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.


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.

Kenneth’s story

I have worked in hospitality since I was 15 years of age following other members of my family into an industry that has become my passion. My Father was the head waiter in the Burlington hotel, my sister was the chef de partie & my other sister was a waitress. I started off as a linen porter in the Burlington Hotel working as a lounge boy in the bar in the evenings. I then moved to the Days Hotel where I assumed the position of night porter/night auditor. I then progressed to the front desk where I was quickly promote to front office supervisor also covering duty manager shifts. I started working at the Red Cow Moran Hotel in 2010, initially as a Duty Manager and then as Operations Manager. Following an extensive upgrade and expansion of the hotel I was promoted to Food and Beverage Manager – so I guess you could hotels are in my blood! I love looking after people and really believe that true Hospitality is giving the best of yourself to your guests.

Tara’s Story

My journey with Heineken started out in 2015, with what was meant to be a five-month internship and now here I am over four years down the line. At the time, Heineken were looking for new interns and I was looking for Heineken, so it worked out well. My job has provided me with so many lovely experiences. I’ve been involved in numerous community projects, mainly working on sustainability initiatives in the local area. We like to help how we can, and place value on the importance of making a difference where we can. I also work on internal communications, which allows me to work with great colleagues across the business. There are so many things that I love about my job, the people, the collaboration and most of all the heritage and history of the company. We have strong roots here in Ireland and that’s something that is valued all across the company and in the local community. As a Cork native, I grew up knowing the name Heineken and am very proud to be part of a company which values its people and heritage, supports the communities in which it operates and invests for the future.

PJ’s Story

It’s been a while since I started out in the industry, in fact it was March 1995 when I began working with Heineken – which was better known as Murphy’s Brewery back then. I started out in the laboratory as a microbiologist and that’s where my love for brewing stemmed from. In the lab I got the opportunity to work at all stages, from raw materials, fermentation, maturation, right through to packaging. The beauty of brewing is that it is so natural. There’s such a variation of products that you can make, I was just fascinated by it all. So that’s when I decided to go and sit my brewing exams with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and ever since, I’ve been brewing here in Cork. When I started here, I never imagined myself still being here almost 25 years down the line. But there’s a culture within the industry that I’ve grown to love and throughout the years I’ve been able to see the industry grow not only in Cork, but all across Ireland. At Heineken, we’ve a big link to our local community. We’ve been here for 163 years now so we’ve grown up with the community that we are surrounded by and for 163 years, we’ve been working simultaneously together. Even though there are fantastic opportunities to work abroad, I’ve never had the desire to leave. There’s a culture here in Ireland that I enjoy and that I want my children to be able to grow up and experience too for themselves.

Marie’s Story

Ronan’s Story

Ceili’s Story

Like any young person coming out of the leaving cert, I wanted to get myself a job to support me through college. I mentioned it to the owner here about some work experience, and I started pretty much straight away. It was my first job, so I was nervous. Like anybody starting a new job, you’re bound to have nerves and at 18 years old it was a big step for me, but the lovely staff and customers really helped me to settle in. My first two or three weeks were spent training, but it was summer, so it got busy very fast and I was thrown into the deep end pretty much straight away. I started as a lounge girl, but you could find me anywhere; behind the bar, in the lounge or even in the smoking area. Between serving food, clearing tables and working the bar, it gets busy, so you just do what needs to be done. It’s almost like three jobs in one at times. I’ve been here almost five years now, and I still love it as much as I did on day one. I know a lot of people see a part time job as something to help get them by, but for me it’s different. I genuinely look forward to coming into work every day and getting to see people. Everyone here, from the staff to the customers, are like one big family. I’m not even a local, I’m from a different village, but I’m made feel so at home here. The regulars know everything about you, and you know everything about them. It’s the little things like having their favourite drink waiting for them at the bar when they come in that makes all the difference. We really value our customer’s input they often share some ideas with us about what they’d like to see here, and we’ve often taken their suggestions on board. We like to cater for what our customers want so we listen to their ideas whenever we’re renovating or making changes to the business.

Nial’s Story

I have been working in the industry 26 years. However, my working life started at 14, where I stacked shelves in a local supermarket. As I got slightly older, I realised that the pub was a great place to be so I began collecting glasses, waiting tables and tending bars. I began to realise that I could start to bring some new ideas to the pub in terms of service and flow. While working in a bar in Galway I reiterated my ideas to the Manager, and I was encouraged to start designing the bar different to increase efficiency and trading. Soon after I moved to Dublin and realised that there was a completely different energy in bars from both staff and consumers, where international tourist has a massive influence on services and products. I then undertook a personal mission on travelling the world to discover different cultures. After working in six countries I realised that cocktails are not drinks mixed in glasses, they are an experience made with care, expertise, taste, flavours and something to be thoroughly enjoyed. I was extremely fortunate to become the manager in one of Ireland’s most visited tourist centres in based in Dublin, where tourism and Irish hospitably were married to become our core service offering. But I then started to incorporate my international experience and began to explore how we bring Irish hospitably to the next level. I realised that high end cocktails were underutilised in Ireland, in a country where we produce the most premium spirts and drinks. Now I manage one of Ireland’s newest distillery’s, where are ethos is built on Irish hospitality, produce and expertise. People are now seeking cocktails in Ireland as an experience, where a real experience exists. Irish people, and tourists are now consuming responsibly, non-abusive, and I am delighted that we are able to offer that experience that people want.

Ruth’s Story

Deveney’s opened in Dundrum back in 1909 and has been in my family ever since. I’ve worked in the off-licence full time for 16 years now, but spent weekends and summers working here throughout school too. Around two and a half years ago, I took the business over from my Dad which makes me the fifth-generation owner. As a 100% specialist off-licence, we pride ourselves on providing our customers with a unique experience; whether it’s the grape variety, an indigenous spirit or helping them to match the perfect wine with their menu. We’re one of the only original businesses left here in Dundrum so we’ve always been a part of the community and have seen first-hand how the area has evolved over the years. Originally, 90% of our customers here would’ve been locals who would regularly visit the shop, whereas now, we see a lot more passing trade and tourists stopping in. One of the most difficult challenges that we come up against is the high level of tax and duties on alcohol, which makes a lot of indigenous drinks unaffordable for our customers, especially tourists who know they can often get the same products cheaper in their home country. It’s a huge problem for the industry and the turnover of Irish products is simply not as much as it should be. Independent Off Licences help to give small producers a market platform however, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for our businesses to survive with over taxation of the industry and the continuous squeeze on small businesses. A loss of independent specialists would have an adverse effect on small Irish producers, that do not have the capacity to supply large multiple stores, which ultimately means limited route to market, thus affecting choice and value to our customers. Alcohol when sold properly and handled correctly, can be one of life’s best pleasures and Ireland is a pioneer for fine alcohol. It would be a shame to see it diminish as a result of high excise and duties.

Susan’s Story

I am one of the ‘lifers’ having worked at the Red Cow Inn which forms part of the Red Cow Complex for some 32 years making me one of the longest serving members of the team. As I live locally it suited me when I was a teenager to work as a lounge girl while I was studying as I didn’t have far to get to or from work. The Red Cow Inn was the local boozer and I have always loved the atmosphere of working here. Many of the regulars even now have been my neighbours growing up so there is a real sense of community about it. What started as a part-time job overtime became my career. Other family members also joined the team in different departments and my sister is also still here. Working for the Red Cow Inn has always felt like home as my boss was a family man and we grew up with his kids who also worked their way up through the business. In 1992 I moved to a new role on the Reception Desk with responsibility for the Booking Office. Over the years I have worked as Reception Supervisor and then Manager, Group co-ordinator when the family owned a chain of hotels and I am now Administration Manager for the Complex. have worked in this industry for over 32 years and no two days are the same, which is what I love about it.

Tom’s Story

The pub has been in my family for generations, with my mother’s uncle and my own father both owning pubs and bars for as long as I can remember. Myself and my siblings all grew up surrounded by the pub culture. I even remember pulling my first pint, I was standing on a wooden crate so I could reach over the bar! The Irish pub has so much to offer. It has authenticity, personality and character that is uniquely Irish and that is something that needs to be cherished. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay afloat and there’s not many in the industry that would say different. People look at a pub and if it’s busy on a Saturday night, they think that it’s thriving, but that’s not the case. We’re weighed down with heavy taxes and insurance costs which has a massive impact. The Government is trying. But unfortunately, they’re not necessarily investing in the right areas. It’s difficult, but, when you go out foreign, you see that the low cost of alcohol doesn’t impact the health services in the way that we worry it could, and there is a lesson in that. I’ve always known and loved the industry so it was inevitable that I would end up being part of it. Over the years, I’ve opened a coffee shop, a food franchise and pub so I’ve been across many parts of the drinks and hospitality industry. For me, the key to the industry is turning passing trade into regulars and if you can do that, you’re winning.

Declan’s Story

My father opened the business in 1978 and I run the business with my brother so I’ve quite a sense of pride over what my father built and expanded over the years within the trade. One thing that we’ve always loved about working here is the people. Even though we’re not from here, we’re really made feel a part of the community and we have great local support too. Even though there are supermarkets sprouting up left right and centre, our customers stay loyal to us – I could nearly tell you who the first 10 customers of the month will be! Plenty of character walk through those doors – there’s never a dull day in the off-licence. Legislation is one of the biggest challenges we face as a business. The negative impact of excess duty has the potential to destroy us. I read recently that a can of cider today is cheaper than a pint of milk. Small business like us can’t afford to sell that cheap. It’s difficult to compete when larger suppliers can afford to sell alcohol by the crate. But they don’t have the point of difference and I think our customers appreciate that – we have a wide range of wines, spirits and beers and its that uniqueness and expertise that makes us stand out.

Siobhan’s Story

We’ve been publicans for years– My husband Tony’s great-grandfather started-up a pub in Dublin many years ago and five generations later – here we are in Gibney’s of Malahide! We set-up the off-licence side of the business, which is where I work, around 25 years ago. Our ethos for it has always been to provide the best quality wines and with the recent uptake in the spirits market, we’ve had some exciting developments in this space too. The best part about working in Gibney’s has to the local community. Our customers mean the world to us; They are our friends, family, colleagues and supporters. We’re very much a community driven place and family is at the heart of everything we do. Many generations of families have been coming in for employment throughout our history and to this day, still do. The lovely thing is that some of our past employees still call into us; be it from up the road or sometimes as far as New York. Across the entire Gibney brand we employ around 90 people. That’s why an increase in excise tax would really affect our business. The price of a pint would be a very conscious thing by a consumer, and it could seriously damage a business.

Stephen’s Story

I started working in the industry when I was 15 years old with my father, so my entire professional career has been in the Industry. One of our main goals has always been to keep the customers as well as our staff, happy. I’m a firm believer that it’s the people that make the place, and it really can’t be said enough when it comes to the drinks industry. One of the biggest challenges we experience as a small business would be excise tax. I think there is more of an awareness now around it in the general public, but not enough is being done to protect smaller businesses from closure. All in all, it’s not enough to get by anymore as just somewhere that sells alcohol. People ask more of the pub nowadays than before and this, along a slowly rising excise tax, is putting the future of pubs at risk. We’re always trying to give our customers more than just a standard pub experience. A few years ago, we introduced different meal deals to incentivise families and we’ve also branched into a events style ventures too, to great success. We’re currently in the process of building our micro-gin distillery, which we’re really excited about.

Peter’s Story

We’re a third-generation family pub, with the building going back to 1927. We’re extremely local in all senses – lots of our employees are from Clontarf and most of our customers live within the area. The locals mean a lot to us and the relationship there is special. I think one of the biggest pulls of the Irish pub is the social aspect. While it’s naturally a place for friends and families to meet, I think it’s important for elderly customers who may live alone, to get out of the house and socialise in a safe environment. People like an excuse to leave the house and get out and about, even if it’s only down the road. It’s the safest way to drink in my opinion. At home you could easily drink a whole bottle of wine, whereas at the pub, you can pace yourself. I think customer drinking habits have changed over the last 5-10 years. Young people have a different way of looking at drink nowadays. 10 years ago, we would have seen younger customers coming in during the week as well as weekends, but there is less of them, opting now to only do big occasion nights. It’s partly the reason we set up The Viking Theatre upstairs. It’s a real USP for us in that we’re the only pub that has a pub/theatre offering in the area. I think the landscape of pubs is changing and if you don’t keep up, you’ll lose people. It’s about providing more than just a drink, it’s about providing an occasion, every time they call in.

Barry’s Story

Community play a huge part in our pub. Our town was a small village of only about 2,000 people 15 years ago but has experienced a massive influx of people coming in from Dublin since the Celtic Tiger. As a result, our pub has become a sort community meet-up where new members of the community intermingle with the locals so we’re proud to be a facilitator of long-lasting community relationships in that sense. We’re a huge supporter of our community ourselves – we’re delighted to be a sponsor of the local football club and nearly all our staff are local, the majority of which live within walking distance of Loch 12. When you don’t support your local, it works against you. People value authentic relationships and we’ve built a strong one with our community over the last 25 years. Along with our micro-brewery (making us Kildare’s first and only brew pub) we want to provide a memorable and immersive experience for everyone who walks through the door. From travelling, you really learn a lot about the ever-changing demand of the customer and what they look for in a pub. We recognised we needed to provide a more unique experience for our customers, so we make a real effort to reinvest in the business, which I think our customers appreciate.

Mary’s Story

I’ve worked in our family business for many years now. I started off as working in our off Licence/Newsagents at a very young age during school holidays, progressed to Lounge Girl and eventually learnt how to pull and serve drink and food!! I’m now supporting my family in the day to day management of our family pub Business in Dublin alongside, my parents, brothers, sisters, parents and cousins which is great! We literally offer a home from home atmosphere to our customer’s which one of our biggest assets is as we treat all our customers like guests in our home. Our attention to detail is on our cleanliness, Food and Beverages offering, alongside catering for all sporting and entertainment needs we are one of the best Family oriented pubs in Ireland. You may recall in 1994 we opened Irelands First Pub Crèche in our Pub in Baldoyle D13! Originally, 90% of customers here would have been locals who would regularly visit us and host all family occasions with us, whereas now we are seeing more and more passing trade, students and staff from DIT Grange Gorman, and large number of tourists visiting us. We offer a fantastic food and beverages menu, four function room options, live music and a very warm welcome at all times so we do cater for all preferences and customer needs. One of most difficult challenges that we come up against is the high level of tax and duties on alcohol, which makes indigenous drinks unaffordable for our customers. Particularly for tourists who quickly identify that they can get the same alcohol a lot cheaper in their home country.

Richard’s Story

I started working in the family Pub Business a very young age! I started off as little 8 year old sorting the bottles out every Sunday morning, and was eventually promoted to Lounge Boy to Barman, even Chef at one stage! And now my career is firmly embedded in supporting my family in the day to day management of our family pub Business in Dublin which is so exciting. You could say my entire professional career has been in the Food and Drink industry. My favourite part is working in our off licence. Here at Grainger’s Hanlon’s Corner we are different to the supermarkets as we stock specialised wines, champagnes and craft beer, which are dramatically different from the regular options available to consumers. We have got to know our customers likes and preferences and the majority are looking for something different and new to try. The key challenges facing small off licenses like ourselves is the prices that Supermarkets are offering. We do struggle to compete with these low prices and so to differentiate ourselves we promote ourselves as a niche off licence, in the heart of our community, offering something different to our regular customers and at all times, a friendly face, an ear to listen to and a very warm welcome! Supermarkets are really placing massive pressure on small owner Off Licences by dropping alcohol prices below prices at what we can buy them for. I’m amazed the Irish Government has allowed this to continue. The extra challenges are on the other side, as costs continue to rise, taxes on alcohol still increasing, however the profit margin just are not there to maintain growth, investment and sustainability. Small independent off licences like ourselves help to give small products a market to promote their products, however it is becoming increasingly difficult for business to survive with over taxation of the industry and the constant squeeze on small businesses.