Northern Ireland news

Midweek restaurant sales 'rose 400%' after lockdown

Conall Wolsey, Director of the Beannchor Group, outside the £4 million Haslem Hotel, Lisburn, which officially opened today. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association
Michael McHugh, Press Association

Midweek restaurant sales increased by 400% in Northern Ireland following lockdown, a hotelier has said.

More eating out during non-peak times could be a positive legacy for the hospitality industry following the public health emergency, Conall Wolsey said.

Mr Wolsey is director of the Beannchor Group, with an extensive portfolio of restaurants, bars and hotels, which opened the £4 million Haslem Hotel in Lisburn on Friday in a vote of confidence in the future of the market.

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He said: "It would be a fantastic thing if as a culture in Belfast people got used to going out midweek as well as at the weekend.

"We have been seeing 4-5-600% up.

"If that culture could exist once this ends that will be a real positive for the industry."

The Government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme offering 50% off food up to the value of £10 from Monday to Wednesday helped boost numbers dining during August.

Mr Wolsey said people were attempting to find tables in restaurants with less capacity due to social distancing but just as much demand.

Opening of the 45-bedroom Haslem Hotel at Lisburn Square was delayed by several months due to disruption caused by the pandemic.

Mr Wolsey acknowledged it would only be once a vaccine is found for coronavirus that trade would fully return to normal.

He said: "The desire for people to travel will always be there.

"It is being curtailed by this pandemic but domestically and internationally travel has never been so free and accessible.

"That is only going to get more so once this pandemic is over.

"The hotel industry will get better and there have been a few chinks of light for the future."

Conall Wolsey, Director of the Beannchor Group, outside the £4 million Haslem Hotel, Lisburn. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association

The Haslem Hotel will create 50 new jobs and target business travellers from the Republic and Britain, as well as Lisburn locals.

It features an 80-seater open plan lobby and bar area, a 68-seater restaurant, residents' gym and conference room.

Mr Wolsey said the property had been finished for two months and was originally scheduled to open in the first week of July but the stumbling block was the timing of recruitment.

"We did not want to recruit and there be a lockdown and then make those people redundant," he said.

He said room occupancy had been cut significantly due to the pandemic and lack of international tourism.

"It is going to be a challenge," he added.

"We have had these sort of challenges before the recession but it was nowhere near as drastic a fall and as dramatic a barrier or hurdle but we reverted back to our basics of good service and providing a welcoming environment.

"Those are the things that people appreciate."

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