Restaurant Awards

Ireland’s best restaurant for 2019 revealed

Members of Excel Recruitment’s hospitality team were delighted to attend last night’s 2019 Irish Restaurant Awards in Dublin’s Clayton Hotel. The big winners on the night were of an incredibly high calibre and shining examples of the exceptional standards in the Irish food industry.

Loam in Galway city took the crown as Ireland’s restaurant of the year 2019. The Michelin-starred dining room and wine bar opened in 2014 and differentiates itself with its strong sustainability ethos and by only using ingredients from the West of Ireland. It is owned and run by Enda McEvoy, who was voted best chef in Ireland at the awards in 2016. The best chef 2019 is Graham Neville of Dax Restaurant on Pembroke Street Upper, Dublin. Pub of the year is Doheny and Nesbitt, Baggot Street, with The Old Spot, Bath Avenue, Dublin, taking the gastro pub honours. The best newcomer national winner is Everett’s Restaurant in Waterford,

Run by the Restaurants Association of Ireland, the awards are renowned for the high standards of the entrants and thorough selection process with a public vote, regional judging panels, a mystery guest visit, and a final assessment by the event’s National Awards Academy, comprising food writers, bloggers and culinary academics. This year saw more than 90,000 nominations were made by members of the public.

Congratulations from Excel Recruitment to all the very deserving winners, see the full list of winners below.


Best Restaurant

Dublin – Dax Restaurant

Connaught – Loam

Leinster – Eastern Seaboard Bar & Grill

Munster – Wild Honey Inn

Ulster – OX

All Ireland – Loam

Best Chef

Dublin – Graham Neville of Dax Restaurant

Connaught – Barry Ralph of House of Plates

Leinster – Deirdre Adamson of The Fatted Calf

Munster – Peter Everett of Everett’s Restaurant

Ulster – Chris McGowan of Wine and Brine

All Ireland – Graham Neville of Dax Restaurant

Best Restaurant Manager

Dublin – Denise McBrien of The Old Spot

Connaught – Eva Ivanova of Sage

Leinster – Edwina Hynes of La Côte Seafood Restaurant

Munster – John Edward Joyce of The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge

Ulster – Saul McConnell of Noble

All Ireland – Eva Ivanova of Sage

Pub of the Year

Dublin – Doheny and Nesbitt

Connaught – V.J Doherty’s

Leinster – Hamilton’s Pub

Munster – Levis Corner House

Ulster – Coach House & Olde Bar

All -Ireland – Doheny and Nesbitt

Best Hotel and Guesthouse Restaurant

Dublin – The Saddle Room at The Shelbourne Hotel

Connaught – West Restaurant at the Twelve Hotel

Leinster – Brabazon Restaurant at Tankardstown House

Munster – Gregans Castle Hotel

Ulster – Newforge House

All Ireland – Gregans Castle Hotel

Best Newcomer

Dublin – Uno Mas

Connaught – Passione by the Slice

Leinster – Lily’s On Church Street

Munster – Everett’s

Ulster – Hara

All Ireland – Everett’s

Best Gastro Pub

Dublin – The Old Spot

Connaught – Bar One

Leinster – The Ballymore Inn

Munster – Mikey Ryan’s Bar and Kitchen

Ulster – Clenaghans

All Ireland – The Old Spot

Best Customer Service

Dublin – Luna

Connaught – Park House Hotel

Leinster – Lennons @ Visual

Munster – Ballyvolane House

Ulster – The Muddlers Club

All Ireland – The Muddlers Club

Best Casual Dining

Dublin – 777

Connaught – Hooked Sligo

Leinster – Truffles Restaurant and Wine Bar

Munster – Bodega

Ulster – The Olde Glen Bar, Restaurant and Tea Room

All -Ireland – 777

Best Wine Experience

Dublin – Green Man Wines

Connaught – Le Petit Pois

Leinster – Barrows Keep

Munster – The Black Pig

Ulster – OX

All Ireland – Green Man Wines

Best Kids Size Me

Dublin – Old Street Restaurant

Connaught – Shells Seaside Bakery and Café

Leinster – Tiffin by Sunil

Munster – No. 9 Café

Ulster – Oak Room Restaurant

All Ireland – Old Street Restaurant

Best World Cuisine

Dublin – 3 Leaves

Connaught – Spice India

Leinster – Pink Salt Indian Restaurant

Munster – Iyer’s

Ulster – Tuk Tuk Asian Bistro

All Ireland – 3 Leaves

Best Café

Dublin – Two Pups

Connaught – Connemara Greenway Café & Restaurant

Leinster – Knockdrinna Farm Shop & Artisan Café

Munster – Good Day Deli

Ulster – Dinkin’s Home Bakery & Café

All Ireland – Connemara Greenway Café & Restaurant

Best Free From

Dublin – Urbanity

Connaught – Drumanilra Farm Kitchen

Leinster – Zucchini’s Restaurant

Munster – Grow HQ

Ulster – The Olde Post Inn

All Ireland – Grow HQ

Local Food Hero

All -Ireland – Seán Hussey of Hussey & Sons Fruit & Veg

Dublin – Seán Hussey of Hussey & Sons Fruit & Veg

Best Emerging Irish Cuisine

Dublin – Forest & Marcy

Connaught – An Port Mór Restaurant

Leinster – Thyme Restaurant

Munster – No. 35 Restaurant

Ulster – Wine and Brine

All Ireland – No. 35 Restaurant

Best Digital Marketing

All -Ireland – Michael’s Mount Merrion

Best Cookery School

All -Ireland – The Neven Maguire Cookery School

Best Private Dining and Club Restaurant

All -Ireland – Stephens Green Hibernian Club

Best Seafood Experience

All-Ireland – Fish Shop, Benburb Street

Best Cocktail Experience

All -Ireland – The Tack Room at Adare Manor

Shane Mclave General Manager

Shane McLave on Budget 19: VAT increase for hospitality industry ‘reckless’

The Restaurant’s Association of Ireland has called the Budget ‘thoughtless’, a sentiment that will be shared with many in the hospitality industry this week as they begin to do the sums on how the VAT increase to 13.5% will affect their business.

I, and Excel Recruitment, have always supported the campaign to KeepVatat9 and while expected, feel Tuesday ’s decision by the government was absolutely the wrong one. The Minister for Finance showed not only a lack of understanding on the difficulties faced by the industry- particularly rural and border area businesses but also complete disregard of the importance a buoyant tourism industry to the wider economy.

Budget 2019 was most certainly an election budget. While social housing and healthcare are hugely important and deserve as much funding as possible where these increases have come from have not been thought through- or fairly distributed, with employers being forced to pick up the bill. It’s not a case of business in general being hit. Most companies, including some of the country’s most profitable were unaffected by the Budget while landlords with hundreds, often thousands, of properties and few employees escaped any tax hikes at all.

‘These are the businesses that need to be protected- not placed under further pressure’

In contrast, small and medium businesses such as family-owned pubs, cafés and restaurants are going to take a big hit over the next year. These are actually the businesses that need to be protected- not placed under further pressure. Many are located in rural areas and are vital to employment and life in their local areas.

These businesses were also hit with the news that minimum wage will be increased to €9.80. It’s great that workers on minimum wage will receive an increase but on the flipside, employers are now facing an increase in VAT, an increase in minimum wage and increased employer’s PRSI. To add to the pain, both increase come into effect in January, typically the sector’s quietest month.

While the industry is far healthier than it was when the 9% rate was introduced, it still faces many challenges particularly with Brexit looming and still no idea of what the implications will be on our sector. The tourism industry has already weathered the storm of the recession and is one of our most important indigenous industry- supporting economies and creating jobs across the country. This decision is irresponsible and recklessly endangers one of the country’s biggest employers.

Shane Mclave General Manager

Budget 2019: Why Brexit is only one reason VAT at 9% must be saved

With the Budget looming, General Manager Shane Mclave offers his analysis on what this Budget, Brexit and the question mark over 9% VAT could mean for the hospitality industry

It’s the same story every year, as the hospitality industry winds down from a hectic summer season, attention turns to October’s Budget announcement and the debate around the industry’s 9% VAT rate begins again.

So will the 9% rate be kept this year or will it return to the rate of 13.5%, which was last in effect in 2011? The speculation is rampant again this year with no indications as yet from the Department of Finance as Budget Day draws nearer.Many commentators like to discuss the ‘cost’ to the Exchequer but this is an inaccurate analysis of a much bigger picture and completely ignores how beneficial the VAT rate has actually been. According to the Revenue’s own figures, in 2012, the first full year of the 9% VAT rate, income to the Exchequer was €630m from the tourist industry. This figure is anticipated to reach 1.04bn as a result of the increased activity in the sector. The 9% tourism VAT rate has been fantastic help to the Exchequer, not a hindrance.

Since the introduction of the 9% rate, the tourism industry – hotels, attractions, restaurants, B&Bs, caravan and camping sites, activity providers and many others, have created thousands of jobs. Recent figures from the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation (ITIC) show a staggering 79,100 jobs have been created in the tourism and hospitality sector since 2011.

68% of those new jobs are outside of Dublin, a feat no other industry can come close to achieving. Tourism and jobs it creates, particularly in the regions, must be supported and nurtured.

The ITIC has set ambitious goals for the industry, such as growing overseas earnings by 65%. This is only possible with government support… and the retention of the 9% rate. Any further increases in costs will achieve nothing other than stifling demand and damage one of the country’s biggest employers. Now is not the time to meddle with a successful formula that has worked so well and has so much more to offer. With unemployment so low and the minimum wage set to increase further, salaries and wages are increasing meaning the industry is facing mounting labour costs in the coming years. Now, is the exact wrong time to place further financial pressure on the industry.

What many seem to forget is that the 9% rate is not that unusual and actually brings Ireland’s tourism industry in line with the rest of Europe. 16 of 19 eurozone countries have tourism VAT rates of 10pc or less, making Ireland fully competitive with other European cities. This point can’t be stressed enough considering we still don’t know what Brexit will look like. No matter how hard or soft it is, Brexit will have an effect on Irish tourism, a fact the government must keep in mind. Irish tourism is uniquely exposed to Brexit with 40pc of all international visitors coming from Britain.

The VAT rate has enabled Ireland’s hospitality industry to do fantastic things- attracting more tourists, grow across the country and employ thousands of people. For all these reasons and so much more, Keeping Vat at 9% is an absolute must.

Pope's Visit 2018

Pope’s visit ‘a disaster’ for Dublin retailers and restaurants

Dublin retailers and restaurateurs saw custom drop by up to 50% over the weekend of Pope Francis’ visit in what many are calling a ‘missed opportunity’. The weekend saw widespread traffic restrictions implemented across Dublin to accommodate the papal visit, with more than 50 road closures. Business groups representing both industries are blaming poor communication around the traffic restrictions for the dramatic fall in sales.

Retail Excellence chief executive Lorraine Higgins said: “There was a 35-40 per cent decline in sales as a consequence and when sales are lost to that extent they can never be made back up.” Ms Higgins said the closures could have been manageable with better information and there was a lack of regard for businesses in the planning of the event.

“Businesses suffered as a consequence of a lack of communication around the papal visit. The understanding among the general public was that Dublin city centre was closed for business,” she said. “ “While there were restrictions on private cars, public transport was still running and it is a great pity that message didn’t get through….I can appreciate the efforts the various authorities have to go through, but the fact of the matter is the Pope wasn’t going through the city centre until some time after 4pm on Saturday, so retailers could have had almost a full day’s trading.”

Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said the visit was a missed opportunity to highlight what Dublin city centre had to offer. “With so many international media in Ireland this could have been a great showcase for the city, but instead it was a monumental disaster for businesses with people seeing losses of 30 to 50% depending on their location.

” Business organisations had attended a meeting at the start of August with representatives of the Garda, the National Transport Authority (NTA) and the World Meeting of Families organisers, but Mr Cummins said no further information came until the information packs were sent out to businesses and residents last Thursday. By that stage it was too late.” There was no excuse for the lack of communication, Mr Cummins said. “It’s not as if the Pope announced at the beginning of August that he was coming in three weeks’ time, the logistics surrounding this and the communications and liaison with businesses, that should all have been squared off three months ago.”

Dublin Chamber of Commerce spokesman Graeme McQueen said it had been a “tough weekend” for businesses. “This should have been a bumper weekend for retailers with kids going back to school, but it will have been even harder for the non-retail sector – cafes and restaurants – because the loss of business over those two days can’t be recovered.” The level of traffic restriction was “a little bit over the top” but the lack of information made the situation worse.

“Businesses were a bit of an afterthought, and the lack of information for customers meant they either left Dublin, or stayed put in their houses. This could have been a real festival event, and hopefully lessons will be learned for future events.”


hotel jobs

New study shows rising costs for hotels due to staff shortages

A new study has highlighted the risk of rising staffing costs for hotels as the industry faces fierce competition for staff in an economy with falling unemployment.

According to Crowe Ireland’s annual survey of Ireland’s hotel sector, the industry has seen increased turnover for the seventh consecutive year and is reaching record profitability, record occupancy and record room rates in all regions across the country. The annual Crowe Ireland survey of the country’s hotel sector said that the industry has enjoyed the seventh consecutive year of increased turnover.

The survey found that average room rates across the country rose 6.9% last year compared to 2016. In Dublin, the average room rate was 6.8% higher at €136.96. The pace of growth in average Dublin room rates last year was half that recorded in 2016, despite just 237 new rooms coming on stream. In the southwest and western seaboard, average room rates soared 8% and 9.7% respectively to €100.67 and €87.49.

Luxury hotels saw room rates rise 6.2% to €218.02, a new record. Economy hotels saw the biggest growth in average room rates, which rose 11.8% last year to €68.43.

The survey found that Dublin hotels increased their profits by 12%. Profits at hotels in the southwest jumped 17.4% on average, and by 17p% along the western seaboard. At hotels in the midlands and east, profits were 13.9% higher on average.

While this profitability is welcomed, it puts the special 9% VAT rate for the hotel industry , introduced by the Government in the depths of the financial crisis, under scrutiny as budget day approaches.

In a review of the 9% rate , the Department of Finance said it had cost the Exchequer €2.6bn since its introduction in 2011, and was now a “significant deadweight”. The Department said the reduced rate cost €490m in 2017.

Crowe Ireland partner Aiden Murphy said that payroll cost increases were the most significant threat to the hotel sector’s profitability.

The falling unemployment rate in Ireland means the premium that hotels must pay for staff above minimum wage “will have to increase”.

“There is a concern that the payroll cost for hotels, which was 34.5pc of revenue in 2017, could return to much higher levels,” he said. “Going back seven years, it would have been as high as 38pc or 39pc.”

The minimum wage currently stands at €9.55 an hour but just last month, the government agreed that the rate will rise to €9.80 from next year, following a recommendation from the Low Pay Commission. Mr Murphy said that hotels typically pay between €1 and €3 an hour above minimum wage.

Mr Murphy also said that the cost of living and accommodation in particular could push hotel workers in Dublin to move to hospitality jobs outside the capital.

“There’s a concern for certain staff in Dublin about the cost of living increasing,” he said, pointing out that workers at regional hotels would find the cost of living much lower.

Dublin restaurant Etto takes top spot at Irish Restaurant awards

Dublin’s Etto has been crowned Ireland’s Restaurant of the Year 2018.

The winning restaurant, located on Merrion Row, has taken home the award for Best Casual Dining Experience for the past four years. The restaurant also took home Best Customer Service award while head chef Barry Sun Jian took home the award for Best Chef in Dublin at the awards run by the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) earlier this week. Etto was opened in 2013 by Simon Barrett and Liz Matthews. Announcing the award, the RAI said: “Etto offers a daily changing, seasonal menu, served in a relaxed and informal environment and describe its dishes as honest and simple, using ingredients from local producers and suppliers where possible.” The prestigious award for All Ireland Best Chef went to Jess Murphy, head chef and co-owner of Kai Café Restaurant in Galway. Kai was also singled out for Best Digital Marketing.

The awards are now in their 10th year, received more than 90,000 online nominations were received for Irish restaurants and other hospitality businesses. Along with the public vote and votes from industry experts, winners were decided by judging panel assessment at regional level and by mystery inspections at National level. More than 1,000 restaurateurs, chefs and industry figures attended the All Ireland finals of the awards in Dublin on Monday night. A team of chefs, including several previous winners of the Best Chef title, cooked a six-course dinner for the finale at the Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road. The kitchen team included well known chefs included Gary O’Hanlon, of ‘The Restaurant’ fame and Danni Barry, whose restaurant, Clenaghans, took the Best Newcomer national title. Bistro in Waterford, and Elena Martinez of Crover House Hotel.

Liam Edwards, president of the RAI, said: “As an industry, the restaurateurs, pub-owners and entrepreneurs of Ireland continue to defy the odds. You strive to create jobs, expand upon Ireland’s understanding of food standards and world cuisine, all while maintaining exemplary customer service. Your support of Irish produce has never been greater and for this you should be wholeheartedly applauded.”


Best Gastro Pub:

Dublin – The Legal Eagle

Connaught – Cronin’s Sheebeen

Leinster – Lennons Gastro Pub

Munster – Moorings

Ulster – The Brewer’s House

All-Ireland – The Legal Eagle

Best Hotel & Guesthouse Restaurant:

Dublin – The Marker Hotel

Connaught – Wilde’s at The Lodge

Leinster – Ballyfin Demesne

Munster – Park Hotel Kenmare

Ulster – Newforge House

All-Ireland – Park Hotel Kenmare

Best Newcomer winners:

Dublin – Michael’s Mount Merrion

Connaught – Hooked

Leinster – Barrows Keep

Munster – Dooks Fine Foods Fethard

Ulster – Clenaghans

All-Ireland – Clenaghans

Best Cafe winners:

Dublin – Honey Truffle

Connaught – Pudding Row

Leinster – Strandfield Café

Munster – Maison Gourmet

Ulster – The Jolly Sandwich Bar

All-Ireland – Pudding Row

Best Wine Experience winners:

Dublin – Piglet Wine Bar

Connaught – Aniar Restaurant and Boutique Cookery School

Leinster – La Touche Wines 4 U

Munster – The Black Pig

Ulster – Ox Cave

All-Ireland – Piglet Wine Bar

Best World Cuisine winners:

Dublin – Nightmarket

Connaught – MoMA Restaurant

Leinster – Pink Salt Indian Restaurant

Munster – Palmento

Ulster – Tuk Tuk Asian Bistro

All-Ireland – Nightmarket

Best Kids Size Me winners:

Dublin – Michael’s Mount Merrion

Connaught – Gather Restaurant

Leinster – Platform Pizza Bar

Munster – GROW HQ Café and Food Education Centre

Ulster – Amici

All-Ireland – Michaels Mount Merrion

Best Local Food Hero winners:

Dublin – Jenny & Patrick McNally of McNally Family Farm

All-Ireland – Mark Murphy & Mark Doe of The Apprentice Chef Programme

Best Casual Dining winners:

Dublin – Hey Donna

Connaught – Gather Restaurant

Leinster – Truffles Restaurant & Wine Bar

Munster – Pilgrim’s

Ulster – Shu Restaurant Belfast

All-Ireland – Pilgrim’s

Best Emerging Irish Cuisine winners:

Dublin – Craft Restaurant

Connaught – Tartare Café + Wine Bar

Leinster – Kernel Bar & Kitchen

Munster – Sage Restaurant

Ulster – 28 Darling St

All-Ireland – Craft Restaurant

Best Restaurant Manager winners:

Dublin – Talha Pasha of Michael’s Mount Merrion

Connaught – Lee Hanifa of The Cottage Restaurant

Leinster – Joanne Harding of the Aldridge Lodge

Munster – Sally O’Brien of Farmgate Restaurant and Country Store

Ulster – Saul McConnell of NOBLE. Holywood

All-Ireland – Sally O’Brien of Farmgate Restaurant and Country Store

Best ‘Free From’ winners:

Dublin – I Monelli

Connaught – Sweet Beat Café

Leinster – Zucchini’s Restaurant

Munster – Nutrilicious Food Co

Ulster – The Dirty Duck

All-Ireland – Sweet Beat Café

Best Customer Service winners:

Dublin – Etto

Connaught – House of Plates

Leinster – Roundwood House

Munster – The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge

Ulster – Harvey’s Point

All-Ireland – Harvey’s Point

Pub of the Year winners:

Dublin – Walshs Stoneybatter

Connaught – Flynns Bar

Leinster – Morrisseys

Munster – Murphy’s Bar Brandon

Ulster – Tomneys Bar

All-Ireland – Walshs Stoneybatter

Best Chef winners:

Dublin – Barry Sun Jian of Etto

Connaught – Jess Murphy of Kai Restaurant

Leinster – Sam Moody at Ballyfin Demesne

Munster – Aidan McGrath of Wild Honey Inn

Ulster – Chris McGowan of Wine & Brine

All-Ireland – Jess Murphy of Kai Restaurant

Best Restaurant winners:

Dublin – Etto

Connaught – Cian’s on Bridge Street

Leinster – TwoCooks Restaurant & Wine Bar

Munster – Mews Restaurant

Ulster – The Muddlers Club

All-Ireland – Etto

National winners:

Best Private Dining & Club Restaurant – Locks Windsor Terrace

Best Cocktail Experience – The Sidecar at The Westbury

Best Cookery School – MacNean House & Restaurant

Best Seafood Experience – Klaw Seafood Restaurant

Best Digital Marketing – Kai Restaurant



Ballyfin Demesne named Irish hotel of the year


Ballyfin Demesne has been named the AA’s hotel of the year 2018.

The five star hotel in Co. Laois is a former boarding school which underwent an extensive nine-year restoration before opening as a luxury hotel in 2011. It stands on 600 acres of grounds and is home to a series of formal gardens designed by Jim Reynolds. The hotel was previously voted best hotel in the world in 2016 by readers of US travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler.

The B&B rate at Ballyfin starts at €960 for a double room, running to €1,710 for the best suite in the house. Most guests, however, opt for the full board package (from €1,275 for two people), which includes lunch or afternoon tea on arrival, cocktail hour, dinner in the State Dining Room or the Van Der Hagan Room, and breakfast the following morning.

Until 2015, Ballyfin was open only to residents, however reservations are now accepted for dinner for groups of up to six guests, who have variety of menu options to choose from, costing from €105 for three-courses à la carte, to €125 for an eight-course tasting menu.

Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, presenting the award to Ballyfin’s general manager Damien Bastiat in Dublin last night, said: “The story of Irish tourism over the last 10 years has been one of hard work and perseverance to get through the troubled times of the economic downturn in order to come out the other side as a thriving industry. “Ballyfin Demesne, with its welcoming staff and steep history only highlights the best of what the hospitality industry offers to visitors from at home and abroad.”

The other main award winners were Aldridge Lodge in Duncannon, Co Wexford (AA Guest House Accommodation of the Year), and The Twelve hotel in Barna, Co Galway (AA Courtesy and Care award).

New 134 room hotel planned for Galway

Press Up Entertainment, Ireland’s largest and fastest growing pub and restaurant group, are said to have acquired a site in Galway with planning permission for a 134-bedroom hotel.

The site is located near Prospect Hill received planning permission for a hotel last year following an application by Highgate Properties. It is understood Press Up paid €4.5 million for the land. In addition to the bedrooms, there is permission for two bars within the building, which will ultimately have a total gross floor area of 5,310sq m. The acquisition comes as Press Up eye opportunities to expand into the UK market in the near future.

Press Up is the largest restaurant and venue group in the country and the group behind well-known restaurants such as Captain America’s, Roberta’s and the Dean Hotel. Press Up, which last year had a turnover of about €52 million, has said it hopes to open at least nine new hospitality venues over the coming year, including the Devlin hotel in Ranelagh, Dublin, which will open in the summer.

The group is also reported to be developing a 140-bedroom hotel in Cork. It is also planning a revamp of former private members’ club Residence on St Stephen’s Green, which it purchased recently. In addition, Press Up will soon open a cocktail bar in a three-storey building on Dublin’s Aungier Street, which company documents suggest will be called The Dutch Billy. The group’s other recent purchases include the well-known Elephant & Castle restaurant business in Temple Bar.

Job vacancies in hotel sector increased 200% in last five years

Job vacancies in the hotel sector have increased by almost 200% from 2013- 2017 according to

The job board said demand for key hotel roles such as hotel chef, bartenders, waiters, receptionists, porters, cocktail mixologists and concierges have all increased hugely. Every role has experienced growth in the last five years, particularly since 2016. Vacancies for hotel chefs increased by 149 percent over the five-year period and although vacancies were down by 9pc in 2017 compared to 2016, the number remains high. Hotel bartending, mixologist and concierge vacancies all soared by 80 percent in 2017 compared to just the year before.

Ireland’s hotel sector has demonstrated remarkable resilience,” said Christopher Paye, general manager of Despite a drop in visitors and revenue from the crucial British market, 2016 proved to be a turning point for the sector, thanks to rising numbers of tourists from the rest of Europe, North America and Asia. Paye continues, “However, there is a mounting risk that demand for workers will outstrip supply, and this is already proving the case for chefs,” and he warns the growth of Ireland’s tourism industry will be “short-lived” if the skills shortages are left unaddressed.

The hospitality sector is worth €7.2bn to the Irish economy and supports an estimated 235,000 jobs. There was welcome news for the sector last week when Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys announced changes to employment permit regulations which saw the removal of certain chef grades from the ineligible occupation list. These changes will make it easier to source chefs from outside the European Economic Area.

Meanwhile, hotel group Dalata has said it expects to add some 300 jobs in Ireland this year thanks to the opening of three new hotels, two in Dublin and one in Cork. The new properties are expected to open by the end of the year.

Hospitality industry welcomes relaxed work permits for chefs

The hospitality industry has welcomed changes to work permit regulations that aim to make it easier to hire chefs from outside the European Union.

The changes remove some chef grades from the ineligible occupation list, meaning that if an employer has difficulty filling a vacancy they can look outside the EU for a suitably qualified person. The grades that were taken off the ineligible list include executive, head and sous chefs with a minimum of five years’ experience at that level, and chefs de partie, with a minimum of two years’ experience at that level. A quota will apply to the scheme, with a limit of two general employment permits per establishment and an overall quota of general employment permits of 610.

The decision was signed off by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys. Speaking about the decision she said, “My decision to remove certain chef grades from the ineligible lists will ensure that there is a mechanism to address the shortage of qualified chefs in the short term,” she said. “I have applied a quota to ensure that in the longer term the demand for chefs is met from a steady supply in the Irish labour market and, to that end, I am aware of the work that is underway to increase the supply of chefs through training initiatives such as the development of a new commis chef apprenticeship and a chef de partie apprenticeship.”

The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) welcomed the changes. “The hospitality industry in Ireland has been under significant strain in recent years in regard to staffing, and allowing more skilled professionals to enter the industry can only encourage further growth in this sector,” said Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the RAI. “The Restaurants Association of Ireland has been lobbying on this issue since 2012. There is an urgent need for 7,000 chefs per year to service our industry.”

The RAI previously warned the shortage of chefs was growing at a rate of 3,000 per year due to a lack of training places, and it had called on the Government to relax the work permit restrictions. The association claimed the shortage was limiting the expansion of the hospitality industry.