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Q&A: Brian Flanagan, The Silken Thomas, Kildare

Located in the heart of Kildare village, the Silken Thomas has been a family run business for over 40 years. Overall winner of the Knorr Great Carvery Pub of the Year award, the restaurant, bar and hotel combined have proven to be a success with customers.

We spoke to Brian Flanagan, owner and general manager of the bar to get their thoughts on the award, profitability of the business and how the Irish carvery is faring these days.

Food for Thought - FFT.ie: How does it feel and what do you believe it will mean for your business and your people to have won this prestigious award?
Brian Flanagan: We are absolutely blown away to have won this amazing award, it is a testament to all the hard work that goes into our carvery, not just in the last year, but over the course of the 17 years that our carvery has being operating. It is a reflection on all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes and is also a credit to all our staff, who put so much into creating the award winning carvery but also The Silken Thomas as a whole.

Our primary goal is undoubtedly creating an amazing product that our customers love, however having all the dedication and hard work acknowledged through such a prestigious accolade is an amazing feeling.

Why does your business incorporate a carvery element?
The carvery is an integral part of our business, first and foremost it distinguishes us from our competition, as we are the only establishment in our locality that offers a carvery. Furthermore the carvery is a very important business element to us because it puts us in a position whereby we can cater for a large number of customers very quickly and efficiently without compromising quality.

Finally another reason why having the carvery is so important to us is simply the level of choice it affords to our customers. Without a doubt offering a variety of food options, both the carvery and full menus, adds an extra level of pressure to our business, but we have such an amazing team that works tirelessly to ensure that each element of our business receives the required attention.

Does the Irish carvery get the prominence it deserves?
To some degree the art and appreciation for a good quality carvery is nearly lost in today's modern Irish cuisine. There is now such a focus on trying to be unique and novel to gain a source of competitive advantage over your competition, that both companies and customers have nearly forgotten about the art that is good quality wholesome food. There seems to be a focus on what will look good online rather than what will satisfy a customer.

The award quite simply highlights the carvery as a potential food choice for customers who possibly may have never tried one before or have maybe forgotten just how satisfying a good quality carvery dinner can be. It grabs people’s attention and almost raises a level of curiosity within them to try it. At that point, we have no doubt that when they have tried our carvery they will be hooked.

How many staff operate the carvery, how many service periods per week and, which are the busiest?
Four staff members operate the carvery each day. We run the carvery seven days a week so we have seven service periods. Our busiest period would be from 12.30pm - 1.30pm, and our busiest day would be Sunday.

How does one balance profitability with customer service and the quality of the offering?
Quality and customer service is our unequivocal priority. Obviously we are a business and we do need to make a profit. However without an exceptional level of customer service and high quality food, you won’t get the customers through the doors. So it goes without saying that creating a product that exceeds our customers’ expectations each time they enter The Silken Thomas’ doors is our priority.

If you had one bit of advice for others that would help them reach the heights your business is at, what would that be and why?
To be honest, it seems a bit obvious, but hard work is the key. It is about constantly evaluating your product and identifying what can be improved, nothing is ever perfect. It is about knowing this, but at the same time constantly pushing for perfection. Then it comes down to the team you have driving it, without the support, dedication and diligence of the wider team, you won't be able to achieve success.

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