It's tough for a cafe chain to make a deep impression on the public, especially a public too often swayed by the uncomplicated and familiar charms of the Starbucks (no stranger to this column) and Costa Coffees of this world. But Northern Ireland is now seeing impressive growth from indigenous chains, like Co Antrim-based Ground Espresso Bars, whose proprietor Darren Gardiner has been taking to Twitter to vent his exasperation at the disruption being caused to business by flag protesters in Belfast. Its businesses have been mainly located inside others, such as Waterstones, Next and DV8.
Today sees the announcement of more success from Co Down-based Deli Lites, which has been feeding the population of Newry for well over 10 years. Now its sandwiches will be sold far and wide over the border through Applegreen, most familiar to local drivers as the operator of service stations on the M1 to Dublin. The firm was founded by Jackie Reid from Warrenpoint in the county, and the business is going from strength to strength with sales up 40% last year. But Co Down can also claim Cafe Krem as its own, a chain which was established by a Mayobridge man and which now boasts cafes around Queen's University and back where it all began in Newry.
Our appetite for coffee and pre-packed sandwiches is insatiable, judging by the spread of these firms, and most importantly, totally recession-proof.