Sad But True Department: Some 1,000 pubs have closed around the country over the last three years. Some closures surprised no one – such pubs were closures waiting to happen – anachronisms, if you ask me. They should never have been in the first place.
For these pubs, high footfall days were rarer than a steak sandwich on the Rainbow Warrior.
But in a slimmer, more efficiency-conscious pub-world, rural pubs continue to decline as does the rural ‘community life’ that they once supported – no ‘Hold-The-Front-Page’ news there either, I suppose…
But I was recently asked to what extent do the remaining rural pubs help rekindle ‘community life’ in Ireland and in doing so, rekindle their footfall?
It’s an interesting question to mull over in the night’s darkness and I discovered that successful pubs take a widely different approach by way of an answer.
All have one thing in common. They’re pushing the envelope in terms of broadening their appeal.
You see it in the signs as you walk into such pubs.
They make their offering clear via signs to those passing by: ‘We’re open from breakfast though brunch, lunch and afternoon tea to dinner’.
Some actually – gasp! – welcome children and with the provision of a family atmosphere in mind, proudly announce that Sunday lunch will be served throughout the afternoon. Well, who’d have thought it? Lunch in a pub…….


I recently travelled between Ireland and the US from Shannon Airport. I had an early morning flight and once I arrived at the airport, checked in my bags and headed to the café for a quick bite to eat before going through security. Now, I have had bad experiences in this café in the past. Some of you may remember, that on a previous occasion for lunch there, I wasn’t allowed to choose my vegetables for my lunch from the selection available because THEY decided for you! This time round, I thought I’d play it safe and had a super-health breakfast: One mini innocent smoothie, one Actimel and a small bowl of fruit.

My breakfast at Shannon Airport

My breakfast at Shannon Airport

The cost of this? €5?, €6? Or even €7?. Not even close. The total for this tiny breakfast was €12.50!

STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW TO CONSIDER THIS!!! Ireland is going through it’s biggest economic downturn in decades due to over-inflated prices, greed and a lost knowledge of the difference between cost and value and here we are in Shannon Airport, the first stop for thousands of tourists coming in to Ireland for the first time and this is the robbery they are subjected to. Tourist numbers in 2008 experienced their first decline in years with many claiming Ireland was overpriced. Is it any wonder?

Shannon Airport and whoever it is runs the café there needs to get serious. They need to wake up and realise that having the monopoly over food service in an airport is not a license to rob people. With most customers passing through the airport only once in a while, no doubt the café thinks they can get away without the repeat business. Well I say that they can’t. Sharp practices like this need to be stamped out once and for all.

If Ireland and the rest of the world is going to climb its way out of this recession, they need to start being competitive and pricing in a manner that stimulates spending and growth, not stifles it. Increasing your prices is NOT the way out of a recession.

I recently made the drive from Cork to Dublin and decided I would see whether, in light of the current economic downturn, any bars or restaurants were being more creative to entice potential customers through the doors. The results may surprise you:

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Part 2


I have added a few videos we developed for our American sister website which I think you may find of interest!

Part 1

Part 2

Ruminating over the Christmas period about sunnier times in 2008, I experienced a certain warm glow when remembering my summer hols which were somewhat soggy as I topped them off with a week on the Shannon, often cruising through the Irish version of Cyclone Gustav. At the time though, my thoughts were not on the weather but rather on the fortnight we’d spent immediatly before the Shannon trip – in France. Now I like my grub as much as the next trencherman but it makes me very happy to be able to relate that these days, French cuisine couldn’t hold a candle to our own. No matter where we went in France – and we traversed the country quite thoroughly by car – the food was practically an identikit version or variation of Steak Frites, Crepe Frites, Spaghetti and other pasta dishes etc, all cooked with a nonchalant air which showed up in the lacklustre flavours and couldn’t-care-less attitude to tourists. This was finally brought home to me by the really really good food and service we experienced in pubs and restaurants along the shores of the Shannon.

Here lies a good example of Irish pubs that are firmly not part of a major conurbation making a go of it in ‘the wilds’. The food and the beverages were excellent as was the atmosphere. After all, that’s what we’d come for and I’d reckon we must have been representative of millions of other ‘tourists’ all looking for the same thing from our hostelries, unmindful of the Irish weather. I was particularly impressed by the food and service in the excellent Larkins in Garrykennedy and decided to firmly moor ourselves to one of their tables in this scrupulously clean establishment on a number of occasions during our week afloat. We weren’t disappointed. The fare was fabulous. I don’t even like Fish Chowder but was encouraged to try a spoonful by my better half. I ordered it for myself the next time we were in. Atlantic mussels, roast duckling and as much steak as you could comfortably spancel in a weekend – all immaculately cooked and presented before the pub settled into a traditional music session for the evening. Maura and Cormac Boyle took over the place two years ago and a great fist they’ve made of it too. The coup de grace came when – uncharacteristically – someone forgot the order of French Fries which, on being reminded, arrived at the end of the meal. Still nobody minded; we’d eaten our fill and the Guinness was good. When the bill arrived, Maura insisted that there would be no charge for an order that didn’t arrive on time. So free chips and a fulsome feeling as we waddled back to the boat that night, having enjoyed Irish hospitality at its finest. If our experience is replicated by other tourists visiting this country there could be no finer place to eat than in Irish pubs such as Larkins. We should be proud. Footnote: Alas our enjoyable evening in Larkins wasn’t to last the night. We returned to our craft and had to let out one sick dog from the boat’s cabin which Hurricane O’Gustav had rocked and rolled mercilessly for the evening while we were in the pub, leaving us with doggie vomit and other attractive traits of the family pet in a number of unsuspecting places……

Source: Drinks Industry Ireland Magazine

Once an aspect of chain restaurants and bars only, a well thought out, strategic incentive plan for your managers and staff can improve the bottom line, improve job satisfaction among staff and allow for “buy in” from your managers/staff into the overall success of your independent business.

There are many types of incentive plans you can introduce, however most will have the same basic principles. We have described these here to help you create an effective programme:

  1. Make the incentive programme simple and easy to understand. Don’t overcomplicate the programme by having it tied into so many areas of the business that its both hard to measure and equally hard to achieve. Determine the key areas you want results on and work these into your plan. For example, increase average customer spend by 10% or Eur 5.00.
  2. The incentive program should be designed in a way that allows your staff to work smarter and not necessarily harder. After all, if you implement a programme that requires staff to work longer hours to achieve it, you may end up paying for the extra hours labour as well as any reward earned by the staff so encourage and train staff to work smarter. Increasing the average spend per customer requires smarter thinking so would work well in the programme. Serving more customers in the day wouldn’t as staff might stay later to serve them.

Members, read the rest of the article here:

Something has been happening in Dublin over the last few years. And it’s not nice. Dublin’s service industry has become gruff in nature and most importantly, that’s being voiced abroad. Our capital city would want to take the squashed laurels from under its posterior for it has been resting on them for too long in the area of customer-friendly service.
Rural pundits have often claimed quite rightly that ‘Dublin is not Ireland’ and  I’ve the chance to take this to heart as I absconded from the office to take a week’s holiday on the waters of the Shannon.
And the contrast between my experiences of late in Dublin and those outside the capital could not be more stark.  It’s something that the service industries in Dublin both retail and restaurant are going to have to look into.
One horror story in particular is brought to my attention by the organisers of an international conference in Dublin this summer. (more…)