Resilience and hard work pay off for growing food empire

3rd March, 2019
Lorraine Heskin, chief executive, Gourmet Food Parlour Picture: Fergal Phillips

As founder and chief executive of Gourmet Food Parlour (GFP), entrepreneur Lorraine Heskin has succeeded in creating a sustainable business that continues to thrive and create employment in Dublin and beyond.

With revenues of close to €12 million and 280 staff on its books, GFP has created 100 jobs in the past two years alone and continues to expand with the opening, last October, of a new 120-seater restaurant in Galway - its first outside the capital.

Originally inspired by her time spent living and working in the US, Heskin opened the first Gourmet Food Parlour in Dún Laoghaire in July 2006, with business partner Lorraine Byrne.

“I worked in food and catering in New York, and I was really inspired by some of the ‘new-style’ restaurants and trends that were emerging there at that time,” said Heskin. “We opened our first restaurant as the recession was about to hit, and it was through resilience and hard work that we not only survived, but thrived, during those years.”

In the 13 years since it first opened in Dún Laoghaire, Gourmet Food Parlour has expanded to four additional locations in Dublin, including Malahide, Santry, Swords and Skerries. Its newest outlet in Salthill in Galway employs 35 people.

“One of the best strategic decisions we made was to expand our business into satellite towns in Dublin with the opening of a second restaurant in Swords in 2008 and, in 2011, the 80-seater on the Coast Road in Malahide,” said Heskin.

“We launched our deli-bar in Swords in 2013 and a beautiful 80-seater restaurant in Dún Laoghaire in September 2015.

“We opened our Santry restaurant in summer 2017 and, in 2018, we proudly opened our restaurant in the picturesque town of Skerries and in my hometown of Galway last October.”

Innovation is important at Gourmet Food Parlour. The company develops new menus on a three-month rotation taking into account evolving consumer trends.

“We’re constantly striving to ensure we set our own food trends, keeping our menus fresh and new for customers,” said Heskin.

“Our key criteria have always been freshness, quality, and supporting Irish and homemade food. Our business philosophy is very important to us and we live by its mantra every day.”

Gourmet Food Parlour is the official catering partner to the Dublin GAA County Board, and it partners with Daniel Davey nutrition, the sports professional, nutrition and performance resource, to develop menus for its sports division.

The company also has a partnership with House, the Alan Clancy-owned hotel and restaurant on Dublin’s Leeson Street, and a catering and event division with clients including AIG, Google, Universal and Alltech.

The latest development at Gourmet Food Parlour has been the opening of a new 5,000 square feet catering and event facility in the north Dublin suburb of Santry with a purpose-built training centre.

“We opened our state-of-the-art catering and event kitchen in January in response to our increased demand for our sports nutrition, large-scale events and corporate catering,” said Heskin.

“The training centre is for the development and training of our teams, so we can ensure we maintain a high standard of customer service and management development across the business.

“We also have a chef’s training kitchen attached to our Swords restaurant where we work on food and chef development.”

Heskin decided to apply to the Deloitte Best Managed Companies awards programme last year on foot of the continued growth of Gourmet Food Parlour. “We felt that we had crossed a milestone in terms of our turnover and staffing levels,” she said.

“We have really benefited from the guidance and encouragement we’ve received from our mentors at Deloitte, in terms of our strategic growth patterns and increased capabilities based on our turnover.

“The programme has also opened up a whole new family of business associates, people we can work with in different capacities to further our mutual business goals.”

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