Insomnia Coffee to open 15 outlets in the north over the next four years

Insomnia Coffee CEO, Harry O'Kelly joins the team at the new Belfast store in CastleCourt
Gareth McKeown

THE CEO of a growing Irish coffee chain has announced plans for a multi-million pound expansion into Northern Ireland, creating up to 150 jobs.

Speaking to the Irish News, Harry O'Kelly from Insomnia Coffee said the chain hopes to have at least 15 stores open in Northern Ireland over the next three to four years. The coffee chain already has in excess of 150 stores in the UK and Ireland.

Last year Insomnia made its first foray into the Northern Ireland market, opening at the Belfast International Airport service station and three weeks ago launched its second outlet at CastleCourt Shopping Centre at the former American Candy unit following an investment of over £200,000, creating 10 jobs.

Looking ahead Mr O'Kelly hopes to invest over £4m opening 15 stores in the north over the next three to four years as the company, which directly employs 550 people, looks to double in size.

"Our hope is to open 20 plus stores next year on the island of Ireland and 60 over the next four years," Mr O'Kelly said.

"Increasingly we've moved north - we already have a presence in Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan. For us this is kind of a natural progression."

"Our hope over the next three to four years is to develop approximately 15 sites in the north. And working with local agents that's the aspiration. Belfast is the largest city in Northern Ireland, but we'll look at all the major urban centres and developments that are presented to us for new stores. Towns like Enniskillen, Craigavon, Newry, we will look everywhere," he said.

Mr O'Kelly is encouraged by the initial response to the CastleCourt store and is confident of the brand's success in the city, despite the obvious impact to footfall caused by the Primark fire and the added challenge of a competitive marketplace.

"We actually work with Primark in a number of their stores. We have I think currently 11 coffee houses within Primark. They're an amazing company, like Belfast, like the people of Belfast they're resourceful, they're resilient and they'll look to bounce back here.

"There's no doubt it (the fire) impacts commercial trade in the city, but our view is long-term in this location. While there may be a blip in the short-term, it's not a big concern for us."

"Coffee shops will continue to grow, you'll see volumes increase probably in outlet numbers double digit in the next number of years. In 2020 there will be more coffee houses than licensed premises in the UK. They've become the new social hub - when you work, when you socialise the obvious thing is to meet for a coffee.

"I've been hearing the saturation argument for many many years, but I don't see the demand reducing at all over the next few years," he said.

Beyond the UK and Ireland the growing chain is targeting international expansion, with Germany previously mooted as a possible new market.

"I think strategically international expansion is something we're looking at actively. In terms of international territories, the interest is from several and we would hope to be in the position in the coming months to announce some sort of exciting developments both in Europe and beyond," Mr O'Kelly added.

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