Bewley’s Grafton Street to get the Avoca treatment

Amanda Pratt earmarked to oversee revamp and running of landmark Dublin cafe

Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street, Dublin 2: it is  closing for six months for a major overhaul. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street, Dublin 2: it is closing for six months for a major overhaul. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Those of you who have been lamenting the future of the iconic Bewley’s cafe on Dublin’s Grafton Street should relax, put the kettle on and take a load off. The cafe, which is closing for six months for a revamp, will be in assured hands when it reopens.

Word reaches us that Amanda Pratt, a scion of the family that owns another great Irish retailing and food service institution, Avoca Handweavers, has been recruited to oversee the renovation and to run the business.

Pratt ran the fashion side of the Avoca business founded in the 1970s by her solicitor father, Donald, who ditched his learned career to sell handwoven rugs from the back of his car. Avoca now turns over more than €55 million from its 11 retail outlets and cafes. That’s an awful lot of kohlrabi salad and scarves to shift.

Although Avoca’s managing director is her brother Simon Pratt, Amanda was the public face of the group and it was a major surprise to some when she left a few weeks before Christmas. She retains a 23.5 per cent stake, with other shares held by the parents and Amanda’s siblings, Simon, Ivan and Vanessa.

There is a rumour wafting through the air, like the aroma of one of Avoca’s home-style meals, that the business could soon be sold.

Simon Pratt as good as hung a ‘For Sale’ sign on its front door in an interview with the Sunday Business Post in December, when he predicted Avoca would not be passed on to the next generation of Pratts.

“It would be almost inevitable that there would be conflict, and the idea that my kids could end up not speaking to my sister’s kids is just appalling,” he said.

Something is cooking there alright.

Amanda Pratt’s arrival on the scene at Bewley’s surely gives a clear indication of the Campbell family’s intentions for the Grafton Street business : she will put the posh back into it.

Despite the howls of discontent from its legion of fans over the closure, the truth is standards at the Grafton Street cafe had slipped in recent years. It had become an institution . . . in the same way that the cafe in a hospital is part of an institution. Too many mugs of tay, fried breakfasts and toast.

Pratt’s background as a top-shelf retailer who has also been exposed to a properly iconic cafe business may just help put Bewley’s back onto the pedestal that its disciples maintain for it.

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