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60 seconds with Cathal Quinn, CEO Flanagans on the Lake



60 Seconds with Cathal Quinn

If you’re visiting the beautiful shores of Lough Derg and looking for a good bar or restaurant, look no further than Flanagan’s on the Lake.

Situated in the twin towns of Ballina and Killaloe and operated by Tipperary man, Cathal Quinn, Flanagan’s will allow you to sit back and enjoy a drink or a meal, while taking in the beautiful scenery of the area.

Give us some background on the Flanagan’s on the Lake story.

Flanagans on the Lake is a beautiful bar restaurant situated on the shores of Lough Derg in the twin towns of Ballina Killaloe Co Tipperary. It caters for tourists and locals alike, providing fine foods wines and spirits. After finding myself unemployed in 2009 due to the economic crisis, an opportunity arose to lease the property known as Flanagan’s on the Lake.

A former project manager in the construction industry, I managed to grow the restaurant and bar business during bleak economic times. Money was scarce and people’s confidence was very low during 2010 and 11; you had to be very inventive to get people out to dine and spend.

By 2013 the business was starting to grow and I approached the banks with a view to buying the business. It was very difficult to raise capital during this time, especially for anything in the hospitality sector, but my proposal and figures were sound and I managed to get it over the line.

What features have you added to Flanagan’s over the years?

I have added some features to Flanagan’s over the years: the expansion of the dining terrace overlooking the Shannon. The building of the Whiskey Tower was the next project – a purpose built room where Flanagan’s Whiskey Club meet once a month, surrounded by some of the finest whiskeys from around the world. Most recently the addition of self-catering apartments to the rear of Flanagan’s have been a great success as many patrons who visit can stay beside the venue and in the heart of the village of Ballina.

How important are the team that you have built up over the years?

Many of the team that currently work at Flanagan’s have been there for the past eight years which is not a common feature of the hospitality business. We are very much a team here at Flanagan’s – a trait that I have transferred from my project management days. We break the year down into projects: high season, low season, festival season and Christmas. This system helps staff to focus on the tasks at hand, allows for holiday time and, as each project has a start, middle and end, helps with motivation. When you get good people to work within your business, you need to look after them – especially in hospitality.

What are the biggest everyday challenges of working in the hospitality and food industry?

Standards, quality and being consistent are the biggest everyday challenges of the hospitality sector. Flanagan’s is open from 10.30am to past midnight, seven days a week. So maintaining standards across three kitchen teams is a challenge. Good relationships with your suppliers is key. A good tip is always pay on time – you tend to get a better service if you do.

Your Whiskey tower at Flanagans is drawing visitors from across Europe. Why?

The Whiskey Tower at Flanagan’s has been a great success with visitors from around the world making their way there to have a masterclass in whiskey and explore the wonderful world of whiskey. There has been a revolution in Irish whiskey worldwide and interest especially from the European and American market is driving a huge growth in sales. This market has a long way to go. Without leaving the tower, you can take a trip through time from the Irish monks making Uisce Beatha leading to the birth of whiskey, and from Ireland to Scotland to the USA sampling different whiskeys as you go through the story.

What the next big development plan for Flanagan’s on the Lake?

The next big development for Flanagan’s is our expansion plans. This Autumn we are opening a new premises in Limerick City. Limerick is on the up and I feel there is room for our brand of hospitality. Work has already commenced on the new premises at 31 Thomas street Limerick. Flanagan’s Town House and Whiskey Cellar will cater for the strong local winter trade while also focusing on the growth of tourist numbers in Limerick during the summer.

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