Restaurant boss aims to rule the roost in Limerick

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Email:

nick@limerickleader.ie

Restaurant boss aims to rule the roost in Limerick

Businessman Richard Gavin is hoping to increase his workforce in Limerick from its current 53 in the coming weeks PICTURE: BRENDAN GLEESON

A new addition to the city’s thriving restaurant scene, The Spitjack is already making a name for itself, says its owner Richard Gavin

Tell us a little about The Spitjack.

It started in Cork three years ago, when we opened our first restaurant in Washington Street, myself and my wife Laura. The Spitjack Limerick was born earlier this year in Bedford Row. It is the second in The Spitjack brand. It’s a rotisserie brasserie concept. It’s all-day mid-range restaurant with a strong focus on good quality local produce, really good food, great service, nice dining-space and really good value for money. Currently, we would have more than 53 people working for us. We are desperately trying to hire more – which is a good way to be!

When did the business open?

We officially opened on a Monday in March and closed on the Sunday due to the lockdown, so it was probably some kind of record. It was a mental time, as it was all hands on deck. We had a delayed building process, and it was straight into an opening – we were busy straight away. But we were oblivious to the outside world – going in at 5am, going home at night and crashing. So we were a bit tuned out to the headlines. It would be my friends calling me very worried. However, during lockdown in Cork, we launched a click-and-collect service and an online shop and ran that quite busily which kept us entertained until we re-opened in Limerick on July 1.

What’s business been like since?

We couldn’t have asked for a better start. We’re really busy, the location is fantastic, there is great footfall there. We’ve had a finished product sitting very prominently in the city for three months, so everyone knew we were there now. We hit the ground running. Limerick has received us really well, and they seem to like what we do. We appreciate very much being back in business and service again.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Co Mayo. I left there when I was 18. Now we live in Cork city in an apartment above our restaurant, which was purpose built. It makes it a lot easier for me to manage both properties, because even when I am in Limerick, I can start and finish my day in the Cork restaurant.

How did you get to where you are today?

I started in the hospitality industry when I was 14. I’ve been in it all my life. I left school to work in Ashford Castle, where I spent a year. I moved down to the Shannon College of Hotel Management for four years, working at Dromoland Castle while there. I moved abroad to Germany to complete a placement there, and when I finished at college, I moved to England where I joined a leading hotel company. I spent a few years in Hampshire, then London’s Park Lane – where I met my wife  – before we both moved to the Seychelles to work in the brand’s hotel there.

What happened then?

I always had an ambition to open my own business by the time I was 30. When I was 29, we resigned and went on the search for an ideal location. Mayo was never going to be an option for me or Laura. We had been to Cork on a couple of occasions. We fell in love with it. It made sense. And the rest is history.

Why did you decide to open the second Spitjack branch in Limerick?

I wanted to create a multi-site restaurant company. I like the opportunity and challenge to grow. Cork was certainly the right decision to start us off. The time was good, the end of 2014, with things beginning to turn around. Limerick was always on our radar.

I knew it quite well having been in college in Shannon. There was certainly opportunity if we could find the right location. It is a very approachable location, there’s a nice varied menu which works for all demographics. Logistically it made a lot of sense. We found the location in Limerick and jumped at it.

What made you want to go into business alone?

I always had that motivation to be an entrepreneur. I loved hotels, but I knew evidently it was never going to be for me. I didn’t always enjoy the corporate structure, the politics in a big company. I wanted to give myself the opportunity to do well. Being in a hotel is a big commitment for sometimes not a lot coming back to you. Both Laura and I consider ourselves incredibly hard workers and felt if we put that into our own business, there’d be no reason why we couldn’t give ourselves a great opportunity to succeed.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

We are aiming to have a third restaurant site and having both our Cork and Limerick restaurants staying alive. Our challenge is labour – securing the right skillsets and retaining them to ensure we maintain our standards. Here in Limerick, our restaurant site is big, so we are able to get a large production kitchen in there which means we will be centralising our production here. It means logistically if we opened another site within an easy commute to Limerick, it would be great.

In business and life, who would you look up to?

I would look up to my uncle Martin Hogan. He has been a great mentor to me, he’s been in business for 30 years, and has guided me through this process. He’s a very positive gentleman.

Are you guided by any particular motto?

One that we definitely go by is plan for the worst and hope for the best, especially in hospitality. You never know what the day is going to bring!

Away from work, what are your pastimes and hobbies?

I have a young daughter, who is 18 months old, so I’d spend as much time with her as possible. I love my golf – it doesn’t happen too often now! Right now, family is the big focus.