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Darryl Kavanagh

Leading Entrepreneur, Darryl Kavanagh from Waterford, Ireland reveals his 2017 plans.

Darryl Kavanagh is a remarkable entrepreneur, starting business in the hospitality trade from a young age whilst working on the family business, he has consistently bucked trends, broken records and now is about to launch his most ambitious project yet and this time it’s in the UK. RedHanded got to talk to him as he announced the opening in Cardiff of a new concept in restaurants – Seafood Shack.


What’s your background?


My background has been the hospitality business. I worked I the family business from the time I was 17 my mother and father had bars and small hotels which they ran themselves. I went and trained with Bass Charrington when I was 19 and travelled for a couple of years in Europe, I the did a business and law degree when I was 20. During the recession in the late 80s my father wasn’t in good health and I was thrown into the business at that time.


I took over Fat Sams in Waterford, Ireland, our family run bar and rebranded and expanded it. In the first year it turned €750,000. Within 4 years, I had transformed Muldoon’s (the new name) into the region’s best known landmark bar. I drove turnover to an incredible €7.5m per annum – with the addition of a club and restaurant.  In 2004 I sold Muldoon’s for a staggering €10m. The highest price procured for and bar in Ireland.

What were the reasons behind your success at that time?

I decided that I was going to bring all the experience and education that I had obtained and run the business like an industry rather than a small family business. I also surrounded myself with good people, and I always kept ahead of the curve in relation to new trends and investing.


Briefly, what happened during/after the 2008 crash?

I had wanted to expand into the Dublin market as it is a very attractive market, and I also had a concept which would only work on a large scale, this concept was Mantra and the only site that I could find at the time was in Maynooth which is approximately 20mins from Dublin. I invested €3,000,000 into the project and it opened in July 2009 which is when the crash was at its peak, the business turned €7,500,000 that year which was phenomenal given the climate, but I was getting a lot of pressure from the banks. To make a long story short they wanted to realise the asset and sell it to help their own balance sheet, I fought them through the courts and won the first couple of rounds getting the business back. But it all came down to who had the biggest wallet and they were a bank. Eventually I lost to them in early 2011.


What lessons did you learn from this?

The biggest lesson I learned from this is to never let a bank have control, my new venture is privately funded. Also not to be naive, keep focus and study what can be done better on a daily basis.


What’s been the secret to the success of these ventures?

They were all successful, I never really did anything that didn’t work but persistency and determination goes a long way.


What are you working on now? What’s the opportunity/concept?

Seafood Shack is my current project, I saw a gap in the market. Everyone has done the chicken and burger concept but nobody has done the seafood concept, so if you look at the Nandos model, that’s what I would like to do with Seafood Shack.


Where does Cardiff/Wales fit in?

I wanted to open the first unit in Bristol, but so far, I cannot get the site that fits the model.  Therefore we have been looking across the UK in some of the main cities but I can now reveal  I have just agreed terms for a lease on premises in High Street, Cardiff.  I am very impressed with the vibe and economic outlook of the city.


Best piece of advice he would give to a younger self?

Build a great team around you, treat your staff with the utmost respect they are your biggest asset, start with what you can manage yourself, and never let anyone make decisions within your business unless you are fully informed of what they are.


Seafood Shack will be launching in the Cardiff in April 2017 and various other sites across the UK are currently being considered.  Follow all the progress via their social media on Facebook or Twitter.

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