Belfast Telegraph

Hotelier believes success built on quality of service

By Clare Weir

A Co.Antrim hotelier has said he is succeeding in a turbulent business thanks to investing in quality and good training rather than cutting corners and costs.

Eugene McKeever, along with his wife Catherine, is celebrating after 25 years in the business and currently owns three hotels.

The couple opened their first restaurant with just three staff back in 1986 and now employ 170 people across the Adair Arms Hotel in Ballymena, the Dunsilly Hotel in Antrim and Corr’s Corner Hotel in Newtownabbey. The Adair is one of a stable of hotels formerly owned by the McLarnon Group, which folded in 2009.

Mr McKeever, president of the Hotels Federation, opened the Granagh House restaurant in Randalstown a quarter of a century ago — he was a chef and Catherine worked front of house at night.

They bought Corr’s in 1993, the the Dunsilly in 2005 and the purchase of the Adair Arms was completed last year. The Ballymena hotel is now being renovated.

Mr McKeever said many rivals “took their eye off the ball when money was easy to make” and are now picking up the pieces.

“The hotel industry right now is really tough, I won’t lie,” he said.

“Turnovers have gone down but I see that as no reason to start following others making cuts that are not sensible — two for one deals and £6.99 meal deals are not sustainable in the long-term.

“We have always put the emphasis on service and quality and putting the right management and training systems in place — I’m not a believer in quick fixes and I very much take the long view. Invest in quality and you will see rewards in the long-term.

“There has been a VAT increase and consumer spending has lessened — when people spend their money, they want to spend it on a quality product.”

With short-term focus on the Ballymena hotel, he said: “We are still refurbishing the Adair Arms, we have spent half a million in the last 12 months and are looking at another million in the next year to 18 months. It may sound a lot in this financial climate but we are keeping our eyes open and consolidating rather than snapping up every bargain on the market.

“In this way we hope to weather the storm.”

Belfast Telegraph