The Faces of the Industry

The Faces of the Industry shows the many lives and communities behind the Drinks and Hospitality Industry in Ireland today.

#SYL19

Dionne’s Story

At 14 years of age, I was a very determined kid I was eager to get out and work and wanted to start earning money of my own. I used to always go down to Kealys for food with my family, so I said I’d just chance my arm in asking for a job. I remember them asking me if I had black slacks and a black top and of course I just said yes! Then when they asked me if I could start that Sunday, I had to run around and try to get the black clothes that I told them I had! I started that Sunday, and I’ve never looked back since. Over the 15 years that I’ve been here, I went to college and got my degree in HR all the while, still working in Kealys on weekends and in the evenings. I’ve done everything from running food, to serving tables and working behind the bar – I’ve been through it all. Being totally honest, Kealy’s is what made me the person I am today. Yes, I have my college degree and it has taught me a lot, but it was the experience over the years in Kealy’s that gave me the work ethic that I have now and shaped me more as a person that any degree could. There’s a quote that a customer once said to me that I’ll never forget, “you’ll never beat genuine service” and to this day, I pride myself on that! I work by that comment every day and it’s what I train any new staff by too. If you don’t have genuine, honest customer service, then you don’t have anything.

Natalie’s Story

Our business was opened in 1925, and I’m the third-generation owner. I have been working here since my teens, and despite leaving for a couple of years to go to college and pursue a career in television, I was always drawn back by my love of the industry and the friendships that I developed over the years. From the 100’s of regulars that we have stopping by, to the passing visitors who come to learn about Irish Whiskeys and Spirits, the social element of my job makes it one that I love. To me, it’s not just work. There is something really nice about helping people choose a special present or pick a nice wine to go with a special dinner. There is a big social element to it, and you really build a community through the years. It is a real family affair in here. I work alongside my brother who co-owns the business with me, and my sister helps on the hamper side of things. Even my 18-year-old son has been drawn into it. He works most weekends, and after his leaving cert, he’s hoping to work here throughout the summer. Dad who is 84, still comes into the shop. Even though he’s retired, he’s a familiar face on the shop floor and I don’t think you can beat a tradition like that.

Thomas’s Story

I’ve been a barman for 31 years now, and I began working in hotels 10 years ago. I’ve been working in this industry most of my life and have worked in 3 hotels and 12 bars during my time. I’m more of an old-school bar man, but I’ve had to adapt to changes along the way. At the beginning I never really saw myself working in a hotel, but as the food and drinks industry grew, I adapted to grow with it. My job is a big part of my life. It’s like being a soccer player or a sportsperson – as soon as you step on the field, you’re determined to give it 100% – and that’s how I feel coming into work every day. As soon as I walk through the doors of the bar it’s almost like I step things up a gear. Over the years it hasn’t always been easy. I faced 4 redundancies which made me consider working outside of the industry at times, but it’s my love for the atmosphere and the people that you meet along the way that always made me stay. While socialising is a big part of my job, there are more serious sides to it too. My role is not only to entertain and socialise behind the bar, but I have a duty of care to each of my customers to make sure that they are comfortable and safe. Of course, you always have your regulars coming in and out of the bar, you always recognise a familiar face and you soon become a regular for them too. They grow to know you and you build relationships that become real friendships and to me, that’s invaluable. Down here, I’m known as ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ and hearing things like that really make the job worth it.

Geraldine’s Story

I started working here in 1980 as part of my husband’s family run business, working across the bar, lounge and off-licence. The business was passed onto me 11 years ago after my husband’s sad passing and I have been running all ends ever since. My favourite part is working in our off-licence, which won the Connaught/Ulster off-licence of the year for 2019. Here at Dalys Drinks we are different to supermarkets in the sense that we stock specialised wines, champagnes and craft beer, quite apart from the regular favourites. We know that our customers are typically looking to try something more diverse. Our small community is important to us and we like to show our appreciation through sponsorships of local sports, music, various gatherings and the like. It is our local community that keeps us going here and we really appreciate their custom. Over the years there have been huge changes in the trade, and we have definitely been facing a lot of challenges. Supermarkets are crippling us by dropping alcohol prices below that which we can buy them for. It is incredible how this is still allowed. On the other side all costs continue to rise unabated and with the variety of taxes on alcohol, the margins for profit just aren’t there to maintain growth, investment and overall sustainability. We are all aware of the numbers of business that continue to close because of the cost pressures on business. In recent years, in fact since the last recession, we have seen a huge drop in people coming in for a few drinks, particularly mid-week, because there’s no way for them to get home. There is no transport here for them to use and they are conscious of not being able to drive the next day. No matter how lean we are and even with ongoing Kaizen practices it has been, and still is, tough to keep the business going. There is no silver bullet, but something has to be done before rural Ireland loses yet again.