Since opening its first restaurant in 2010, Camile Food Group has expanded to 45 locations, and the Irish-owned Thai food chain continues to expand with plans to create 300 jobs this year at new outlets in Ireland and Britain.
At the helm of the venture is Brody Sweeney, who is currently overseeing the opening of the seventh Camile Thai restaurant in the London area. In Ireland, meanwhile, Camile has new outlets planned for numerous locations around the country right up to the end of this year and into next.
“We have a lot of restaurants opening at the moment, and each one will create 20 to 25 jobs. We opened outlets in Skerries and Blackrock in Dublin last month and in Mullingar, Co Westmeath,” Sweeney said.
“We’ll be opening in Waterford later this year, and in Newbridge in Co Kildare as well. We also have more outlets planned for Cork and Galway. It’s all really encouraging, because it shows that people like what we’re offering. In all, I’d say we’ll create 300 new jobs this year and about the same in 2022.”
Camile Food Group is a multi-platform food business, making it convenient for people to order online and get food delivered.
Every day, the business serves over 10,000 meals to consumers in Ireland and Britain through its network of franchised and company-owned restaurants.
“We have been really lucky throughout the pandemic. We are primarily located in residential suburbs and home delivery has been probably the only sector of hospitality that has thrived through the lockdowns, so we’ve had a good trading period,” Sweeney said.
“Obviously, we had to shutter dine-ins. That business instead transferred over to delivery and collection. We did have other challenges though.
“At the beginning of the pandemic back in March 2021, our employees were very nervous about coming into work. We had to put a lot of health and safety protocols in place to protect them and manage their concerns.”
Many of these Covid safety and back-up protocols remain in place today.
“Even now, at our central production facility, we have A and B teams, so that if there is a Covid scare or infection in one team, we can move production to the other team and keep going,” he said.
Before the onset of the pandemic, the Camile Food Group was already very delivery-focused.
“We were already doing 70 per cent of our business off-premises and we were in a good place as a company,” Sweeney said.
“We had good locations and we had the technology to manage order and deliveries through our own app. Some food businesses had to start delivering for the first time ever when Covid hit. We were already used to it. We just ramped up what we were already doing.”
Its existing experience in managing food deliveries in the Irish market also stood it in good stead when it expanded into Britain with the opening of its first London base in Tooting Bec in 2017.
Since then, Camile Thai has opened six more outlets, including its most recent one in Epsom, Surrey, on the southern outskirts of the British capital.
“We assumed that London would be similar to Dublin as a market. In reality, it’s actually quite different,” Sweeney said.
“Getting food deliveries right is more complicated than you might think. Fundamentally, people order our food because it’s delicious, but they also order from us because we deliver in about 30 minutes.
“That’s the same in London as in Dublin. It’s quite a difficult thing to do operationally. To take an order in, prepare and cook it, pack it, dispatch it and get it to somebody’s home all in about 30 minutes isn’t easy ,and it’s as challenging in London as it is in Dublin.”
Another challenge for Camile Thai in both markets has been encouraging customers to order food deliveries directly from its own app.
“A lot of people will automatically use well-known food delivery apps, not just for the convenience, but for the choice they offer,” Sweeney said.
“For independent food businesses, the challenge is that these apps generally take a big commission – as much as 30 per cent – which eats into potential profits. It is much easier and cheaper for customers to order directly from our own website; we just need to get them there.”
In all, Camile Food Group employs close to 1,000 people at 45 locations in Ireland and Britain, and it has now been named as one of 25 new winners in Ireland’s Best Managed Companies awards programme.
“It was at the instigation of Warren Codd, our chief financial officer, that we decided to get involved in Best Managed Companies for the first time,” Sweeney said.
“The programme is a very valuable benchmark for gauging how well you’re running your business, and how you compare to your peers.
“It has given us a valuable opportunity to measure how we’re doing against others, and we are delighted to have been named as one of this year’s new winners.”