Porterhouse will not be small beer in Shanghai

The Irish microbrewery plans to use Shanghai World Expo as a springboard to expand into China, writes Clifford Coonan

The Irish microbrewery plans to use Shanghai World Expo as a springboard to expand into China, writes Clifford Coonan

IRISH MICROBREWERY Porterhouse will be serving up its craft beers and Irish cuisine to the visiting millions at the Shanghai World Expo, which kicks off in May.

Porterhouse will operate a two-storey pavilion on the Expo site, and hopes to use it as a springboard to expand the business in China.

As well as being the only Irish company at Shanghai World Expo 2010, Porterhouse is also the only catering company that does not already have a presence in China to be invited to cater for visitors to the World Expo.


“Essentially, we spent one and a half years chasing it. We wanted to expand our horizons, but this is not simply another Irish bar,” said co-founder and partner Oliver Hughes.

The Shanghai World Expo is expected to prove a major draw in China’s financial capital, with over 70 million visitors, half of them from outside Shanghai, coming to see the show during its six-month run from May 1st through September next year.

The pavilion is rented from the Expo authorities on a standard rent and a percentage of profit. Porterhouse was vying for the contract with a number of Chinese and international companies.

“They decided to take a chance on us. We’re the only company that hasn’t been established for three years. And we are the only catering premises offering draught beer in the international areas,” said director Frank Ennis.

The facility is being run by general manager Brendan Brophy, who has worked on a number of Irish and international catering operations around Shanghai, and is familiar with the vagaries of the Chinese food and beverage business.

It is expected to win custom from workers at the surrounding pavilions, such as the nearby Swiss and French venues. And, of course, the Irish pavilion should also be a source of custom.

“The Irish pavilion is largely exhibition space, there is no catering, so we hope to generate good synergy,” said Mr Ennis.

There could be as many as 20,000 visitors a day using the facility given that there will be at least 10,000 international workers at the Expo, and around 5 per cent of visitors will be from overseas.

Expo will cost around one billion yuan (€110 million) to stage, according to city planners, but they believe that any losses will be offset by an increase in the city’s gross domestic product (GDP) in coming years, as well as increased income from tourism and hotels.

“There’s a big focus on being a catering facility and being able to cater for sufficient numbers,” said Mr Ennis.

The pavilion will have a take-out section, with fully biogradable cups and plates, where people can buy one of the company’s craft beers or food in a bento lunch box.

Downstairs the pavilion will have a bar/lounge facility that Porterhouse hopes will be open from 9am to around 11pm at night and will seat around 160 people. The pavilion also has banqueting facilities.

“We’ll have the range of our beers plus whiskey tastings. And there will be large screens with views of Ireland. We’ll be promoting the pub culture and the heritage of brewing,” said Mr Ennis.

Porterhouse recently started distilling its own whisky at a still in Dingle, the first new one in 220 years. That whiskey won’t be ready in time for Expo, but the group has commissioned a range of 8-year-old and 12-year-old whiskeys from Cooley especially for the Expo.

The group has shipped a complete fit-out bar from Ireland.

“When Expo is over we’ll be looking for a new home for it somewhere in downtown Shanghai, maybe somewhere in the French Concession or something like that. We’re planning on growing organically out here,” said Mr Ennis.

“We’re using this as a platform for our bottled beers. There is tremendous growth potential for Irish whiskey out here. And for draught beers. It’s all up in the air. At the very least, if we walk away from it we’ll have had a commercially successful pub in Shanghai for six months,” said Mr Ennis.