We're all a bit fatigued after a full year of the Pandemic. There's been so much bad news everywhere we turn.
The team here at Drogheda Chamber have supported and celebrated the resilience, creativity and courage of our entrepreneurs over the last year. And now it's time to celebrate those that have been nimble in adapting to the changing situation. Those that have pivoted. That have used the lockdowns as opportunities to future fit and develop their businesses further.
Over the coming weeks we will interview some of these businesses and share some of the positivity and good news that we see.
This week we are talking with Mark McGowan from Scholars Townhouse Hotel
Tell us about your pre pandemic Business status
MM: We opened in 2005 and Scholars Townhouse has become a renowned accommodation provider and a food destination for tourists domestically & internationally. Scholars Townhouse is a boutique hotel, comprising of Gastro Pub, 2AA Rosette Restaurant, and a conference facility for up to 80 delegates.
What was the initial impact on your business & how did you react?
MM: We closed two businesses - Scholars & Peggys on the 15th of March 2020. The priority at that time was the health and safety of both our staff and customers. We felt it would only last a short period of time and that we would re group and have a good summer.
What changes did you make in order to cope or pivot / and to adapt to the situation?
MM: It's been a busy time on the business development front. Covid 19 accelerated an opportunity for growth for the long term future of our business. As soon as we were able to - we transformed our Dine at Scholars to a Dine at Home scenario. We implemented the technology to enable this quickly and then we also redeveloped our website and brand. Alongside this, we bolstered and retrained our personnel in digital marketing so that we were more accessible and visible to our customers.
We also kitted out our now famous coffee truck to sell confectionary, ice cream, and pastries. The coffee van has become a central part of the community, keeping the link with our customers and most importantly, keeping our people employed. Furthermore - we developed our afternoon tea range and designed packaging that makes it work as a carry out option. We've also worked on our fine dining dishes and made them look presentable in compostable containers.
In addition - we have developed a monthly virtual wine experience - where we deliver boxes with 4 wines paired with various small plates. This is now available for nationwide delivery. The ingredients are all from the Boyne Valley region, and this has become a huge success. We are open for breakfast and brunch and afternoon tea - 7 days per week. Our evening takeaway is available from Wednesday to Sunday.
What supports, grants, aids helped the most?
MM: We are so very grateful for the supports that we have received to date.
- Failte Ireland Adaptation fund,
- The Employment wage subsidy,
- Covid restrictions support scheme. Restart grants & we received the TOV for Peggy Moores pub.
- We integrated the Tap It platform to offer the local customers a cash back scheme.
- And we also brought in Q Kangaroo along with Flipdish as our ordering platforms, and Voucher Connect as a new voucher system which ties in with flipdish.
- We have engaged as much as possible with LEO Louth, Drogheda Chamber, the Restaurants Association, Boyne Valley Flavours, Discover Boyne Valley and Failte Ireland.
How are you feeling about business as we begin to plan to emerge from the lockdowns, and as vaccinations roll out?
MM: We are very excited to get both businesses operating to their full capabilities and have our full teams back to work. We are a little apprehensive about the pace of the vaccination roll out, because we will need to have good occupancy rates this summer and we also need more communication in terms of metrics and approximate dates so we can plan and make the most out of this situation. We are optimistic about the future of both of our businesses whenever we do get back to full speed and operations.
Finally … What's your top piece of advice for other businesses?
MM: Set challenges for the business. When you accomplish them, set another one. If you fail, try again and sometimes its three steps forward and two steps back but always remember you’re a step ahead of where you were to begin with.
If you'd like to be featured in this series - We'd love to hear from you
@Drogheda & District Chamber.