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Foodies Fight Back with Lucinda

Foodies Fight Back with Lucinda

Thursday 18 June 2020

Barbara Berman and Clive Wallace, of Berman & Wallace, have catered for many big names - including the Pope during his visit to Ireland in 2018. They're also caterers to Leinster Rugby.
Based in Belfield Office Park in Clonskeagh, Dublin, where they also have a restaurant, Clive is the chef while Barbara is front of house and looks after business development. They also employ 20 staff, who have had to be temporarily laid off.

"Our restaurant is based in a business park and our catering clients are mainly corporate so our entire customer base disappeared and we had very little local presence as our restaurant doesn't open evenings or weekends.Two weeks into the lockdown, we decided to try 'Dinner to your Door', high-end hot restaurant food delivered at weekends. We had an uphill battle, but through friends, local clients, social media and word of mouth, we've reached a local audience and, in the process, met some amazing people. We've now also introduced a range of home-cooked freshly frozen meals - also delivered. On top of that, we are now offering gift boxes of home-cooked frozen meals delivered to the recipients," says Barbara.

"While our current operation provides only a fraction of our normal business, it's providing a contribution to our fixed costs and keeping our business alive. More than that though, it's made us think very differently and really opened our minds. We've seen so much support and kindness - including clients buying dinner for a friend - a nice way to offer cheer in a difficult time."

Tastes and times have changed a lot since Helena and Eugene Hickey first started rearing a few ducks in their barn in 1994 in Skeaghanore, West Cork. It wasn't long before it was clear that they were hitting all the right notes at the local markets and shops, and Skeaghanore Pekin duck has been a firm favourite in restaurants near and far for many years now.

Today, some 26 years later, their business has really grown, with all of their processing being done at their 5,000 sq ft factory and their son Daniel is an active participant in the business.
It hasn't all been plain sailing for the family though, having battled their way through the last recession not so long ago. "Diversification is the key for any small business," Daniel says. "In 2008, the business had to change as sales took a huge dip and fresh duck was just not selling." This was when Helena started hot smoking duck breast and confiting duck legs to find another avenue for sales. "This worked well and got us through the last recession." Both of these products are now available under the Simply Better range at Dunnes Stores and also in certain SuperValu branches.

"Restaurants make up about 80pc of our sales, so we got a huge shock when they were closed. After the initial shock, we decided to try doing a few things differently. We've become active on social media. Our new website has an online shop option and our online sales have hugely increased with nationwide delivery available. Neighbourhood markets have grown in popularity and this has been a life saver for us.

"Restaurants that we had been supplying have started opening as takeaways also, so we're delighted. Finally, like in 2008, we've diversified again. We launched our first batch of Skeaghanore fresh chickens this month, which sold out straight away."

They also have a 100-cow milking herd. It's all go in West Cork, and the Hickey family are certainly ready to fight back.

Having had a successful career in Dublin, at both Chapter One and the former Restaurant 41, Peter Everett returned to his native Waterford and opened his eponymous restaurant with his partner Keith Noonan in 2018, which has been a tremendous success.

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First Published In The Sunday Independent