Business Irish

Thursday 17 August 2017

Avoca's 'farm to fork' concept fast-tracked in new store

Vanessa, Donald, Hilary and Simon Pratt at the launch of the new Avoca Dunboyne. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Vanessa, Donald, Hilary and Simon Pratt at the launch of the new Avoca Dunboyne. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

The opening of the 12th Avoca store - and at 56,000 sq feet, the biggest yet - has seen the business push out its fresh food concept more than ever before.

Avoca's managing director, Simon Pratt, says the size of the new €3m premises in Dunboyne, Co Meath "gave us a very big canvas to do some extra things".

"The piece that is most innovative for me is the 20,000 sq feet of vegetables and salads.

"We've already started harvesting that directly into the cafe so we can be picking salad leaves at midday and putting them on your plate at 1pm. I think that is a really new thing, and to be done on that scale is very unusual. People talk about having herb gardens for their restaurants but it turned out to be a window box.

"We are going to grow things that make a difference like garden peas, broad beans and things that are genuinely way better and taste differently freshly picked."

The Pratt family lifestyle business covering food and fashion was sold to Aramark in January 2016 for around €60m and while the company is now owned by an American group, the next step for Avoca will be closer to home.

"We are actively looking at the UK. I've been over and back quite a lot over the course of the last six months and are trying to refine that search," said Pratt.

"We will be looking to do similar things to Dunboyne, Kilmacanogue and Rathcoole, our large, out-of-town formats, but we haven't nailed down exactly what those properties would look like. It could be an old mill or a garden centre conversion or somewhere with a lovely view. We will look at them all individually depending on what the property offers or what it suggests to our imagination." While their expansion growth has been sizeable, Simon confirmed that plans to open a branch of Avoca off the N4 near Lucan will not now be going ahead.

Pratt signed a three-year contract when Aramark took over the company. "During the course of the three years, my role is going to turn into more of a strategic role and less of a operations role," he said.

His sister Vanessa runs the non-food retail aspect of Avoca. His brother, Ivan, bought back the mill in Avoca village and their father, Donald, who started Avoca in the 70s with his teacher wife Hilary, still runs the garden in Mount Usher in Co Wicklow.

"He does that for fun," said Simon.

"My sister Amanda is no longer is the business but she is doing very creative work for independent projects and we keep closely in touch about that," he added.

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