Since its opening in Dun Laoghaire in 2006 as a 30 seater café, the Gourmet Food Parlour business has grown to employ 160 staff across six locations in Dublin, as well as operating a catering division and food trucks.
This coming May will see the opening of a seventh site in Santry, so we sat down with Managing Director Lorraine Heskin, as they placed the finishing touches on their new addition, and talk about their success and the diversity of their business model.
Having spent a lot of time in the early 2000s in the food industry in the United States, Lorraine’s initial inspiration came from American customer service and specialty foods, which she believed would work well in an Irish environment. What she wanted was to “Copy and paste elements of that” into the Irish experience and with that in mind set up the Gourmet Food Parlour with her best friend Lorraine Byrne.
When considering a location for the next outlet, Lorraine said that there needed to be a mix of residential and commercial customers in the area in order for it to succeed. As the company offers meals from breakfast to late evening as well as catering for business, private and general events, she said marrying all of those elements is an important element to pay attention to – “We need an eclectic mix for the Gourmet Food business model to work”.
The new Santry restaurant offers the same menu, with slight modifications “To keep on trend,” with a mix of healthy and regular options. It also offers a new bespoke bar.
Lorraine sees opportunities to expand and now also has trucks which cater for events ranging from private and public, to sporting and family occasions. She describes the introduction of the trucks as “A great extension of our business to have, as it allows us to put our food on the move”.
The company also has an ongoing successful relationship with supplying food for the GAA, and has catered for huge events for Facebook and Google. The catering element of the business, which started two years ago, has “Organically growing itself” according to Lorraine, which clearly shows that the company has been going in the right direction. They are also always actively looking to work with new partners – they “Never know what opportunities will come our way”.
Paying attention to eating trends and listening to the customer are what Lorraine considers to play an important factor in what direction the business takes. “Ireland is so up to speed and contemporary in its dining,” she stated, citing Ireland’s move towards healthy eating and superfood salads as prime examples of this.
In order to allow the business to grow – particularly one as diverse as the Gourmet Food Parlour – Lorraine said they invested in the business structure in terms of staff.
Evidently, Gourmet Food Parlour has its fingers on the pulse, expanding and seeking new opportunities wherever it can. With the new 100 seater store opening in May and a €1m expected turnover in the first year, the only way is up for this adaptable and successful company.