Finding new catering provider at Belfast Waterfront 'could take until next summer'

A permanent contractor for the catering services at the Belfast Waterfront might not be in place until next summer, it has emerged
Gary McDonald Business Editor

IT could be next summer before a permanent catering partner is appointed at Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall, it has emerged.

And the Irish News understands that the two local companies currently in charge of the food and drink provision at the venues - Mount Charles and Yellow Door - have formed their own business partnership while they run the contract on a temporary basis.

A new company called Hospitality Belfast Ltd was incorporated at the end of June, according to papers filed at Companies House.

Its two named directors are Trevor Annon (72), founder and chairman of Mount Charles Group, Ireland's largest indigenous food service and business support services provider, and Andrew Dougan (43), a director at award-winning Co Armagh food firm Yellow Door.

Hospitality Belfast is currently running the catering operation at the two popular venues on a temporary basis after Amadeus, the catering arm of Birmingham's NEC Group, had its £16 million contract annulled in June, just two years into a five-year cycle, following a performance review.

It was confirmed yesterday that the tender process to support the catering offering at Belfast Waterfront and Ulster Hall will be advertised in the next eight to 10 weeks.

The Europe-wide search will then take between six and eight months to conclude, meaning it could be next June before a permanent replacement is found.

It is not known if Hospitality Belfast in its current form will throw its hat into the ring for the permanent tender, or if Mount Charles will choose to go it alone.

Mount Charles Group, led by Trevor Annon, ran the venues' restaurant, bars and catering facilities from 2002 until being usurped by Amadeus in 2016.

In a statement yesterday, a spokesman for Belfast Waterfront and the Ulster Hall told the Irish News: “There will be a tender process to support the catering offering, which will be advertised in the next 8-10 weeks.

“We have an interim catering solution in place with Hospitality Belfast to ensure the transition period and procurement process is managed as seamlessly as possible.”

Mount Charles has recently secured several high profile contracts across the UK and Northern Ireland, as well as making a successful entry into the competitive Republic of Ireland market, where it has gobbled up contracts worth more than £8m as well as securing a franchise agreement with Ireland's leading healthy fast-food retailer Freshly Chopped.

Now boasting almost 2,500 employees and servicing more than 350 customers, it reported contract gains worth £37 million in December – a figure which contributed to an 18 per cent boost in its turnover - and it has a stated aim of taking its revenues to £50m by 2020.

Yellow Door was founded in Co Armagh in 1992 by chef Simon Dougan with a fine dining restaurant in Gilford, and has expanded into a number of delicatessen outlets, restaurants, a bakery, its line of artisan breads, plus a burgeoning outside catering business.

Hospitality Belfast director Andrew Dougan is Simon's cousin and has taken charge of catering contracts in the likes of the Ulster Museum and at the Mac in Belfast, running its restaurant Native in a venture with Phil Rodgers.

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