What does your company do and what role do you play?
We are a community bar and restaurant on Cavehill, north Belfast. I am the owner and responsible for the strategic growth of the business and work with the management team on a daily basis to ensure standards are maintained and excelled.
How did the business start and how has it grown?
I took over the Cavehill Inn in summer 2019 and immediately started planning a major refurbishment of the ground floor and outside areas. The building had become very run and it wasn’t somewhere that the local community had felt belonged to them. We completely rebranded the venue as Ben Madigan’s Bar & Kitchen and relaunched in November 2019.
What is your background?
I came to Belfast from Derry in 1995 and attended Queen’s University, I completed a degree in environmental planning and while studying for my postgrad I started working in the bar at the Student’s Union. I’ve been in the hospitality industry since then. I’ve held numerous roles across several venues which gave me a great grounding in the industry and from there I managed independent bars throughout Belfast.
What do you do differently from your competition and what are your strengths?
At Ben Madigan’s we have a simple ethos – great food at a great price, comfortable surroundings and first class service. I always say that out staff are our biggest asset and this really shows in feedback from our customers
Who are your main customers?
They are our local community in north Belfast. For a long time this part of the city has been lacking in quality hospitality venues and it’s great to be able to socialise without having to go into the city centre or further afield. I’ve always said that I want to provide a city centre experience with city centre standards in the suburbs.
Do you have a target in mind in terms of where you want the business to grow?
During the first enforced lockdown I took the opportunity to refurbish the first floor of the venue to provide a separate private hire area. We got all the dusty, noisy dirty work out of the way while the customers were gone. When we are able to reopen again the plan is to build on the strength of the main bar/restaurant and develop this area – for private parties and functions but also providing meeting space for different groups mid week.
What challenges have you faced?
Without doubt the biggest challenge this year has been Covid-19. We have just passed our first anniversary and we have been closed for five of the first 12 months trading.
That has been difficult. But in our industry we learn to adapt and pivot. During the first lockdown we provided 135 meals every day to the elderly and vulnerable in the north Belfast area and during this current lockdown We launched our ‘Ben Madigan’s to go’ – restaurant quality food at home.
Who most inspires you?
People that take risks and aren’t afraid to take chances.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
In a few years, once we have had a proper few years trading post-Covid, I would hope to have venue number two under my belt or in the planning stages. Somewhere with a similar ethos to Ben Madigan’s but in a different part of the city. However it would need to be the right venue with the right location. I’m not going to rush into anything. The last year has taught me that nothing can be taken for granted.