Founded in 2001 by Sean Collender and his business partner Shoaib Yunus, Kinara Restaurant Group has grown to include three restaurants across Dublin and currently employs close to 90 staff.
Serving Pakistani and Eastern cuisine, the group opened its first restaurant, Kinara, in Clontarf in 2001, followed by Kajjal in Malahide in 2007 and Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh in 2010. The business has also been serving festival goers at Electric Picnic for the past five years through its catering business.
Sean Collender, co-founder and co-owner of the Kinara Restaurant Group and a Bord Gáis Energy customer, spoke to us about the challenges the restaurant industry faces as well as the importance of being a Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) member.
“Myself and Shoaib Yunus opened our first restaurant Kinara located in Clontarf in 2001 followed by Kajjal in 2007 in the beautiful village of Malahide and in 2010 we opened Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh Village. We serve Pakistani and Eastern Cuisine in our restaurants and our mission is to offer a relaxed and friendly environment where our customers can enjoy a consistent high quality food experience in all three of our restaurants,” said Sean.
“We employ close to 90 staff, some have been with us since 2001. Over the last five years we have ventured into outside catering at festivals and this year we enjoyed our fifth attendance at the renowned Electric Picnic festival.”
Sean is driven by his love of eating out, although it was a chance meeting with Shoaib that began the journey for the Kinara Group. “I have always enjoyed the buzz of restaurants from the very casual to the more formal. It was a chance meeting with Shoaib back in 1999 when he was the manager at The Khyber Tandoori restaurant in Dublin that started our journey into opening a restaurant of our own!” he said.
Like many, Sean is facing more challenges in the sector now than ever before. “There are very many challenges at present probably more so that I have ever seen in the last 18 years. They are shared issues across the industry but to sum it up the cost of actually running a business has dramatically increased across the board, ranging from rates, insurances, VAT, staff costs etc,” he explained.
“Running an ethnic restaurant poses additional issues with staffing as it is extremely difficult to source skilled floor staff for full time roles as many are students and have restrictions on their working hours. Whilst I am firmly a believer in entrepreneurial spirit I do believe, particularly in the Dublin market, there are now far too many permissions being granted for cafés or restaurants to operate. But ultimately the good ones will survive in the long run. As an independent owner I believe it is extremely hard to expand our business in the current market as we are competing for space against some of the larger chains or groups that have entered the market.”
Nevertheless, it is important to Sean to continue to invest and move forward to maintain competitiveness. “Look after your staff as best as you can, be clear and transparent with your staff and your customers and after 18 years Shoaib and I are excited for the future of our business. As a small and independent organically grown business we continue to upgrade our premises and upskill our staff to serve the very best food and dining experiences to our customers,” he said.
Part of this drive is seen in Sean keeping an eye on their role in the environment – for Sean, it’s not just about running a group of restaurants, it’s about being ecologically responsible too. “We are small players in this area and whilst individual persons or business efforts in reducing carbon footprint and energy efficiency should be applauded, until the Government makes hard decisions and makes them soon this issue will unfortunately get worse before it gets better.”
The Kinara Group has been a member of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) since 2001, and Sean has seen it grow and evolve over the years. Initially, he found the association “Invaluable a place where I could gain insight with other owners in the running of a restaurant in Ireland as we were completely new to this business”.
In recent years Sean has seen the RAI “Become a much stronger group and a more focused group for lobbying the concerns of our industry to the government. For this credit must be given to Adrian Cummins and his team at the RAI.”
“I would encourage any restaurant/café business not a member to join up, whilst there are many benefits of membership, ultimately the power of a large group with a single voice is reason alone for joining the RAI.”
Sean concludes with a call to action to the Government. “There is enormous uncertainty for our industry and therefore for our own business. I hope and pray that common sense prevails in regard to Brexit but if not I hope our Government reacts quickly and decisively to alleviate any external pressures placed on our industry by a hard Brexit. Regarding Kinara Group all we can do is continue to maintain our standards and try to be as consistent as we can in running our restaurants,” he said.
Bord Gáis Energy has partnered with the Restaurants Association of Ireland to bring you the extra help you need to run your restaurant. As an RAI member, you can avail of a range of affinity electricity and gas price plans to give you greater control and help you save you more on your energy costs. Call Bord Gáis Energy today on 01 611 01 33 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.