A Northern Ireland businessman is spreading his ‘little wings’ to the Republic, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Bill Wolsey, the enterpreneur behind The Merchant Hotel and a string of pubs in the province, said he hopes to acquire one of three potential sites in Dublin city centre — as well as two sites in greater Dublin — for his Little Wing pizza restaurants.
He is also set to create around 150 new jobs north of the border this year when he open Little Wings on Belfast’s Lisburn Road, in Ballyhackamore, east Belfast and in Bangor.
The head of the Beannchor Group opened his first Little Wing, a licensed 44-seater casual restaurant, in Ann Street last year. Details of his expansion plans follow news of hundreds of job losses last week at Hughes Christensen in east Belfast and Nortel in Newtownabbey.
Mr Wolsey said: “It seems we are one of the few companies who are expanding this year. There will definitely be three more Little Wings this year in Ballyhackamore, [next to The Point bar on Upper Newtownards Road], on the Lisburn Road [opposite the Co-op shop] and in Bangor.
“By the end of the year we expect to employ 150 more people in Little Wings, and the expansion of the Merchant means we will have 60 more full-timers and 60 more part-timers.”
South of the border, the company has set its sights on one of three locations in Dublin city centre, a site in Ranelagh and an old bank premises in the north Co Dublin seaside town of Malahide, already a popular spot for eating out. Mr Wolsey said he hoped to make his mark in the Republic.
“We have taken advice from an advertising company which has pointed out that nobody in Northern Ireland has been successful in building a chain in the Republic so we could be the first. Little Wing is a unique offering as we are the only people who make pizzas fresh without chemicals.”
An extension to the five star Merchant Hotel in Belfast city centre is due to open at the end of July. He does not intend to open another hotel in the city in the immediate future. “I would look at any business venture if we thought it would be profitable, but at the minute the hotel sector is very difficult.”