used only two drops of orange oil in the filling and are guaranteed best sellers as each batch comes out of the oven. Be warned that these expensive oils are so volatile that they disappear in cooked mixtures and batters. Read the label if you’re investing in any of the citrus oils. The term orange or lemon-scented means the pure oil has been diluted with a neutral oil which makes it less expensive, so the concentration of flavour may vary. u

Just Ask!

Restaurant of the Month The Just Ask restaurant of the month for February is Oscars Seafood Bistro, Galway “We list all of our suppliers at the bottom of our menu. Our fresh meat is supplied by Colleran’s butchers in Galway, our air dried ham from McGeough’s of Oughterard and our seafood from Gannet Fishmongers and Aran Fisherman’s Co-op. Vegetables are mainly supplied by Beechlawn Organic Farm and we visit both the Moycullen and Galway market to take advantage of the best possible seasonal ingredients.” Michael O’Meara and Sinead Hughes, Oscars Seafood Bistro, Galway







The Jerusalem artichoke isn’t related to other artichokes and has no link with the Israeli city. These funny looking vegetables, which are good raw or cooked, are native to North America and were first introduced to Europe by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain in the 17th century. One theory suggests the name was an adaptation of the name of the Dutch city Terneuzen, from where the veg were first shipped to Britain in 1616.

Potato & Jerusalem Artichoke Soup 5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped 500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled 3 cloves garlic, peeled 60g butter 250ml cream 250ml milk Salt and freshly ground pepper 200g mushrooms, thinly sliced Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish Parmesan shavings, to garnish Boil potatoes, artichokes and garlic in a large saucepan until the potatoes are practically disintegrating. Drain, put them back in the saucepan with half the butter, add the cream, milk and gently heat. Blitz in a blender, return to the saucepan and bring to simmer. Season well. Fry the mushrooms (Domini uses oyster but porcini or portobellos will do) in the remaining 30g of butter, season. Serve with the mushrooms on top, garnished with parsley, Parmesan and a few drops of olive or truffle oil.

Taste of


While this month’s election gives hope for new beginnings, the lengthening of the days prompts a sense of optimism. Spring is in the air, bringing a zesty twist to Irish menus. This time of the year is a transition season for Irish produce, and as we move from the hearty comfort fare of autumn and winter, diners’ preferences move to the lighter tastes of spring and summer. All year round produce such as bok choi, chicken and rope grown mussels make great ingredients for lighter menus, while smoked fish offers a handy menu filler as seafood also goes through its transition phase. Hogget is good during these early spring weeks too. And though out of trend in recent years, this tasty meat makes a great, cost-effective base for dishes and we were delighted to see it take to the main course stage at Team Ireland’s Restaurant of Nations entry in CATEX (see recipes, page 34). Early forced rhubarb is making an early appearance, while Jerusalem artichoke comes into its own at this time of year. Great in soup, particularly with maincrop potatoes which are also hitting their stride this month, this versatile veg is oft overlooked due perhaps to its less than attractive appearance. We are big fans, as is Domini Kemp of Itsa fame who included this rich soup recipe in her recent Itsa Cookbook. u




Masterful Canapés


It may be dull and grey outside as we sign off this month’s issue of Hotel & Catering Review (the weather mirrors the mood of the electorate it seems), but chef David Fransoret’s canapé recipes got us in the mood for cocktails and celebrations when they landed on our desk. David, from Château de Bagnolet in France, was in town for the Hennessy Gold Cup held at Leopardstown Racecourse, and created these tasty treats for guests at the star-studded event. Carpaccio of Beef with Strawberry and Mint Coulis flavoured with Balsamic Vinegar 10 slices of roast fillet of beef, rare 200g strawberry pulp 100g cane syrup 10 mint leaves, finely chopped, and 10 small leaves to garnish 2 tablespoons of reduced balsamic vinegar 10 slices of country bread 10 quarters of fresh strawberries Baux de Provence or similar olive oil Combine the strawberries, the chopped mint, the syrup and the reduced vinegar. Pour the strawberry coulis over the sliced roast beef and roll it into a cigar shape. Place the cigar on a slice of bread toasted with olive oil, and add a strawberry quarter and a small mint leaf. Makes enough for 10 people. Citrus Marinated Salmon 500 g salmon fillet with skin 2cl cognac VS 2cl gin

Food Businesses Display Confidence

It’s not all doom and gloom out there. Recent research from Bord Bia shows that the Irish small food business sector is bucking the declining trend in the economy, registering a 7% growth per annum over the last three years. The survey conducted by the food board, which works with 400 small food businesses with a combined annual turnover of e400m, found that over 70% view their business prospects as good or very good in 2011, while 56% believe that this year will be better than 2010. Close to three-quarters (74%) of survey respondents had increased business with existing customers last year, 43% won back business with former customers, while 90% had attracted new customers. Looking to the year ahead, 65% have increased their sales forecasts.

Michael Flanagan, Achill Island Turbot, and Frankie Mallon, An Mor Westport

For the marinade: 20 g salt 40 g caster sugar 1 teaspoon white pepper 1 teaspoon cumin powder 1 tablespoon coriander seeds 1 tablespoon ground ginger For the garnish: 4 oranges 4 pink grapefruit 1 bunch of dill 2 tablespoons Baux de Provence olive oil Combine the ingredients of the marinade. Cut an orange and a grapefruit into slices and finely chop the dill. Pour the cognac and gin over the salmon fillet and sprinkle the marinade. Add the orange and grapefruit slices and half the dill. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 48 hours. Cut out the segments of the three oranges and grapefruit without the skin and keep them cool in their juice. To serve, remove the citrus slices and pat the salmon fillet dry. Cut a thin slice and lay it in a spoon. Add the segments, pour a little citrus juice and olive oil over and add the rest of the dill.

Turbot Farm Expands

Achill Island Turbot, Ireland’s only turbot farm, has announced that it is on course to produce 100 tonnes of turbot in 2011, expanding to 600 tonnes over the next four years. The move would see the on shore land-based aquaculture business become one of the largest producers outside Spain and the only commercial turbot farm in Northern Europe. About 6,000 tonnes of turbot are farmed in Europe every year, 90% of which is produced in Southern Europe – principally Spain and Portugal. Founded by Michael Flanagan and Raymond J Mairs, Achill Island Turbot has been developed with a e2.5m investment and currently employs five staff, with the potential to create a further 20 jobs over the 2011 next four years. The company launched a BES fundraising campaign in December. 40 HOTEL & CATERING REVIEW ❖ FEBRUARY


New Look for Lyons Den

Close to five years after it opened outside Celbridge in Co Kildare, the Village at Lyons Demesne has added to its offering with a new cookery school, extended wedding venue and 14 luxury suites. ‘Harlequin style’ is the way Lyons general manager Michael Martin describes the look of his newly opened suites in the Kildare estate first developed by the late Dr Tony Ryan. Created to cater predominantly to Lyons’ burgeoning wedding businesses, the 14 suites have been designed with luxury in mind. Although savings were made by working with local suppliers and overseeing the project development internally, Michael admits that the Lyons team did ‘run away with the budgets a bit’ in order to ensure they got the finished look they wanted to achieve. ‘When it comes down to it, we’re here for the long haul so we didn’t want to scrimp on cheap furniture. We opted for quality over price. We did buy a lot of antiques but I see them as equity, they’re investments.’ In total, recent developments at the 42-acre estate cost e1.8m ex VAT, but the new additions were needed to bring the business forward, says Michael. ‘There was a lot of work to do. We started targeting the wedding business two years ago and while we were getting about 20 weddings a year we quickly saw we were losing out on many more as couples wanted more accommodation on site, particularly for the bridal party.’

Developing the new suites was the right decision, believes Michael. ‘This year we will do 70 weddings and that’s coming from a standing start two years ago. At a maximum, I’d say we will do 90-100 weddings a year as we will only do one a day. By making the changes we have been able to target more weddings which has been great for business. We have a projected turnover of e3m this year.’ To create the wedding-enticing accommodation, the Lyons team converted two Georgian houses on the estate into a warren of 14 luxury suites and at the same time extended the Mill to make it a larger wedding venue. ‘We knocked down private rooms that were never used to make space for larger wedding parties,’ Michael explains. Space was also a premium in the new accommodation block and, while architects were encouraging the Lyons management to develop 29 rooms in the two buildings, they decided instead to opt for a more spacious 14. ‘We 8



were confined in what we could do by space and budget. I didn’t want to put in more rooms for them not to be right, so instead we sacrificed the number so we could get the dimensions right. The suites are up to 550sq.ft so they’re spacious, and there are enough of them to cater to bridal parties which are the most important. Between the suites and the houses on site we can accommodate 52 pax, which is enough for us. As a rule of thumb weddings should have enough accommodation for about 25-30% of guests.’ Michael personally oversaw the design of the suites, eschewing the need for an interior designer. ‘I’ve plenty of experience over the years doing this so I knew what would work and what wouldn’t work. We wanted to fit in with the existing setting, and at the same time cater to guests’ needs. We have everything you could possibly need when you’re staying in a hotel – from tights for the ladies to Hermes aftershave for the men, which we charge at the same price you’d buy them for in Brown Thomas. There are no TVs in the room – I have a silent hotel policy – but we have iPod docking stations, wifi, Nespresso machines, etc. We spent a fortune on the beds, which were custom made by Sealy, as a good bed is so important. We also offer a pillow menu, which is easy to do in somewhere our size. What’s it going to cost me to have 10 extra pillows in the press? Now our guests can choose what they prefer.’ The harlequin design is a mix of old and new, explains Michael. ‘I wanted to do something a little bit different and funky. I wanted to build a room that I would want to stay in. I like it when you go to a mini bar in a hotel and you don’t just get the usual – that’s why we have unusual things like the tights and the aftershave. I also put Hermes products in the bathroom and we’re the only property in Ireland to do so. They’re very expensive but could I get away with putting something in from Joe Bloggs? I don’t think it would work with the type of market we’re targeting,’ he says, revealing that he is paying approximately e5 for a five piece set, about double what a standard brand would cost. While developing the suites and Mill for the wedding market last year, the Lyons team also embarked on a second project to build a new cookery school at the estate to further expand its offering. The purpose-built school, which is run by TV chef Clodagh McKenna, caters for groups of up to 20 with 20 high-spec cooking stations fitted out by Kaneco.


Both projects were carried out simultaneously over a seven-month period, and with two separate teams working on site, Michael appreciated the benefits of Lyons in-house project manager who can oversee the day-to-day developments on the site. But not everyone is as fortunate to have their own project manager, or have Michael’s experience designing hospitality properties. What advice does he offer operators considering embarking on a new project? ‘You need three things when doing a big build: You need an engineer in order to be compliant – you don’t want the building to fall down around you; you need an architect to make it all work; and if you don’t have experience or skills with design then you need a designer to add the finishing touches. The problem I find is that they don’t all talk to each other, so you need to keep an eye on that. Also, very few designers know our business and actually understand what running a hospitality business entails. You need to ensure that the FF&E will stand up to the wear and tear and you also have to be very clear about what your offering will be. Know what you want first. For instance, don’t build a kitchen the size of a postage stamp and then when it’s finished try to decide what you can cook in it. Build your menu first, then you will know what you need to make the business work.’ u


Trade Directory 2011

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Who’s Doing What... MUM’S THE WORD Mother’s Day is rapidly

Above: Seafood Appreciation at Ashford Castle Below: Kelly’s Resort Rosslare

approaching, bringing with it plenty of marketing opportunities for Irish hotels and restaurants. The Ice House in Ballina is getting in on the act, offering a range of Mum & Daughter promotions. Starting at e225pps for a two-night stay, The Ice House is offering unlimited access to the thermal area at Chill Spa, dinner on one evening, breakfast daily and a complimentary signature bathing experience to pamper mums. Day trippers can book the Mother & Daughter Day at the spa and enjoy 90 minutes of pampering in a double treatment room where they can enjoy a full body hot stone massage and mini Yonka booster facial each, plus access to the thermal area. Lunch at the Pier Restaurant ranges from e33 for two courses and e39 for three, with kids’ menu available from e8.95 for a main and dessert. To mark this February’s mid-term break, The Ice House also offered a two-day midweek break in a family room accommodating two adults and two kids. Treats included games room, cookies, kids’ robes and slippers and free kids’ meals on one evening plus a children’s picnic in Belleek Woods. Adults meanwhile got to dine in the Pier Restaurant on one evening. Rates started at e225 per adult with an additional night charged at e59 per adult sharing.

MAD ABOUT FISH Ashford Castle in Cong, Co

Mayo is celebrating the best of the sea from 28 February to 6 March with a Seafood Appreciation Week. The two-night getaway includes champagne on arrival and dinner in the George V dining room on the first night, chef escorted tour of Connemara on the second day, including a visit to an oyster farm, guided tour of the Connemara Smokehouse and lunch and a trip aboard a local fishing trawler for lobster fishing, followed by a five course seafood menu at the George V that evening. Mid-week rates start at e385pps for dinner, B&B and the tour in a Corrib Room, rising to e485 for the weekend break.

PADDY’S PARTY Castle Leslie in Monaghan is marking the national feast day with a special St Patrick’s Day break. One

night’s accommodation, full Irish breakfast, a pint of plain to toast the man himself in Conor’s bar, plus dinner, starts at e115pp. Easter packages at the estate, including a tour of the Castle and Easter Egg hunt for the kids start from e185 per person.

TAKING ITS TOLL To mark the completion of the new M7 motorway which cuts journey times from Dublin to Limerick by up to 60 minutes, the Carlton Castletroy Park Hotel is offering a two-night B&B break including dinner on one evening for e79pps. The hotel has even offered to pay for guests’ toll on the motorway.

BEACON OF SERENITY The Beacon Hotel in Sandyford, Dublin held a Beauty Beckons fashion show in January

to mark the launch of the hotel’s new Serenity at The Beacon packages. Stylist Lisa Fitzpatrick, wife of the hotel’s owner Paul Fitzpatrick, took to the stage as MC for the event which included a Style Afternoon Tea followed by fashion show organised by Andrea Roche. The new Serenity at The Beacon packages include Sitting Pretty, a two-night package offering three express treatments per person, cocktails, tapas and dinner in My Thai restaurant plus overnight accommodation and breakfast and Avant Garde, a one-night couples’ package featuring couples’ massage, accommodation and dinner in My Thai.

KELLY’S EXPERIENCE Kelly’s opened for the season this month, offering a range of midweek activity breaks at no extra cost. Included were Dynamic Events, featuring outdoor activities such as quad biking, clay pigeon shooting, archery and golf clinics; Cooking Demonstrations with Neven Maguire and Kelly’s executive chef Eugene Callaghan and pastry chef Stephane Rochard; Ballroom Dancing and Wine Appreciation. Other programmes planned for spring include Health & Beauty Week (20-25 March) with stylist Cathy O’Connor, hairdresser Lorraine Browne, make-up artist Derrick Carberry, holistic practitioner Karen Ward and nutritionist Paula Mee; Rethinking Your Life (27 March-1 April) with organisational and social development gurus Charles and Elizabeth Handy; Art Appreciation (3-8 April) with workshops from artist Neil Shawcross and tours of Kelly’s famous art collection from UCD fine art graduate Mairead Furlong; and Gardening Workshops (10-15 and 17-21 April) with Sandra Cosgrove. May at Kelly’s sees the Great Golf Getaway with Rosslare Golf Club pro Johnny Young offering tuition for golf novices and improvers. In addition, Kelly’s Resort will host a mid-week Golf Classic which involves a 36-hole competition to be played at Rosslare and St Helen’s Bay Golf Clubs with three-day green fees of only e85 per guest. The overall winner each week will qualify for a playoff competition in Mount Juliet with the subsequent winner qualifying for an Irish PRO AM in 2012. u




1. 3.


People On the Move RORY FITZPATRICK has been appointed general manager of The Clayton Hotel in Galway. A native of Waterford and graduate of GMIT, Rory previously worked with the Jurys Doyle Hotel Group in the UK before returning home to Ireland as general manager of the Quality Hotel Wexford in 2006. He spent the last five years in Wexford, overseeing the Quality’s rebrand as a Maldron Hotel following the Dalata buyout. Dalata took over the management contract for The Clayton in 2009 … Elsewhere in Galway SINEAD CASSIDY has been appointed sales and marketing manager of The Salthill Hotel. Previously press officer with the 2010 National Ploughing Championships, in the past Sinead also served as marketing manager of Supermacs, account director with Spirit Retail Marketing Group, Dublin and marketing manager with Punchestown Racecourse and Naas Racecourse as well as running her own marketing and PR business in Naas. Sinead holds a Bachelor of Business Studies (Marketing) Degree from GMIT, a Higher Diploma in Marketing Practice from NUIG and a Post Graduate Diploma in the Art of Public Relations... The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) has announced the appointment of MARIE LAWLOR as head of conference sales. Joining the team in 2008, Marie was one of the company’s first employees. She gained extensive experience in managing events and conferences during her previous roles with MCI Dublin and The Royal Town Planning Institute. At The CCD, Marie is responsible for targeting and securing international and European association conferences. Working closely with local professors and doctors as well as PCOs, Marie aims to attract medical, educational and scientific congresses to Ireland... ROBBIE GLEESON has joined the team at The Doyle Collection’s Westbury Hotel as executive chef. A native of Oxford, England, Robbie brings a wealth of experience with him to the position, previously serving as executive chef with some of the UK’s most exclusive hotels, including The Dorchester Hotel in London and The Hanbury Manor Hotel in Hertfordshire, England. Robbie moved to Ireland at the turn of the millenium to join Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa in Cork as executive chef. He joins The Westbury from his most recent positon at Kinsale’s landmark Fishy Fishy Café... Another chef on the move is RICHARD CARMODY who has been appointed head chef at Dylan Hotel. Originally from Donegal, Richard joined the boutique hotel in Dublin 4 from The Winding Stair, where during his tenure as head chef the restaurant achieved the Michelin Bib Gourmand. He was previously head chef in Browne’s Hotel on St Stephen’s Green, Dublin... Two graduates, who have completed the Graduate Development Programme at Aramark Ireland, will now take up key positions within the company. KEITH DOYLE from Sandycove, Co Dublin and SINEAD PIGGOTT from Fedamore, Co Limerick took part in the company’s 2009/2010 Graduate Development Programme. Keith is now working as an assistant manager in one of the company’s retail units and Sinead is a supervisor in an educational facility... Congratulations to ADAM BUTLER, conference and banqueting porter at the Herbert Park Hotel in Ballsbridge who has been announced ‘Employee of the Year’. Adam, originally from Tamworth, England has been employed at the hotel since it opened in 1996. As part of the award, Adam received a certificate and a e1,000 gift cheque. u

1. Pictured at the launch of Fáilte Ireland’s Executive Management Development Programme in Lough Rynn Castle, Co Leitrim were Paul Flavin, Hilton Dublin Airport Hotel; Ciaran Reidy, general manager, Lough Rynn; Mary Hall, programme manager, Fáilte Ireland; Gemma Jordan, Maldron Hotel Smithfield and Alan Smullen, The Croke Park Hotel, Dublin. Ciaran graduated from the programme in 2010. 2. The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt has raised over e12,200 for the Make A Wish charity over the last two years. To mark this achievement, Make-A-Wish Foundation Ireland’s chief executive Susan O’Dwyer presented an award to the hotel’s general manager Max Zanardi. Pictured at the presentation are Grainne Johnston, Michelle Byers, Susan O’Dwyer, Max Zanardi, Sinead Christian, Jill O’Hare and Sinead Cox. 3. Des Cahill and Avril and Andy O’Hara pictured at a Pre Hennessy Gold Cup celebration in Ananda Restaurant, Dundrum. 4: Ewen Plenderleith, managing director of the Herbert Park Hotel, presents the hotel’s Employee of the Year Award to Adam Butler. 4.



Nigel Pocklington Nigel Pocklington is vice president of global marketing and strategy at, the Expedia-owned hotel booking site which attracts 80 million unique users from around the globe each month. We caught up with him during his recent visit to Dublin.

How’s the Irish market faring?

We’re very happy with the Irish market considering the economy here at the moment. About one-fifth of the business we deliver for Irish hotels is domestic, the rest is international. This is good, as I believe hotels here need the most help with international business.

Where do you source guests?

We tend to send a lot of Americans here to Ireland, but we also send guests from around the world. Last month for instance we could see that someone from Afghanistan booked a hotel in Cork with us. We’ve noticed a pick up from the Gulf in recent months as a result of the new route to Bahrain.

Do you follow the new routes?

We watch where there is an airlift. That would be a signal for us to look at bidding at terms such as ‘hotels in Dublin’ from Bahrain, for instance.

Ireland’s air access has come under pressure recently. Does this cause problems for you? Actually, we think that Ireland enjoys very good access. There is a lot of airlift in and out of Ireland, especially to the east coast of the US, which is good. There is some very interesting pricing from the airlines at the moment. You can fly to Ireland from the US for e650 business class, which is very attractive.

Consumers have also seen some very attractive prices in the hotel sector. Is the price war in the hotel trade showing any signs of abating?

Irish hotel prices haven’t bottomed out yet and the falling prices will continue to drive volume. The oversupply here, combined with the fall in business travel demand, has exacerbated the problem. The fall in rates will make you more attractive, but the problem for Ireland is that the euro is still strong.

The euro has caused a headache with the British market.

Yes, and the problem for Ireland is that Britain is your largest source market. The British problem is difficult to solve. I bought e100 coming over here and it cost me £95. That makes the destination seem very expensive to British travellers. As a result, they are choosing to stay at home or go outside the eurozone.

Has the staycation been good for British tourism?

The downturn meant the British couldn’t afford to go on holiday overseas so London has weathered the storm quite well. Occupancy has been in the high 80s to 90%, even through 2009 when things were really tough. There was less profit, naturally, but occupancy levels held up quite well. Elsewhere in the UK the provincial cities didn’t do as well however, and cities like Edinburgh, Liverpool and Manchester have suffered as much as Dublin has over here.

The British market is down significant. What can the Irish tourism industry do to reverse this decline? The only response is to try and give deals to British travellers. You can do specific promotions for the UK market that you don’t have to tell anyone else about, therefore you’re not going to damage your brand or your yield. The French ski trade did special promotions for the UK market with us a few years ago. They saw that the number of visitors from Britain were falling so they ran targeted campaigns offering promotions such as four nights for the price of three.

What big new trends do you see in hotel booking?

In the last six months mobile usage has gone through the roof. We used to see a big spike at lunchtime, when people had free access at work, and then a bump at the end of the day, but that has moved along now. With so many devices, people are accessing the site all the way through the day. We are also seeing that bookings are getting later and later. In the US, where they were always late bookers, many consumers are now leaving it until the day they arrive to book. They are turning up in a city and booking a hotel as soon as they land. This obviously presents its own challenges for hoteliers. u






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