The Waterfront House and Restaurant in Enniscrone, Co. Sligo, is currently celebrating its second year in business – boasting beautiful views, 16 boutique rooms and a relaxing atmosphere. We spoke to owner Jason Horkan about their menu, the possible impact of Brexit on their business and current challenges that the family run hotel faces in the coming months.
Jason comes from a strong hospitality background, having completed the Trainee Management Development Programme sponsored by Failte Ireland in Hotel Westport, and then continuing on to complete his BA in Hotel and Catering Management in GMIT.
Whilst working in Kilronan Castle Estate and Spa, he and Daniel Mayr, with their respective partners, decided to go into business together when the opportunity to run the Waterfront House popped up. “It’s very much a family venture, both myself and Daniel’s better halves work alongside us, Daniel’s partner Yvonne is our Head Chef and my partner Sonata looks after front of house with myself and Daniel,” said Jason. “We love working together as we all have our own roles and strengths within the business which makes it work on all aspects for us.”
When asked about how it feels to be into their second year in business, Jason said: “It feels great – we’re all really proud to get year one under the belt and have established a reputation for quality food and service with comfortable boutique accommodation”.
The business has quickly gained a name for itself; having already won Best Hotel & Guest House in Co. Sligo from the Restaurants Association of Ireland, which Jason chirped was “A nice way to start year two”. The hotel has also featured amongst the top three highest rated properties in Connaught on TripAdvisor.
In terms of food, Jason described the menu as “Local, seasonal, fresh – prepared with skill and cooked with passion”. Head Chef Yvonne is very active in promoting Atlantic Ocean seafood for guests and is “Constantly coming up with new dishes and flavour combinations whilst educating and showcasing to our guests the offerings on our doorstep”. She even forages the local woodlands and shoreline on a daily basis for ingredients to use in her dishes.
Jason is very proud to promote the local artisan suppliers, each of which he believes offers a premium product and service, delivered fresh every day. Many of these suppliers are from Mayo such as McHale Meats, Garvin Seafoods, Andarl Farm, Dozio’s of Mayo, VelvetCloud and B&B Foods. Other suppliers from Sligo include Kilglass Organic Gardens, with alcohol supplied by Reel Deel Brewing Company and Connact Whiskey.
The challenges that the Waterfront House and Restaurant faces are not unlike many others in the industry. Jason believes the VAT hike, as well as rising insurance and rate costs are detrimental for small businesses: “4.5% is a huge additional cost to carry and for a lot of stand-alone restaurants I’d imagine it will be a struggle to carry such an increase,” he said.
“What this VAT increase will do is close small restaurants, increase unemployment again in a sector that was just starting to get on its feet and stop all investment in training and development within establishments.”
Staffing issues, which have also been felt strongly throughout the industry, are also an obstacle, with chefs in particular being difficult to find. For many businesses this means reduced business opening hours.
Brexit has frightened customers from the UK, said Jason. “We are getting a good few cancellations from UK travellers as they are afraid of the unknown and have referenced this in the reason for their cancellations.”
The fear of the unknown is a massive worry for businesses and this is no different for the Waterfront House. However, it is not all doom and gloom as the season ahead looks positive with a lot of domestic bookings, as well as European and US bookings, despite a decrease from the UK.
The business does not rely solely on tourism; indeed the main customer base for the restaurant comes from Enniscrone and surrounding areas. “We’re fortunate to have such a good local trade built up as well as of repeat guests to the property – our main target market would be the domestic market, but we find the Wild Atlantic Way excellent for attracting Europeans as well as travellers from the US. This initiative has done wonders for the West of Ireland,” said Jason.
The future looks bright for the Waterfront House and Restaurant, despite these uncertain times. “We aim to continue to exceed our guest expectations through our excellent product and service delivery,” said Jason. “Who knows what the future holds but one thing’s for sure we will continue to do what we do and see where it takes us.”