Home­made pro­duce at the heart of suc­cess

Hus­band and wife team com­mit­ted to go ex­tra mile to set the stan­dard higher

The Irish Times - Business - - WORLD OF WORK - Eimear McGovern

We al­ways try and treat cus­tomers like roy­alty and make sure they’re look­ing for­ward to com­ing back again

A Derry cafe that started five years ago with just four staff on Carlisle Road has now ex­panded to em­ploy 43 staff in out­lets across the city

Prim­rose, a joint patis­serie and cafe, was es­tab­lished by Ciarán and Melanie Bres­lin and now in­cludes a 2,500sq ft scratch bak­ery along with two cafe out­lets at Carlisle Road and on the quay.

What sets your busi­ness apart from the com­pe­ti­tion?

We have full con­trol of ev­ery­thing that goes on to the plate. We’re supplied by Ciarán’s butcher shop, Bres­lin Butch­ers. Our veg­eta­bles come from Dal­ton’s Farm in Ard­more.

We also re­ally go that ex­tra mile to set the stan­dard a bit higher. We go to Paris to get in­spi­ra­tion for our bak­ery, we go to Lon­don to get ideas for the menu at Prim­rose on the Quay, which would have more of a bistro feel.

What was the best piece of busi­ness ad­vice you ever re­ceived?

A bit of ad­vice that al­ways sticks in my head is that no one is bet­ter than any­one else in the busi­ness. Every­one who works on the team in Prim­rose knows that.

We al­ways try and treat cus­tomers like roy­alty and make sure they’re look­ing for­ward to com­ing back again.

What’s the big­gest mis­take you’ve made in busi­ness?

The big­gest mis­take we made would be the sleep­less nights we have had over so­cial me­dia sites. We would take any neg­a­tive com­ments as per­sonal at­tacks and found it dif­fi­cult in the be­gin­ning to sep­a­rate our­selves from that.

That took a while to over­come. Now we take all our feed­back as con­struc­tive crit­i­cism and turn it into a pos­i­tive.

And your ma­jor suc­cess to date?

This year, we’ve won two more awards. We won the Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion Award for Best Ca­sual Din­ing in Ul­ster. Then we won a Cham­ber of Com­merce award in Derry for Prim­rose on the Quay.

It’s quite hum­bling be­cause you re­alise that you’re in along with great restau­rants in those awards.

Who do you most ad­mire in busi­ness and why?

The peo­ple I ad­mire would be other hus­band-and-wife teams. There are a few other restau­rants in Derry that are push­ing things for­ward – for ex­am­ple, the Walled City Brew­ery and Spaghetti Junc­tion.

I ad­mire the fam­i­lies that run those busi­nesses lo­cally, in­stead of all the big cor­po­rate busi­nesses com­ing in.

Based on your ex­pe­ri­ence in the down­turn, are the banks in North­ern Ire­land open for busi­ness to SMEs?

Ev­ery­thing we’ve made or gained we put straight back into the busi­ness. We bank with Ul­ster Bank, but any­thing we do, we do it our­selves.

What one piece of ad­vice would you give the gov­ern­ment to help stim­u­late the econ­omy?

The one piece of ad­vice I would give the gov­ern­ment would be to lower the VAT for the in­dus­try. Our tourism sec­tor is driven by the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, but the 20 per cent VAT [in North­ern Ire­land] is ru­in­ing the in­de­pen­dents’ ef­forts to help drive that sec­tor. It’s the rea­son so many in­de­pen­dents have closed their doors.

A lower tax bracket and rate re­duc­tion for smaller in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers would en­cour­age start-ups and in­crease the of­fer­ings for tourists.

What’s been the big­gest chal­lenge you have had to face?

For the first 2½ years un­til I fell preg­nant with my daugh­ter, I was work­ing seven days a week. I was do­ing all the bak­ing my­self. It’s only in the last three years that I took on more bak­ers.

Up un­til the day be­fore I went into labour, I was still stand­ing in the bak­ery mak­ing scones. I have now have a head bake. My man­ager, Shelly, looks af­ter both premises and deals with things like ro­tas and or­der­ing. We also have a head chef. It’s those three peo­ple I re­ally need, al­though I’d be in our premises ev­ery day.

How do you see the short-term fu­ture for your busi­ness?

We have a new project on the go and we will soon be launch­ing a ven­ture that will be the first of its kind in the north­west. We’re find­ing the fu­ture very ex­cit­ing at the mo­ment.

What’s your busi­ness worth and would you sell it?

I’d never sell it. It’s my love and I adore what I do. I’ve been ap­proached to lease the busi­ness out but I can’t see that hap­pen­ing. Both my­self and Ciarán love what we do.

Melanie and Ciarán Bres­lin: “We take all our feed­back as con­struc­tive crit­i­cism and turn it into a pos­i­tive.”

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