Commercial catering and hospitality service provider Kylemore Services Group has a long standing history in the food business in Ireland
Brian Hogan is the chief executive of commercial catering and hospitality service provider Kylemore Services Group (KSG). KSG was founded in 1920 as a dairy in Birr, Co Offaly and has a long standing history in the food business in Ireland.
The company employs more than 950 people in over 110 restaurant locations nationwide. Its retail brands include Café Kylemore, Quiznos, Coffee Cuisine, and Pure Juice Bars.
Further brands under the KSG umbrella are More with Food, offering commercial contract catering, restaurant and hospitality for businesses, colleges, hospitals, travel, government and retail operations, and Two and You which offers corporate dining and hospitality for clients that have a significant hospitality requirement as well as “at work” employee dining. Two-star Michelin restaurateur Patrick Guilbaud is a partner within the Two and You business.
A graduate of Manchester University, Hogan started in the family business in the 1970s, beginning as a baker. He became CEO of KSG in 1980, going on to purchase the business from the Hogan family in 1989. The company enjoyed pre-tax profits of €1 million on a turnover of €39.1 million in 2012, up from the €730,000 in profits recorded in 2011.
What vision prompted you to start-up your business?
The fact that rents were doubling in 2002/2003 in shopping centres and high street locations. We took the retail concept and turned it into a commercial contract catering business. We had considered getting into the catering business as far back as 1997 but opted not to as our restaurants and bakery businesses were going through a good growth phase and doing well. In hindsight, we should have got into the catering business sooner.
How did you secure your first investment?
I bought the company with backing and borrowing from AIB in 1989 and had seed capital made from a property transaction. It was very difficult to get the money off the bank. I had been trying to buy the business for two years and each time we negotiated the price went up and I’d have to go back to the bank and ask for more money. In relation to the seed capital, I spent £250,000 purchasing the freehold lease for the Henry Street building from the 11 families that had it. I then sold it for £2 million.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
When sterling broke the link with the Irish pound, interest went to 40 per cent. It was 18 months after we bought the business and we owed a lot to the banks. One weekend we realised that we would only survive for another 50 days before we went kaput because of the high interest. Thankfully the high interest rates didn’t last too long.
What were the best and worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?
The best piece of advice was always to try and control your own destiny.
The worst piece of advice was “don’t do it, you’ll fail”, in regards to the purchase of the business in 1989.
Are there any imminent milestones for the company on the 12-month roadmap ahead?
We hope to launch our new coffeehouse chain circa August 2013. We will be changing Café Kylemore to a new table service model with alcohol in January 2014, and also hope to expand our Burger Bar concept.