Tuesday 25 September 2018

Pat McDonagh reveals how he came up with the idea of 'Supermacs'

'I had to look around and see what else the town needed. I thought it needed a nightclub, a furniture shop or a fast-food restaurant'

Pat McDonagh inside the O'Connell Street branch of Supermac's. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Pat McDonagh inside the O'Connell Street branch of Supermac's. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

Irish businessman Pat McDonagh has revealed how he came up with the idea for his Supermac's fast food business.

The Galwegian who, along with his wife Una, has up a diverse business empire valued at €110m, started his working life as a teacher.

Speaking to RTE Radio One's Miriam O'Callaghan, Pat said he was the type of person who was always looking to do something different with his time.

The young man, nicknamed Supermac in school, invested in a small building on Main Street, Ballinasloe in 1978.

"I wanted to make it into a pool hall, but that got turned down in the planning permission," Pat told the programme.

"I had to look around and see what else the town needed. I thought it needed a nightclub, a furniture shop or a fast-food restaurant.

"I didn't have the money for a nightclub and there were one or two good furniture shops around, so I said 'we'll try the fast-food restaurant," he continued.

"So I suppose they couldn't turn me down the second time."

Pat described how the business was opened on a "very limited budget", but he thinks this could be the key to Supermac's success.

"The caretaker in the school I worked in did the plumbing, the carpentry, the tiling... the day we opened he was peeling potatoes down the back and chipping chips.

"It's not always that you can start a business on a tight budget, but it's a good way to start because then you appreciate anything you make along the way."

Una McDonagh, also from Galway, said she started working in the new restaurant just weeks after finishing her Leaving Cert.

"I finished up school in 1978, I wanted to be a guard at that stage but you needed to be 21 to apply.

"I was two weeks after finishing the Leaving, I had known Pat for a few years, he asked me would I work part-time at the restaurant, it had just opened.

"He asked me if I wanted a part-time job and I started there the following week."

Pat added; "Una was hitching a lift to Ballinasloe and looking for a summer job. She never fails to tell me how lucky I was to pick her up along the way. She didn't just get a job for the summer, she got a job for life," he joked.

The couple said they believe their business survived the recession because they "didn't go too mad during the Celtic Tiger".

"We didn't go too mad buying or renting places, that's where a lot of business ran into trouble where they went into big leases and they were paying high rents," Pat said.

"It's common sense in some cases that you couldn't make money out of the rent.

"When the recession did come, we hadn't a huge amount [of high rents], we had some of course, but we were able to deal with the recession.

"The recession brought its own advantages too because rents went down so that's when we went into the hotel side of the business."

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