Camile boss links shortage of chefs for expansion to Brexit
Former O'Brien's sandwich shop boss Brody Sweeney is looking to grow his burgeoning Camile chain, as he prepares to open his second outlet for the Thai food brand this month.
Mr Sweeney - who opened his first Northern Ireland branch of Camile last year - is preparing to set up shop in Ballyhackamore, Belfast, in a fortnight. He is on the lookout for new franchisees to help expand the business across the North.
The new restaurant will employ 20, bringing the number of employees at Camile in Northern Ireland to 38.
Mr Sweeney said the chain, which was inspired by the fast-growing online takeaway sector, was struggling to source chefs for the new restaurant.
He believes a shortage in skills and a lack of immigrant workers is the cause.
"There is a shortage of chefs in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland and those roles are being filled by young immigrants.
"We would be the first to employ Northern Ireland natives but the staff aren't there.
"Any modern economy needs young immigrants. Local people tend to move up the food chain in jobs and aren't prepared to work for minimum wage and we need a supply of people who are prepared to take those jobs on," he said.
"We would have it at the back of our mind that Brexit could be part of the reason for shortages. Immigrant numbers are drying up because they believe the UK is not the place for them," said Mr Sweeney.
Camile was founded in 2011, two years after Mr Sweeney's O'Brien's sandwich bar chain went into liquidation and was sold to the owners of Abrakebabra.
There are already 14 successful branches in the Republic and one in London.
Noting a growth in the online food delivery market with businesses like Deliveroo, Mr Sweeney launched Camile to appeal to young professionals who want healthy, quality food that can be ordered from the 'laptop and delivered to the lap'.
"I needed to get another business, I was financially wiped out," said Mr Sweeney about the period between losing O'Brien's and launching Camille.
"If I'd a choice I would've taken a break. The new business didn't really work well at the beginning and then I spotted the move towards online food sales like Deliveroo.
"I thought that was the place to be, online, in the restaurant delivery business."
Speaking about the restaurant which opened last autumn he said: "Lisburn Road is a super area. The demographic works well for us.
"It is surrounded by young professionals in two-income households who are time poor and cash rich. They are also internet savvy so it's the right area."
Mr Sweeney also said that he hopes to open a further five or six Camile outlets in Northern Ireland, over the next year, as franchised restaurants.