Belfast Telegraph

O'Brien's Sandwich Bars expansion will create 70 coffee shop jobs

By Lesley Houston

Plans are brewing for two more artisan coffee shops from the owners of O'Brien's Sandwich Bars in Northern Ireland in an expansion offering 70 jobs over the next 12 months.

Garvey brothers, Adrian and Damien, opened their first Synge & Byrne at the Abbeycentre in December and plan to unveil two more in Belfast and Londonderry by the end of the year, with 50 staff between the two.

The sites will be in Derry's Foyleside Centre and Belfast city centre, with further branches planned for 2015.

The brothers, who trade as BWL Food Retail, also announced 20 new jobs in a new O'Brien's site in Co Down.

The jobs will increase BWL's workforce to 270 across the three businesses in an investment worth around £250,000 in salaries and wages over the year.

Another of the Garveys' businesses, a stand-alone concern in Newry – Olive – will be rebranded similarly under the trendy new banner.

The Garveys said they grasped their chance to fill a "gap in the market" in Northern Ireland.

Director Damien said: "We have done extensive research before launching this and we believe there is a strong demand both here and outside Northern Ireland for a food and drink offering that has its roots very much in traditional 'Ulster' cuisine," he said.

"There has been strong growth in recent years by the big coffee shop operators such as Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero, and also solid expansion by some very nice artisans, but we see our planned 'artisan chain' offering sitting in between these two sectors."

He added: "Nowadays people want in Ballymena what they can get in New York City or London."

Damien explained their new brand name was inspired by businesses like Tesco-backed connoisseur coffee shops Harris + Hoole, based in the south of England.

Adrian said that though O'Brien's faced liquidation in the turbulent years of the recession, they had managed to buck the trend with their Northern Ireland operation with the aid of supportive landlords and banks, due to the cash business's low borrowing ratios.

"We were able to secure the rights to the name for Northern Ireland and after that we were able to expand.

"We had very aggressive growth in 2007 and perhaps got into difficulties before the recession so we had time to sort our house out before it hit."

Belfast Telegraph