A healthy eating restaurant business inspired by the weight battles of its owner has opened its second outlet, in Victoria Square Shopping Centre. Slim's Healthy Kitchen founder Gary McIldowney first told the Belfast Telegraph of his plans to expand the business into Victoria Square in Belfast in February this year.
The express version of his successful Lisburn Road eatery opened earlier this month.
The new 900sq ft premises employs 20 full and part-time staff after an investment of £200,000.
In total – and including a meal plan operation – Slim's employs 70 staff and plans to open more outlets later this year.
Mr McIldowney's meal plan operation delivers healthy, balanced meals to the time-poor who are anxious to maintain a svelte physique.
He said he picked up the nickname 'Slim' after slimming down from 24 stone to 15 stone through exercise and healthy eating.
"Everything in moderation is my mantra. You can come into Slim's and have a burger but it will be lean beef, cooked in healthy oil and it's up to the customer whether they wish to have a bun, salad wrap or an aubergine slider with their burger."
The excitement generated by the opening of the Lisburn Road outlet around one year ago prompted queues around the block for foods such as protein pancakes, kale and spring green sides plus haddock fingers "from sustainable shoals" – just a few examples from its menu,
Mr McIldowney, who is also a dance music DJ at nightclub El Divino, said he was considering opening an outlet at a gym near the Devenish Complex in Finaghy in south Belfast and in Ballyhackamore.
Slim's Healthy Kitchen is now among Victoria Square's few locally-owned cafes and restaurants.
Northern Ireland businessmen Damien and Adrian Garvey are directors of BWL Food Retail, owners of O'Briens Sandwich Bar in the centre.
And The Ivory is owned by Northern Ireland operators Adam Stockman and Fisnik Ujkas.
Mr Stockman welcomed the opening of Slim's. "All competition is good. They are slightly different from ourselves but anything that brings more people into the area is good."
In March, global chain YO Sushi! confirmed it was considering a site in Victoria Square.
The centre is home to other chain restaurants such as Cosmo, Pizza Express and Nando's.