THE owners of Northern Ireland cafe business Synge & Byrne are scouting for the chain's first location in the Republic as they seek to Brexit-proof their firm.
Director and co-owner Adrian Garvey said the chain hoped to open its first outlet here by the second quarter of this year, and would target regional and commuter towns for expansion.
Synge & Byrne has seven outlets in Northern Ireland, in towns and cities including Belfast, Newry, Derry and Dungannon.
But Mr Garvey, who runs the business with his brother Damien, told the Irish Independent that the chain had put expansion in Northern Ireland on hold in the last few years due to a more subdued business environment there.
He said that finding staff in Northern Ireland also remained difficult, although with near full employment in the Republic, the chain is likely to encounter similar difficulties here.
He said the company's plan was always to expand into the Republic. "That's where the growth is for the future," he said.
Mr Garvey said that Synge & Byrne believed growth would be in what he called "community cafes", which have deep local roots and become focal points in the towns and villages in which they operate.
"We have done very little in Northern Ireland in the last two years," he said, citing business uncertainty there. "But you have to move on from that."
He said that around Dublin, Synge & Byrne would steer away from locating premises inside the M50 due to the higher costs associated with stores closer to the city.
The Garveys - whose BWL Group also operates the O'Brien's Sandwich Bars chain in Northern Ireland - developed the Synge & Byrne concept in 2013 and initially opened three outlets, with plans for almost 20 by 2018.