WITH two thriving restaurants on the go for years now - and a fledgling restaurant just taking off - the Cornstore Group could be forgiven for sitting back a little and enjoying its success. But that's not on its agenda any time soon.
Started in 2007 by Limerick man Padraic Frawley, whose family are well-known in Munster for beef production, Cornstore opened its Cork restaurant first, followed by Limerick in 2008. Each has a capacity of 200, making them among the largest in each city, and allowing them to carve out a strong corporate niche. The two are identical in every way, from their layout to their specialities (steak, seafood, cocktails).
The group, which has a staff of 50, has been defined by its ability to consistently look ahead and give itself that added edge. For example, two years ago saw Frawley and his business partner Mike Ryan develop their own dry-aging facility: a major investment, but appropriate given that the Cornstore restaurants are so closely associated with good, locally produced steak.
"We were one of the first restaurants in Ireland to dry-age beef in house," says sales and marketing manager Mags O'Connor.
But although steak remains its defining product, the Cornstore Group also produces an award-winning chicken rub, chutneys, wing sauces and more. These are sold through the restaurants and at local markets. Not just that, it has forged a strong reputation for its cocktails, and was named best cocktail bar (for both its restaurants) in Ireland at last year's Licensing World's Bar of the Year Awards. It infuses its own fruit and vegetable-based elixirs for up to 14 days, and uses them as the basis for its signature cocktail range.
As O'Connor outlines, the group never sits still for long. "Every couple of months we launch a different campaign, so for example, the February one is 'best of the best'; we've been asking customers what they miss most from the menus over the years."
March/April will see it focusing again on its flagship dry-aged beef, and the company has also sourced local Wagyu beef to add to its offering in the near future. It is working on installing a smoking unit, which O'Connor says should work well with its fish menu in summertime.
Not content with all that, the group has also recently added Coqbull to its restaurant family. Opened in Cork city centre last year, Coqbull specialises in rotisserie chicken and beef burgers, and plans are afoot to launch in Dublin and Limerick this year. All told, it is an exciting time at the Cornstore, and the group envisages doubling its €6 million turnover within the next two years.
Visit www.cornstorecork.ie or www.cornstorerestaurantslimerick.ie