Reinventing the Irish pub

Brothers Sean and Kevin Redmond from Andy’s Bar in Monaghan are attempting to help reinvent our industry. The duo have teamed up with current Irish Cocktail Champion and 2014 IBA World Silver Medallist Eddie Rudzinkas from Monaghan’s Four Seasons Hotel to create a drinks and food menu to ‘wow’ the customer.

Of all the trends developing over the last few years in the bar trade you can witness continuing growth of two in particular: the popularity of craft beers and a strong desire to purchase locally.

Andy’s Bar in Monaghan has taken up and run with both trends, using local suppliers to introduce their customers to beer cocktails.

Eddie Ridzinskas from the Four Seasons Hotel in Monaghan has created a beer cocktail using beer from Seamus & Siobhan McMahon of Brehon Brewing Company, Carrickmacross and and cider from Pat McKeever of Long Meadow Cider.

He took both products and created premium cocktails with them. The ‘Brehon Blonde Shell’ includes Seamus’s signature Brehon Blonde, Bombay Sapphire Gin and Saint Germaine Elderflower Liquor – a very realistic proposal for the less-skilled bar person. Eddie calls this “stir and pour” – perfect for the less flamboyant server, self-conscious of shakers.

Phil Bizzel, the Masterbrewer at the Brehon Brewhouse, was amazed with how the gin and Elderflower complemented his Blonde and Pat McKeever recently asked Eddie to develop an exclusive range of flavoured ciders.


Something different

Andy’s proprietors, brothers Sean and Kevin Redmond firmly believe in attracting customers through offering something different in their multi-award-winning pub.

“It’s important to make your pub different, giving customers a reason to come to your outlet,” reasoned Kevin who feels that the pub must deliver on a number of levels if it’s going to survive and prosper.

“If we all sell the same product and service – well sure does it really matter who we buy from?” he asked, “Critically, you must differentiate your business in the eyes of the customer.”

Kevin should know. He lectures in consumer behaviour for the Paris Institut International du Commerce et du Dėveloppement and has adopted some of the tricks of consumer behaviour.


Craft offering

Andy’s has embraced the craft beer trend with open arms.

The team there makes a point of visiting each brewer and learning more about their operation. This proves a real game-changer when selling the product and great working relationships have been developed with Seamus McMahon and Pat McKeever.

Kevin explained: “When you know the product, the orchard, the brewery etc you have an affinity with it, so when you buy in the product you have a certain tie to it through this affinity.”

Sean continued, “We soon discovered that there was demand for craft beers, particularly with the 25 to 40 age-bracket. Initially we decided that we’d only stock Irish craft beers. Our strategy has changed slightly and we’re focusing on serving local beers, ciders and now whiskey.”

Here at Andy’s they do things differently.

“Whenever you walk into an Apple store the product is displayed on rows of tables,” said Kevin, “In Andy’s our craft beers are prominently displayed on the counter. Customers can walk up to the counter and examine the various product offerings – as a result sales have rocketed!”

As on-trade volumes shrink with consumers leaning towards premium niche brands craft beers by their nature boast being hand-made in small volumes and somewhat quirky. The same theme can be witnessed in the whiskey market with the recent arrival of new entrants producing whiskeys characterised by high quality and small-batch production.

To this end Andy’s Bar firmly believes in bringing the ‘Wow factor’ to the fore through a number of promotions down the years which included special menus, cocktail menus and weekly specials.

The bar’s new Gin Menu makes use of a range of both premium gins and premium mixers, “… what’s the point in having a premium spirit if you don’t have a premium mixer to go with it,” reasoned Sean with Andy’s seeing no resistance to its pitching the price at €8.00 for the combo.

“The easiest customer to get into your pub is your ‘local’,” believes Kevin, so why not attract in the males with craft beers and with a premium gin offering for the females?

But how do you reinvent to connect with the customer and re-excite them to leave their comfy homes? Could craft beers and ciders become the catalyst encouraging consumers to return in numbers? The team in Andy’s certainly think so. But a year ago Andy’s invested in a state-of-the art cold room to dry-age its beef.


Local produce

Nearly everything is produced in-house: mayonnaise, chilli sauce etc so even if you only have steak and chips with garlic mayonnaise, it tastes better than people expect, explained Sean.

“Andy’s Blonde Ale, is a great match for steaks or fish,” agreed Kevin.

Food pairing these with the pub’s famous dry-aged steak also helps get out something different to the discerning customer at Andy’s Bar.


Increase the spend

Increasing the average spend holds the key to profit. Traditionally, well-trained servers could upsell in a gastropub by suggesting a portion of French Fried Onions with a steak. Andy’s has taken this one stage further too.

“We offer a Smoked Raspberry Stout as an alternative to a dessert,” explained Sean, “The bitterness of stout contrasts well with chocolate mousse or fudge cake”.

Take India Pale Ale – the dryness and hoppy grapefruit citrus flavours work well with grilled or battered fish dishes.


Pedigree Mixoloists

Andy’s doesn’t do things by halves.

“Our drinks menu has been exclusively designed by two of Ireland’s finest mixologists Deirdre Byrne and Eddie Rudzinskas,” explained Sean.

Deirdre took the 2013 All Ireland Cocktail Champion and became the first female mixologist to represent Ireland at the International Bartenders Association World Cocktail Competition in Prague that year. Not only did she compete – she struck Gold, winning Ireland’s first-ever Gold Medal.

Eddie, well-known to Andy’s customers, has worked with the Redmonds for five-and-a-half years. He claimed the 2014 All Ireland title and qualified for the 40th World Cocktail Championships in Cape Town, South Africa.

“He’s creating drinks that can only be described as masterpiece and pure theatre!” said Sean.

But Eddie uses a modest number of ingredients, just four or five.

His garnish will tie in with cocktails too – nothing’s superfluous. The name of the cocktail tells a story and a story told to a customer might just lead to a sale.

“I really like the respect he has for the base product – cider, beer or whiskey,” said Sean, “He doesn’t overpower or kill these flavours and he involves the audience as he builds up a flavour profile of the drink.

“The guest can also see him building up aroma using natural ingredients, base products or the oil in fruit – and even by smoking.”

With many customers still on modest budgets and looking lustfully at supermarket prices, the Irish pub must represent one of the most difficult business models imaginable. But it can be made work with a little imagination and local appeal.

It’s an exciting prospect to use local produce and everyone has noticed the number of local beers and ciders coming onstream.

“This may just be the opportunity for the trade to re-invent itself,” Kevin believes, “It’s an exciting proposition that local pubs are now selling local beers.”

And Kevin exemplifies the importance of social media’s sales role as we sit down to eat by photographing the fish dish and putting it up on facebook – just so that Andy’s customers can see what they’re missing until they next return.


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