Ireland’s Michelin-starred restaurants celebrate upturn

Top eateries report significant improvement in business after ‘a nightmare five years’

 Staff  at The Greenhouse, Dublin, celebrate their new Michelin star. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Staff at The Greenhouse, Dublin, celebrate their new Michelin star. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

More tourists and increased consumer confidence are some of the reasons cited by Ireland’s Michelin-star restaurants for the “significant upturn” they are experiencing after “a nightmare five years”.

Derry Clarke, co-owner of l’Ecrivain restaurant in Dublin, said the period from 2007 to 2012 was “just a nightmare” and involved “a day-to-day battle” to keep the restaurant open.

“Business is now on the up and getting better every year,” he said. “Things are coming back and there is more consumer confidence. I’d say we’re up about 10 to 15 per cent since 2012.

“We get a lot of tourists. The value we have in terms of eating out in Ireland is just incredible, particularly compared with other cities around the world. We’re miles ahead. The Americans particularly can’t get over the value.”

Mr Clarke added that finding staff was “very difficult” at the moment.

“That’s not just me; it’s everywhere,” he said.

“All our best chefs have been trained in Ireland, but they’re all in Australia. ”

Upturn

Peter Wilson

“There has been a change in the economy and business has improved significantly,” he said.

“Spend and footfall have both increased. We get a lot of tourists, and the American and European markets are very strong for us. We have certainly seen a big increase in the high-end American market.”

Stephane Robin, co-owner of the double-Michelin-starred Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin, said business last year was up 5 per cent on the year before.

The restaurant has not been serving weekday lunch since June due to noise from nearby construction work, but Mr Robin said spend during dinnertime was also up about 5 per cent on last year.

“Last year would have been our best year ever, and this year has been even better,” he said.

“We have had a lot of tourists. We have very good clientele from the UK and America. The currency has obviously helped.”

Garrett Byrne, who co-owns the Michelin-starred Campagne restaurant in Kilkenny, said business at the restaurant was up about 12-15 per cent compared with 2008-2010, but that establishments outside Dublin have seen less of a recovery.

“Overall, I would say Dublin is steaming ahead,” he said.

“It’s still hard outside Dublin. I would expect to see an increase next year that will be worth talking about.

“People are starting to spend more. We saw more tourists this year than we have any other year, and this August was definitely a lot better than last August.”

Pressure

Michelin

“There are loads of restaurants opening now, so it is getting tougher, because there are obviously only so many customers to go around,” he said.

“You have to be on top of your game now. It’s definitely a lot more competitive, that’s for sure.

“There is a huge problem in relation to staff. Trying to get staff to fill all the vacancies in the various different restaurants opening is a huge issue. I don’t know how that’s going to pan out, but something’s going to have to give eventually.”

Enda McEvoy, owner of Loam in Galway, which also received a star last Wednesday, said he could “definitely feel an upturn” and that people were “spending more” than in recent years.

“People are more aware of value for money now,” he said.

“They’re not afraid to spend on something they feel is worthwhile – maybe a more expensive bottle of wine – rather than needlessly spending, which is what was happening before.”

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