S2 E1: ‘THE LAST SUPPER’ — AS THE FUTURE OF THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY TRANSFORMS TO SURVIVE: Transcript
(Geraldine) Hello, to all our listeners. Welcome to Where the Needle Lands, which is now in its second season. Episode one of season two was titled The Last Supper, as the future of the restaurant industry transforms to survive.
We spoke with Pádraic Óg Gallagher, owner of Gallagher’s Boxty House, that iconic and long-standing restaurant in Temple Bar Dublin.
The restaurant landscape is about to change to levels beyond recognition due to falling margins altering consumer behaviours. Certainly COVID, but above all else, a change heavily due to technology. Just to put it in context, and Mahima went to talk with Pádraic Óg back in July 2020, when restaurants were closed for a sit-in, and takeout was only allowed. Now over six months later, in January 2021, things aren’t looking any better for the restaurants or the hospitality industry in general.
We chose to release this particular episode as our first in the new year to support local and echo champion green initiatives around the country. And to remind you, listeners, that supporting local really does matter.
In putting on green Jersey, Idiro Analytics supports Irish based, independent restaurants, as many are striving to stay. And if they do, they are being forced to embrace technology in a way never seen before. This time, not just for operational efficiencies, such as handheld devices at the table for real-time orders, but having to embrace the changing habits of consumers who are now dictating the use of channel partners via delivery service apps, such as Just Eat and Deliveroo.
The future of restaurants is becoming more like a resort hotel due to the various brands of eateries amalgamating for operational purposes in sweat kitchens or cloud kitchens. What a greater move towards deliveries and takeout does — less eat-in. A medley of non-associated food brands, directive types, will be available from a single location due to cloud kitchens, i.e., the model akin to resort hotels.
In a totally authentic recording, you may hear sounds and noises from groups of homeless people on the tourist-less streets of Temple Bar. So let’s have a listen to the very engaging and enterprising spirit of Pádraic Óg Gallagher and his take on the future of the restaurant business.
(Pádraic Óg) Thank you very much. It’s nearly the end of August. I am on month five.
(Geraldine) Moth five pay. March 15th. As for some restaurants, they have done off-site, I’m just wondering, did you, at any time during those weeks do that?
Listen to the podcast about different trends of food delivery and cloud kitchen from minutes 3 to 5.
(Pádraic Óg) We have a production kitchen in Tallaght in our restaurant in town. So we’ve been lucky enough with that aspect of it, but it’s been very touching going into a very different business and a very new business for us to learn.
And we started off in the third week of closure, we were doing some deliveries in Tallaght, and they were slow to take off. We didn’t actually promote it at all. And then we thought, oh, maybe we should actually do this from the restaurant in town. So we came back into town, and they were worse because nobody was buying anything in town. Tallaght was great.
(Geraldine) The town was — I live in town. The town was a ghost town. It really was, unlike the suburbs.
(Pádraic Óg) Forget the was part of it — it still is.
(Mahima) This is so interesting. So the kitchen out of Tallaght, did you start before COVID?
(Pádraic Óg) Yeah, our property here, the rents here are very high. So our kitchen here is very small. So our commissary kitchen has always been based outside of Temple Bar.
First, we were in Walkinstown. Then we moved up to Tallaght and bought bigger premises out there. We produced for the people. We make stocks for different companies and sauces and the meals, ready meals and stuff out of it. So we’ve always had a small business out there, but here has been the main business.
(Mahima) So then the whole concept of cloud kitchen. So you are saying you had that kitchen in Tallaght, and that was primarily a commissary kitchen, but now you’re renting out space in that kitchen too. Am I right?
(Pádraic Óg) No, we’re not renting out space. We’re creating new brands. So we have our own brand, which is Boxty. So we do deliveries from there on a scaled-down and a different version. And that’s the learning aspect of all of this. Because what people would eat in a restaurant won’t transfer to home. It’s a very different food. Talking about two minutes from the hatch to the table, as opposed to 20 minutes to somebody else’s table. So, they order differently.
(Mahima) Geraldine, see how fast they’re using data to change their behaviour.
(Geraldine) I’m just trying to figure this out. It hasn’t been established here yet. We would have assumed that the Tallaght operation for Boxty was nearly like a pivoting for you as a result of COVID. So in actual fact, you were doing, what we call cloud kitchen nowadays, while it may not have been via cloud years ago, you were actually doing this com kitchen somewhere else for a long time?
(Pádraic Óg) Yeah. But to feed here. Just for here. Yeah.
Listen to the podcast about the changes due to Covid and delivery services from minutes 5 to 9.
(Geraldine) So what has changed for you in COVID? Apart from Boxty — your main restaurant being shut down now? Have you come up with new partnerships? Have you gotten new types of stock out in the market or new brands? What’s happening for you?
(Pádraic Óg) We have developed our own Boxty brand. We’d negotiated with one of the major brands, and we were close to closing on that, and it just fell through.
(Geraldine) All because of COVID?
(Pádraic Óg) No, this is what two years ago we spoke about our kitchens in Tallaght and how we can start making them sweat a little bit more because they work from 6:00 AM until maybe two or three, and then they’re closed.
And then, on Saturdays and Sundays, we didn’t even open. And we’d talked about it. And I had read about Uber’s, and I’ve read about the whole cloud kitchen and how it’s moving forward in France. And now they were investing in it in the States and stuff. I have been watching America. But like anything else, I’m not getting younger, and I was getting a little bit lazy.
So the Boxty is doing so well, and I’ve really worked my ass off for seven years of this whole soft landing recession. And we just came out, and we started to make money again. And I said, okay, we’ll look at that again. And then bang! COVID happens, and you start looking because you have no income. So we started that.
We make bone broths, we make sauces. We were doing ready meals, very labour-intensive, and not a lot of money in it, but it kept us busy out there, in Tallaght. And then we started saying, okay, we don’t have a business here anymore. So we’ve got to move. I’ve got to do something with this.
So we said let’s try and do a take-away from Tallaght. Because it was easier in Tallaght, we thought that the kitchen could be adopted, um, easier than here. Um, we just worked the night, so we still do our daytime stuff for the sauces, the stocks we were doing. We were used to doing 2000 covers here a week, and then up to 3000 in the summer. It’s a small restaurant that seats a hundred people.
(Geraldine) And given it’s in the tourist area, I imagined that you’re not like a lot of restaurants that kind of go — lunchtime is a great time for us, and so is Friday to Saturday. Tourists come all year round.
(Pádraic Óg) All-year-round. It was from breakfast to dinner. We were going from 2000 covers coming into our season, which would be starting in March and ends in October, November, at which we probably do 3000 — to doing five covers.
We started doing deliveries ourselves, and then we’d get delivery and the drivers gone for 45 minutes, and you get somebody on the phone. So we were learning, we were really, we were learning really fast.
(Geraldine) Have you used Deliveroo prior to the..?
(Pádraic Óg) Deliveroo we used over here in the city centre. Deliveroo doesn’t work out in Tallaght. They are not that big in Tallaght yet.
I believe they are going to invest, but they are not that big yet. So just in a controlled market, mostly in the suburbs out here.
Listen to the podcast about the face-to-face service and the early life from minutes 9 to 14
(Mahima) I remember you had said that you didn’t have good experience with Grubhub and these delivery services. You felt like they were eating too much into your margin?
(Pádraic Óg) Yes. And they do eat too much into your margin, and then you don’t have control. It’s not like I feed somebody here, I take their money, and I know they’re happy, and they’re going out the door. I get an order it’s paid for. I delivered, it’s gone. I have no control over that. That’s the hard aspect of working with somebody that’s in different environments. I don’t have face-to-face contact.
We take pride in our service here. Really drew that in. Smiles are free. It’s part of Irish hospitality. And that’s always the same when somebody comes in the door, if they’re looking for a job, if they smile, the rest is up to me to train.
(Geraldine) It comes from the top down. Because if your boss is smiling, I know myself, when I go into a restaurant that the management is really hard to work for, and I don’t have to know them. I know it by the people at the table. And it never fails as a test.
(Pádraic Óg) It’s true. It is true. It’s so true. And so, a lot of the times, people ignore that and management will ignore that.
And it’s different when you have a family restaurant because it’s at the heart and soul. Because my son, my daughter have worked at the restaurant as well. And my son’s hopefully coming into the business.
(Geraldine) I’m intrigued. You were from Leitrim. You did come from a family business. Your dad is a vet. Your mom was in business herself, right?
(Pádraic) Yeah, she was an entrepreneur.
(Geraldine) So that spirit is in you.
(Pádraic Óg) Mom is still alive. Dad is dead.
(Geraldine) Conditions of veterinary. Huh?
So how did your dad lose you in veterinary and farming, and your mom got you into the enterprise?
(Pádraic Óg) You know what? Dad worked from six o’clock in the morning until probably 12–1 at night, and we never saw him. And we always said, I always said, I will never do this. Never going to do that. Even Saturdays and Sundays, he could be gone as well. Uh, and yet, I end up a chef.
(Geraldine) But the conditions are better.
(Pádraic Óg) I always dreamt of this idea in Venezuela, that I wanted to come home to Ireland and open an Irish restaurant and work from April until October and head back out to the Caribbean.
(Mahima) So from Dublin, from Leitrim to Venezuela, or that you have …?
(Pádraic Óg) No, I worked in the Caribbean. I worked in Antigua and the yachts, I cooked on yachts and then lived off-season in Venezuela.
I was young. I was partying. And there I met my wife
(Geraldine) Is she Irish?
(Pádraic Óg) Yes.
(Mahima) So then you decide to come back to Dublin or Ireland, around what year that would be?
(Pádraic Óg) I got back to Ireland. And that was around the time about eighty-six.
(Mahima) How was the Irish economy doing at that point?
(Geraldine) The eighties was..
(Pádraic Óg) … a disaster! I had no choice but to leave Leitrim. Nothing really there.
(Mahima) And you didn’t want to join your family farm?
(Pádraic Óg) That wasn’t an option. I couldn’t wait to get out.
(Geraldine) You had an adventurous spirit anyway, and the rolling hills of Leitrim weren’t able to sustain you.
(Pádraic Óg) Definitely not. If it did, I would’ve got caught.
Listen to the podcast about Restaurants Association from minutes 14 to 17
(Geraldine) At one stage, you were the president of the Restaurant Association Ireland. Kudos to you! You got the ball rolling with the 9% fat.
(Pádraic Óg) Well, I didn’t get it rolling. I intended
(Geraldine) Either way, it was supposed to be one budget, short term item and because it has been there already, it was listened to as a possible option in COVID to bring it back, with lots of fighting about it and all the rest but you obviously from that time, have an understanding about politics, lobbying, about running a business. And it’s not just about restaurants. You understand it at a very dedicated level because being in business in Ireland, it’s creating employment rather than often getting a lot of the bulk game for yourself.
(Pádraic Óg) You’re last to get paid.
(Geraldine) Yes. Talk to me about your time as president of the Restaurant Association?
(Pádraic Óg) 2013 to 2015, I had been a member of the Restaurant Associates. We joined in 80, 89 and we were one of the first restaurants to get the special liquor license. Special restaurant license that allowed us to sell liquor because when we opened up, you couldn’t sell an Irish whiskey in a restaurant or an Irish beer in a restaurant to anybody you had to sell a foreign product, which is one of the things I’ve always been opposed about.
Not that I think it can’t compliment, no issue, as I love Brandy, but why exclude our things? And there was a huge lobby with the publicans as well as a big battle on that, but some very good members and presidents of the Restaurant’s Association fought a long, hard battle. They won that. We were one of the first restaurants on that.
And I actually left. I left the Restaurant Association because lobbying had really passed, and it became a golfing outfit. And I don’t play golf.
(Mahima) So you left the Restaurant Association?
(Pádraic Óg) At that time, yes. Because we actually went into chapter 11. We were one of the first companies to go do the examination cause I opened up in Cork, and I ended up losing about half a million euros, pounds, sorry, back in 1991.
We exited the examination on November 5th. There was my MBA, November fifth, 1991. And when it was always tight. So fast forward to, for the crash of 2006, whatever, maybe the Restaurant Association started to become a proper association again, and Hayden McManus, I think, instructed it and brought on a new president, younger blood. He brought in younger blood: Gina Murphy, Paul Kevin.
(Mahima) So you decided to join the Restaurant Association around the peak of financial prosperity right before the crash?
(Pádraic Óg) For sure, and just to get involved and decide actually 2004, I went back to college and did my degree in the culinary arts.
(Geraldine) Where did you do it?
(Pádraic Óg) Cathal Brugha street.
(Geraldine) Before Boxty, you have been in college in your teens?
(Pádraic Óg) I dropped out of it.
(Mahima) What happened?
(Pádraic Óg) Um, I ended up selling jewellry, make a muse, make jewellry, make beads and stuff like that. And sell them outside the Bank of Ireland in Westmoreland street.
(Geraldine) What age were you?
(Pádraic Óg) Nineteen.
(Mahima) You had there. It’s nine lives.
(Geraldine) But hold on there, Westmoreland street, you were selling your beads over there, little did you know that one day you will have a fine established restaurant, a few feet away.
(Pádraic Óg) Never. Which is whoever knows anything. But I always wanted to travel. And that’s how I ended up travelling. Actually, because I was earning 30 pounds a week. One hundred twenty pounds a month was my salary was.
And on Saturdays, I was making 30 pounds selling jewellery, and I was like, mhm.
(Geraldine) What’s the reaction at home? By the way, did they love your beads? You definitely would have been the millionaire.
(Pádraic Óg) That was my mother. My mother was always like that. Most of the family were probably like that. All different artistic things, but not one of us went into — nine kids- and none of us went into my dad’s practice, which was a shame. Hmm.
(Mahima) Okay. I’m going to bring this back to the Restaurant Association, 2007. That’s where we were.
(Pádraic Óg)I got excited just about where the Restaurant Association was. I think we had about 300 members at the time, and I decided that I should give something back to what I’ve gotten out of all of this and give something to our restaurants. Just contribute. I feel strongly about that. I think people should. And I was doing well. In 2007, we were doing well.
It’s time to start giving a little bit here. And so I rejoined the Restaurant Association and started going to meetings and get involved in the lobby in started figuring out what they were doing and stuff.
(Mahima) And would you recommend an up and coming restaurant, not in these times, but in a normal time to join a small lobby?
(Pádraic Óg) Especially in these times, not normal times. These are the times you need an association, and you’re only powerful if you have numbers.
You don’t have a number. You don’t have people behind you. No one will listen to you. You could shout. I could sit outside the restaurant and shout. Who’s going to hear I’m going to be the local loco.
If I had three and a half thousand members, we’re all together. The government actually start listening to this.
Listen to the podcast about Covid effects and the help from government minutes 17 to 20.
(Geraldine) I see this happening with this, and the membership went up just before and during COVID because people needed to have their voices heard.
(Pádraic Óg) And want to have their voice heard. Now we don’t always get what we want.
(Geraldine) But your industry is intertwined with, first of all, we’ll say agriculture, right? It’s also intertwined with tourism.
(Mahima) And service sector is one of the biggest employers. Yeah.
(Geraldine) What’s happened. Have you been eligible to get any grants or any payments, or have you had to let go of all your stuff?
(Pádraic Óg) Yeah, I’ve let 22 go. Just three weeks ago.
(Mahima) How many did you have? You had 45 staff in this restaurant, the one in Temple Bar?
(Pádraic Óg) Between here and Tallaght.
(Mahima) And you had to let go of 22. Did you utilise any of the government’s schemes?
(Pádraic Óg) Yeah, we are utilising them. But to be fair, with the move a few weeks ago, we had to make a decision saying this is not going to happen for the next I don’t know how any month is going to be, but there is no way.
Cause we are open four days, and I said, oh my God, this is really not going to return to what it was anytime soon. And until the aeroplanes aren’t flying in Dublin airport, we’re losing these 11 million tourists that are coming here every year, that can’t be discounted. And that’s a huge part of our economy.
(Mahima) So what good have the government done? Like COVID happened in December, the first case was identified 2019, January passes, February passes. March, everyone starts panicking in Europe, the government imposes a lockdown, and there has been a lockdown ever since. No one’s travelling. The travel industry. No, one’s flying.
Yeah. So what could the government have done differently? How could have the government come in, and how could they have helped Boxty?
(Pádraic Óg) If the government did come in, we might have been better off. The caretaker government was actually doing a better job. I think this government is a complete disaster. I don’t think there’s leadership.
I think there’s bickering. There’s backstabbing in both Fianna Fail, especially in Fianna Fail that’s gone on that hasn’t gone away from the 07, 08, 09 era. And that’s just blood-letting in there. Shakespeare couldn’t write this. And that’s the way I feel about the government and how they run things.
The pandemic, the TWSS, was a great help.
The temporary wage subsidy scheme came here and has been an amazing help. At least I’ve been able to keep my staff alive. I went through this before, the last crash had a staff of seventy-something. I went down to 28. Yeah.
(Geraldine) Like myself. We’re just out of the shadows of the last official economic recession, right?
(Pádraic Óg) Aren’t you worried about Brexit?
(Geraldine) I know.
(Pádraic Óg) And we still have to worry about it.
(Geraldine) Yeah, we do. It’s not going to wait. We have a choice here to get out while we still can and start something else or pivot.
Listen to the podcast about the struggles of the restaurant business in Dublin from minutes 20 to 28.
(Mahima) What have been the struggles for the restaurant industry? I remember something you had talked about two years ago, about how things had started to get very difficult for the restaurant business in Dublin, because of the number of new restaurants coming up.
(Pádraic Óg) When I ended up here in 88, there were eight restaurants in this area, and one of them was Beauty’s down there, and it was Hugo’s Pizzeria Italian on the corner area. There was a Bad-ass cafe around the corner here. It was eight restaurants in the area. Today, well, pre-COVID over eighty restaurants in the area. Which is huge! But the whole end of the boom, the landlords letting their places out to young chefs that didn’t really have any work.
The food in Dublin has been massive in the past ten years. And in fact, some of the best food I’ve ever seen in Dublin has come out through young chefs, just developing. You have to let it fly a little bit and let loose with what they were doing. So we’ve had really, really good food and really good prices in Dublin.
But like every industry, we had enough chefs. We hadn’t enough waiters; we had no front of the house managers, so huge pressure on that. So that drives the price up.
So you drive the price up in the kitchen might’ve been different. Down the country, if you’re limited with the amount of restaurants. But here in the city, the competition was so intense. You can’t increase your price, yet your backhouse, your front of the house, every other price has gone up. So your profit margin and with the restaurant business, if we earn four to five net, we’re doing well. We’re 8% as an exceptionally good year. When you get down to one to two per cent after paying yourself, there’s not a lot of money.
So there isn’t a lot of money. It’s the cash flow business. So a lot of restaurants stay alive because they have cash coming in. As we say in the business here, most of the restaurants, the old rule used to be: you get paid in 90 minutes, and you pay in 90 days.
That doesn’t work anymore cause I don’t do that. I just don’t agree.
Um, but you’ve got 45 days credit there usually. So it gives you a lifeline at 45. It keeps your business alive. When it shouldn’t be alive, if you had, if you were in, uh, manufacturing and stuff that you hadn’t the cash coming in, you had to wait your 90 days to come in, you would never stay alive.
So restaurants can actually swim through a lot of that current and get to the other side. Sometimes, you get something like COVID…bang.
(Geraldine) It’s the biggest problem now for you? The cost of doing business?
(Pádraic Óg) You see today, is so different than if we were talking in March, I would say yes, the cost of doing business it’s uncompetitive.
(Mahima) More companies are coming in, but then could the government have stepped in and helped the restaurant industry?
(Pádraic Óg) Laissez-faire, no. I don’t believe in the government stepping in, I really don’t. A lot of the time, even as I said to you about the government stepping in and helping and stuff like that, they can direct stuff, and they can, they can put money into things.
But intervention doesn’t usually work because usually it gets corrupted by the government. You take it. You get a grant from the government to do some research. You’re directed where you have to spend that money. So nobody gets anything. You get a piece of paper with something on your research at the end of the day, and some consultant gets the money.
The company doesn’t get the money. So it’s kind of a cyclical thing that keeps you, and you can find it in every business. I applied for grants. I applied for myself, rolled-off, applied for the grand, got rejected. I hired somebody that’s done these before, brought out for the grant. You had to write it. Got the grant.
Do I get the money? Oh, the person who writes the grants gets the money. I got a fraction of it, and they get some sort of result out of it.
(Geraldine) And taken away from your day job. It’s very time-consuming.
(Pádraic Óg) Huge. Massive.
(Mahima) So the cost of that going in, but the prices of your, the prices weren’t going up at the same rate.
(Pádraic Óg) And the prices of produce were going up.
(Mahima) So you were hit from two directions?
(Pádraic Óg) Yeah.
(Geraldine) But were there any efficiencies that you have seen happen over the years with technology? Like stock, inventory? Were you able to pre-calculate that better? Bring down the waste?
(Pádraic Óg) Stock, inventory. The big thing we did tackle in the kitchen was waste and recycling.
And that was a massive thing on just the way we should do things, you know. It wasn’t so much economic, but yes, it turned out to be economical. And, uh, on the front of the house, we spent money on, uh, handhelds at the table to take the order. Hmm, which meant that the waiter comes down, gets the drinks order, chats away and pushes it straight to the bar. So the bar could get it ready before they took the other order.
(Mahima) Real-time monitoring, basically?
(Pádraic Óg) Real-time ordering. Yeah. Yeah. Which we tried. We actually spent a lot of money in 2005 trying to do that. And the difference of 15 years and people, how they use phones and how they use things was incredible because I threw it out in 2005, because on my waitstaff when we were practising and training, all they did was spend time looking at the machines and not looking at the guests. And that’s not right. You can’t do that. You have to look at your guests.
Whereas now, oh yeah, they tweeted their thumbs. They don’t have to look at anything, it’s normal.
(Geraldine) Did that mean you could take down the amount of staff on the floor if you were creating efficiencies?
(Pádraic Óg) I could have less members of staff, but I would bring on two of the bussers, I would change the way, the efficiencies I would see for me, your front of the house is your sales-person. So your waiter is not a waiter. He’s a salesperson, or she’s a salesperson. They’re salespeople, and they are bringing in the money. So their job is to make sure that the guest at the table is being fed and watered efficiently.
And I meant by efficiency is not an overstep. You start doing over sale — you lose your customer. You lose that trust.
And we deal a lot with tourists here. You go to a foreign city who’s your best friend. There are two people. One is the taxi driver. Second, the waiter in the restaurant. It’s who you’re talking to. Where are you going to get to go?
We load up a lot of foreign guys here, I said, tell them where to go. If they’re in their twenties, thirties, they want to go maybe go over for some music afterwards. So, but then you’ll give in all the information, the fingers on the pots. What tours to do.
(Geraldine) So you can see that part of the information, it sounds silly, but it’s the service you want.
(Pádraic Óg) Hundred per cent. And they have to know that. It’s your city.
(Geraldine) But these people that are typically your clientele are foot folders rather than repeat business.
(Pádraic Óg) My repeat business will be maybe, might be every three years, and they come back to me, and that’s massive to me. And that’s so important. And so they remember me when they come back to Dublin. And 90% in the summertime, during the season, 90% of our businesses is tourists. In the winter, that could be 60–70%.
Listen to the podcats about delivery services minutes 28 to 32.
(Mahima) How did things change? Uh, the cost of doing business increased, but the prices didn’t increase at the same proportion. So now, coming to delivery services, along with the delivery services, you also have these review websites, right? Like TripAdvisor and Yelp and all of them. Who, as much as I love technology, you know, these companies just exploited small businesses so much. It is unbelievable. Oh, like they really do it. So, for example, I don’t know if you know this Grubhub. So suppose you have Boxty restaurant, and Grubhub will create a fake Boxty website and if someone orders from their website, they’ll charge you commission without you knowing that they’ve created a fake website.
(Pádraic Óg) And how do they deliver?
(Mahima) And so then someone will order from their website, right? They’ll go to Boxty, and then Grubhub will pick up the order and then they’ll come to you and be like, here we have this order, but it has come to us. It has come to you through Grubhub, so you have to pay a commission. I know you don’t use Grubhub anymore, but I’m just using that.
(Pádraic Óg) I never used Grubhub.
(Geraldine) But surely they’re creating extra marketing for you.
(Mahima) See if a customer, I suppose I want to order from Boxty. If I go to Boxty’s website and order from there, Grubub is doing the delivery. So Grubhub can charge an extra commission to Boxty that the customer that they have given Boxty the customer. The customers come to Boxty.
(Pádraic Óg) Do they do that, though?
(Mahima) No, but they’re known to do that too. So that’s why,
(Pádraic Óg) But they all do that, and they charge extortion commissions, uh, at the minute. But I think if you get your volume up, you can negotiate with that. And that’s going back to the cloud kitchen.
Whereas I want to get to three brands that have one unit. Where I can deliver, uh, um, and get my commission.
Listen to the podcast about cloud kitchen from minutes 30 to 32
(Mahima) Let’s jump to cloud kitchen. You know, do you want to describe cloud kitchen or dark kitchen?
(Pádraic Óg) A dark kitchen is just a dark kitchen where the kitchen that can be in an industrial warehouse, or it can be in a container.
It can be anywhere you want it to be. But it has to be somewhere that the logistics let drivers come to you and deliver for a set fee because people don’t like to pay much over 2,99 for a delivery.
(Mahima) Generally, the cloud kitchens, they’re the cloud kitchen, and they let other restaurants, owners come in and cook there too. So, but you’re not doing that.
(Pádraic Óg) No, we’re creating our own brands. We’re going to work with one brand. So I’m hoping to put a package together with those guys, but it’s a different model than what we do. It’s going to be a hell of a lot more expensive for us to do, but the food would be made.
(Mahima) So then explain to me, like, what is it that you’re planning to do? So the way I’m envisioning it as you have this, you know, industrial warehouse in Tallaght, you’ll have half a space where Boxty, you know, if you want to order something from Boxty you know, you can get delivery out from there and then you’ll have the other half will be hosted by this another restaurant and if someone wants..
(Pádraic Óg) No, all hosted by me, all hosted for my chefs, all hosted and trained by me, and my chefs, we totally control.
(Mahima) But different brands?
(Pádraic Óg) Different brands. Think of it like a resort hotel. Okay. So, think of like Disney. You’ve got Italian, Mexican, whatever. So we can do all of that with any unit and have our trained chefs. They’re ready to deliver out of all of those brands.
That’s really the way it is. It’s just taking cooking to a different, a different level and different skills.
Unfortunately, for somebody that loves the front of the house and loves the kitchen as well but loves to see happy faces going out the doors, we’re not going to see that.
(Mahima) Why do you say that?
(Pádraic Óg) Because I’m delivering to Mr Just-Eat, or Mr Deliveroo, or Mr Links or the driver that’s delivering the product out. And that’s the only part that we lose.
(Geraldine) Could you do something that’s unique? Here’s an example. I’ve ordered from a particular restaurant three times in a row.
(Pádraic Óg) That’s what the restauranter loves to hear.
(Geraldine) But if they had called me and said, Geraldine, you ordered with us, we hope you got everything in the bag. Is everything okay? Let us know. Or for you to do something like a quick Zoom call and say, we haven’t seen each other in a while, I just wanted to say hi, and if there’s anything wrong with that meal, don’t even go negative. But if there’s anything great about that meal or whatever, just to have an interaction.
(Pádraic Óg) I have a marketing meeting on Friday morning with Just Eat, thank you for that. I think that’s amazing.
I know what you’re saying about Deliveroos and the Just Eats and stuff, but listen, this is the future. This is the way it’s going.
Listen to the podcats about changing customers minutes from 32 to 38.
(Mahima) And then who’s going to go to the restaurant? Someone has to go to the restaurant post COVID?
(Pádraic Óg) Who’s going to go to Saks on Fifth Avenue?
(Mahima) They filed for bankruptcy.
(Pádraic Óg) That’s the reality of this. It is a major disruptor in how we eat and think of the millennials. I think of my son. He’s 24 years of age. And how they do things. They don’t do it like we do anymore.
(Geraldine) But everybody goes through a stage.
(Pádraic Óg) They don’t even drink.
(Geraldine) Yeah. They don’t, right? That’s so true. They don’t do the pub scene, and they miss out in a way.
But I think it’s not even about age. It’s a stage. That’d be a time in the future where we put a note that says real waiting staff will serve you.
(Pádraic Óg) Yeah. Yeah.
(Geraldine) When I go to a restaurant, a food experience is a bonus. I go there to have chemistry with people. I go there for a conversation. I go there for the ambience, and above all else, I go for service. Food happens.
(Pádraic Óg) Exactly. And they always said that. That’s huge research at state standard, you know, you can forgive bad food, but you won’t forget bad service.
(Geraldine) So true. So true.
(Pádraic Óg) How many times does the waiter make up something that you didn’t like your order yourself, but you’re happy. And most times in restaurants, people come with problems, and we’ve got to solve them.
(Geraldine) What is the future for restaurants? We know that cloud kitchens happening. Yeah. We’re sitting in a beautiful restaurant right now. It’s got fantastic. It’s, it’s known all over the world.
(Pádraic Óg) It’s going to change, and we’ve learned so much in the past five months, through Tallaght and through take-out and what people actually want to eat.
It’s not necessarily what I wanted to serve. It’s a bit like, you know, I like my steak just rare. Don’t kill the animal twice, but if somebody wants a well-done steak, I would serve it.
Now we’re coming to that stage in life where people just don’t want anything too complicated. I think that I haven’t really.
(Mahima) You got to meet the customer where they are.
(Geraldine) Where is the consumer bringing you right now? In the past five months?
(Pádraic Óg) Um, um, I don’t want to say cheap food. I want to say, um, cause I don’t do cheap food, but um, I do a chicken burger with free-range chicken using the rings chicken. We use pigs and green bacon. We had been using Dexter beef.
Yeah, I still want to continue using the Dexter beef, but because of COVID cause sort of restaurants shut, they can’t get the beef at the moment. Um, I wanna use quantity, um, and price-conscious.
(Geraldine) You’re price-conscious, or are they pushing you more towards price-sensitive? Because the cost of let’s put it this way.
(Pádraic Óg) I am making money, but I am not over-charging.
Listen to the podcast about business in Dublin and government interventions minutes 38 to 44.
(Geraldine) Business people that live and run businesses at the heart of Dublin It’s not an easy town to be an entrepreneur. Um, rates have gone in the last while for you. Has your landlord/landlady also helped in putting back?
(Pádraic Óg) We just had a meeting this morning. My landlords are an institution.
Well, you know, to be fair, uh, I have been lucky, honestly, I went to COVID when it hit, and I had to protect my cash flows, thinking it was going to last three months. And I said I can only pay you half rent for the next few months. And that ended up being six months. So we had a meeting today, and we’ve come back to the drawing board and seeing where we are going.
They’re working on this.
(Mahima) That’s great.
(Geraldine) Well, you’ve made an imprint here. Imagine if you weren’t facilitated to stay, then it means that one of the landmarks for the tourists has been removed from the map.
(Pádraic Óg) But you know, what did, what does that mean to my landlord?
(Geraldine) But they’re not your target market?
(Pádraic Óg) No, but I mean, that’s my landlord. It’s a hedge fund. It’s a pension.
(Geraldine) But then there’s an example of where government intervention could be effective. And that’s my point. Yeah. So Bewley’s, and I know we talked about this earlier on. So government intervention isn’t always good. Yeah, but if you’ve got something as big as Bewley’s, it’s part of our heritage.
It’s part of Irishness the same way as Boxty has put Irish food on the menus with pride. We, as a country, did have an old fashioned heritage around food, but things changed. Yeah. But you know what culture has changed. You, in your own way, made having Irish food sophisticated again.
(Pádraic Óg) That was a business decision. No, I think it does matter. And I think it has to be on the account.
(Geraldine) Let’s go back to this. Right. Ten years ago, I had, um, Americans, Germans and Chinese and entertaining them with business. And they said we’d love some Irish food. There’s something ten years ago. And I went, okay, some Irish food. So they weren’t even looking for an Irish restaurant. They wanted Irish food.
While I went through the list of, uh, different places, Boxty was the only one that I was able to bring them to.
(Pádraic Óg) If you can’t stand on your own two feet. And Bewley’s is a primary example of that. But we should support museums. We should support art. We should not support commercial entities.
(Geraldine) And we have a country that has had now taken over a lot of properties.
And, and a lot of foreign ones, right? So a time comes where you kind of go the old branch of the last businesses here. We have a law in Ireland where we won’t remove old signposts. So there’s the facade preservation for a reason. There are certain times when the government needs to intervene.
(Pádraic Óg) Uh, I just want to project that. I think if you look at the other. The other end of it, the business person that owns that property and, and has leveraged out or has a mortgage over. That is probably the same way as my landlord here probably is.
(Geraldine) But if you were not here, a chain would be here, or another so point, would be here, or another McDonald’s. My point is that when the tax regime is the way it is. And when you’re in the capital city.
(Pádraic Óg) What institution, or what corporation, as we said, we’re not doing this for charity, and I’m just going back to it again because they’re not in it for charity either. So unless there’s some sort of like okay, take it for what France did with the COVID. They interjected and, um, instructed banks to intervene with landlords. So if landlords give breaks on the rents, the banks had to give breaks on the mortgage on the government back that. Very, very simple and seems to be very effective.
Look at the UK, look at the injection, even in the north, from the Monday to Wednesday of the 10 pounds per head, you know, 50% up to a value of 10 pounds to injection then into restaurants has been massive.
(Geraldine) Back in April, I was on a webinar of giving out about, uh, Pascal O’Donohue and money that he was allowing to flow into the economy. Very bottle-necked for one, right. Um, I worked out the amount that was given out to our population versus that of the money given out in Britain and its population. We got 20 Euro per head in Ireland, true businesses, but when you break out the population, and in Britain was 612 Euro.
That’s a huge difference in the value you give to your per head. And they will say it was true businesses, but actually, if you’re not supporting businesses, all you’re doing is supporting the dole line.
I’m going back to my argument about intervention, and if it’s not because of economic difficulties, sometimes it’s for cultural reasons.
(Pádraic Óg) Businesses don’t fold. In fact, this is a bone of contention I have. There are four drug dealing centres within our city centre — legalised, multimillion-dollar businesses. Multi-million, it’s not about rehabilitation. It’s about supply and demand, and book out here in Temple Bar tonight. It’s full of homeless people.
They are being hoped. They’re being paid for it. This is, we fought for this for so long to try, and it’s just what to do to our city because you know why businesses can’t afford it. I live in Rathgar. My franchise is in Rathgar. My business, my rates, everything I pay is in Dublin 2.
I live in Dublin 6. The Dublin 6 counsellor hasn’t a clue what’s going on in Dublin 2 cause nobody lives here. Nobody cares. So they push them to the centre.
(Geraldine) And you know, that’s really interesting also when you don’t have people, perverting the streets — crime rate goes up. So that’s a cost to our Justice Department.
(Mahima) Then it feels like, you know, as a small business, you’re just paying these taxes, but you’re not getting any of the benefits. The government’s not protecting you.
(Geraldine) People that are in business, they’re either really, really optimistic, or they’re challenged because right now, why would you be doing this?
Do you mind if businesses, that add the colour of our streets, that has closed, what reason any of them would reopen again? They will move their business online. A time will come, and we will pay people to actually come back to our streets.
(Pádraic Óg) That’s actually true. All the people that in the city years ago, we moved all the masses out of the city to the suburbs.
So it’s regeneration. You’re going to see the city change. You’re going to see the streetscape change. You are going to see families come back into the city. You will see retail will move out of the city.
Listen to the podcats about pop-up kitchens from minute 44 to 48.
(Mahima) Like last point I do want to talk about is the pop-up kitchens. What do you think about them?
(Pádraic Óg) Brilliant. I love pop-up kitchens.
(Mahima) What do you think about the future? With cloud kitchen and pop-up kitchens?
(Pádraic Óg) Well, I think if you’re going to, you’re going to, if I was going to go to New York, Yeah, I would definitely do, we actually spoke about it two years ago, it wasn’t our plans, um, do pop-up kitchens. Today? I’d probably do a cloud kitchen in New York.
(Mahima) Yeah. But what if the future post COVID, but what about. Uh, future for Boxty which is a mixture of a cloud kitchen and a pop-up kitchen every weekend?
(Pádraic Óg) How can you run a pop-up kitchen every weekend? You gotta be the seven-day business, seven days. You can’t just run it on a little temporary basis because of. If I do a pop-up kitchen is to test the market. That’s the only reason I do a pop-up kitchen.
(Geraldine) What about sharing rent space? In the sense of, it’s a cafe during lunch, during the day, and then.
(Pádraic Óg) Yeah, that could be the future.
(Geraldine) I think there’s something in optimising the costs that way.
(Pádraic Óg) But if you don’t have 50% delivery, I think in five years time, you’re not going to be in business.
It’s changing. People are changing. Their habits are changing. I don’t mean to sound dramatic about it, but it is quite dramatic as what COVID did. And younger people, not just talking about COVID reaction. I don’t really want to catch it, but listen, you got to get off on that. It just can’t stop. The economy should not have been stopped.
This was an overreaction, a complete overreaction. It reminds me of Sinn Fein and DeValera back in the thirties. Close the country down. What are you going to do? We’re going to have hardship for another 20, 30 years.
(Geraldine) But if emigration can’t happen either because there’s nowhere to go, everybody all over the world is affected.
(Pádraic Óg) A major recession, stroke depression.
(Geraldine) Just on this note, we’re in this beautiful restaurant and if the walls could talk. What’s one good story from here?
This place has had many great nights. It probably had a lock-in and that lockdown here. Okay. What story have you got from these walls?
(Mahima) PG-13 story.
(Pádraic Óg) Yeah. Well, PG-13 story, I think. And the one thing that would probably break my heart, leaving this restaurant, if it doesn’t work out — that corner and cutting my wedding cake.
(Pádraic Óg) I got married. We had our wedding here. We went through chapter 11, the examination we gone bust. We were actually going to head back to the States and, um, had a big wedding planned, and everything just fell apart.
And we had 50 people in here. I cooked dinner like before we had lobster and lamb.
(Geraldine) Um, pretty COVID friendly, 50 people.
(Pádraic Óg) Yeah, we had the test that was all we could fit in. One of those people, who’s a big battery, who was sitting there, and everything, because we weren’t organised and it was such a thing, but, uh,
(Geraldine) I bet you did trip back at the tables after dinner. Was there a bit of a dance on these good wooden floors?
(Pádraic Óg) Yeah, actually there wasn’t. I threw everybody out, and we re-opened.
I had to. I needed money. So we went down to the Bad Bob’s and I said, right, everyone goes down to the Bad Bob’s were having afterwards there.
And there were people I know in the street, and I’m turning. Yeah, you gotta pay lawyers. We’re sitting in the high court. We went through a huge battle with the revenue commissioners. We were forced to tear them non-preferential creditors.
(Geraldine) On that, you would have proved to inoculate yourself for really big business challenges. When you go head-on head with the revenue, this is the big bad Bonci at the door, kind of feeling you got over that. Yeah. So what was your emotional reaction to COVID?
(Pádraic Óg) We will get through that. There is always another day.
(Geraldine) So very insightful and honest response to being self-employed: you’ll always get through, there is another day, there is always another day. I really admire and like that quote.
So listeners, I’m sure you will agree that many business owners from a wide range of industries could relate to Pádraic Og’s take on doing business in Ireland generally.
But Mahima and myself, were exceptionally impressed with how fast Pádraic Og is using their data to change their home behaviour, to deal with the new evolving consumer habits and trends.
What was also interesting was that a decade ago, Boxty house used handhelds for tables in an effort to utilise technology for efficiency purposes, but rid that practice as it then threatened the quality of service delivered to the in-house clients. I really admired that move. Wasn’t it also ironic, that as I stated at the top of the hour that we in Idiro are promoting the idea of supporting local, but back in 1988 and 89 owners of restaurants couldn’t sell an Irish whiskey or Irish bear in their restaurant?
It makes me wonder what we were doing when a tourist would ask for an Irish coffee in one of our Irish restaurants?
Anyway, here’s to a year of conscious shopping at local, independent cafes and restaurants at our very own doorsteps. Listeners, many thanks to all of our growing audience. And with many of your suggestions taken on board, we will be intensifying our interviews and running fortnightly episode releases and therefore no longer hosting or weekly data debates for season two.
So thank you for your support in helping us shape season two with us until the next time. Stay safe and stay healthy. Thank you so much.