Belfast Telegraph

Quality key to serving success

By Margaret Canning

It has been a tough year for the licensed trade, with many pubs and restaurants going out of business.

But despite the gloomy climate, Horatio Todd's in Belfast, named after a pharmacist in Ballyhackamore in the 19th century, says it has reason to celebrate after its first year in operation.

Botanic Inns opened the new pub/restaurant, the 16th in its portfolio, on the Upper Newtownards Road spot once occupied by Rouge Cafe.

Horatio Todd's manager Morgan Watson dismisses the suggestion that it was a bad time to open a new pub. "I suppose in any business enterprise there's going to be risks involved in relaunching and reopening somewhere. But we thought that there was a gap in the market and thankfully, Horatio Todd's has been a big success."

Mr Watson, who has worked for Botanic Inns for more than a decade, said there had been huge changes in the industry.

"Definitely. Without a doubt, long gone are the days where you could open a bar and restaurant and people would come.

"People are just spoiled for choice now. Food has become a lot more important for bars. You can't have a bar that doesn't serve food. You must have a strong food offering." Horatio's was the group's first venture into east Belfast.

"I live in the area so I knew there was definitely a gap in the market for a good quality bar and restaurant that wasn't billed as a sports bar or restaurant but was both under one roof."

There's no denying the pessimism surrounding the industry, but Mr Watson said: "If all you did was listen to news reports and forecasts, it would be enough to drive you to drink.

"There is a difference in how you do business. You need to really take a hard look at it - and cut your cloth accordingly."