‘We can’t let tourism boom be just a spike’

Caernarfon Herald - - NEWS -

THE joint owner of Dy­lan’s has spo­ken about the growth of tourism in North Wales, re­cruit­ment and whether they would ever build a fourth restau­rant.

David Evans is con­vinced that the re­gion is poised to achieve “great things” as a des­ti­na­tion, with its stay and food of­fer now match­ing the area’s nat­u­ral beauty.

He is also con­fi­dent about the fu­ture of Dy­lan’s, with its restau­rant and re­tail side per­form­ing well af­ter over­com­ing “chal­lenges” in Llan­dudno, in­clud­ing a 500% busi­ness rates hike.

Like many in the sec­tor he sees re­cruit­ment as a ma­jor is­sue go­ing for­ward and said the busi­ness could have taken on an­other 30 staff in the sum­mer if the right ap­pli­cants had been avail­able.

On fu­ture plans, he spoke about a fourth restau­rant and said lo­ca­tions had been looked at.

Dy­lan’s cur­rently has restau­rants in Me­nai Bridge, Cric­ci­eth and Llan­dudno and a food pro­duc­tion site in Llangefni.

Mr Evans, who runs the three-restau­rant chain with busi­ness part­ner Robin Hodg­son, said: “North Wales is now seen as a great place to stay and to eat. We are proud of our part in that.

“Tourism can cre­ate a sound eco­nomic base for the re­gion.

“We all need to work to en­sure this is not just a spike. The con­di­tions are ripe to make a per­ma­nent shift for the re­gion – we can achieve great things.

“This needs in­vest­ment though – in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture.”

The other is­sue fac­ing the in­dus­try is re­cruit­ment.

Mr Evans said: “We had 180 at peak sum­mer but we could have done with 20 or 30 more and could not re­cruit enough staff.

“It is the same chal­lenge across the in­dus­try.

“If we had had more staff we could have served more peo­ple be­cause at times over the sum­mer we were turn­ing 100 to 150 peo­ple away a day.

“We had ex­tra space to ac­com­mo­date peo­ple but not enough staff.”

Dy­lan’s has re­cruited an ex­ec­u­tive chef, a devel­op­ment chef and train­ing staff to help to en­sure they keep de­vel­op­ing the work­force and help­ing with re­ten­tion.

They are also chang­ing the pol­icy for kitchen staff so they only work four days a week.

He said: “We want to run this right through 2019 – even over the sum­mer. Peo­ple are work­ing long hours so we need to en­sure there is a work/life bal­ance.”

Mr Evans added: “We do well with re­ten­tion but the is­sue is get­ting enough peo­ple.”

Dy­lan’s is also look­ing to a new po­ten­tial source of tal­ent – HMP Ber­wyn in Wrex­ham.

Mr Evans said the prison should be seen as a re­source with a po­ten­tial work­force there that could help ad­dress the re­cruit­ment prob­lem.

This has seen the com­pany help set up the Cus­to­dial Pie Cor­po­ra­tion with pris­on­ers at the jail.

Staff have also gone in to help with train­ing. They now hope that next year the first for­mer pris­oner could join the Dy­lan’s team.

As well as sup­port­ing the restau­rants, Mr Evans said staff can help drive for­ward the grow­ing re­tail side of the brand.

He said: “We have had fur­ther in­vest­ment of £100k in Llangefni to ex­pand the pro­duc­tion kitchen that sup­plies the restau­rants and runs the re­tail op­er­a­tions.

“We have signed up with M&S to take up our brown sauce and are in talks with other ma­jor re­tail­ers.”

The most re­cent restau­rant is the Llan­dudno site, opened in May last year.

Un­like Me­nai Bridge and Cric­ci­eth it did not en­joy in­stant suc­cess, but Mr Evans said they are now es­tab­lish­ing them­selves in the town.

He said: “Llan­dudno has been a chal­lenge but it is con­tribut­ing now and we have a good young kitchen team in place there.

“It had been a slow burner com­pared to other sites. We were also hit with a 500% in­crease in rates which doesn’t help.”

He added: “We have never con­sid­ered leav­ing the site.”

On fu­ture ex­pan­sion, he said: “We have three very busy restau­rants so we don’t cur­rently have plans for a fourth restau­rant site.”

● David Evans (left) with busi­ness part­ner Robin Hodg­son. In­set, top to bot­tom, restau­rants in Cric­ci­eth, Me­nai Bridge and Llan­dudno

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