A Day in the Life… Brian McRandal, owner of Cookiebox & The Curran Court Hotel, Larne
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
I am the founder and co-owner along with my wife Claire of the Cookiebox, which was started in December 1998 and now has five shops in and around the greater Belfast area with a sixth one due to open before the end of June at the Abbey Centre. In addition to this, we recently purchased the Curran Court Hotel in Larne, which had been in administrative receivership for nine months before the acquisition.
With the purchase of the Curran Court Hotel, my role within the Cookiebox has changed significantly where I now leave the day-to-day management of the business to some of my family members who manage the shops for me and I perform a strategic leadership role. This has afforded them the opportunity to take on more responsibility, and it gives me great peace of mind knowing that the business is being well managed by people who have a real passion for it.
Over the last few months, I have spent most of my time in the Curran Court getting to know the staff, customers and analysing how the business can be evolved over the coming years. As part of the acquisition, all the staff transferred across under the TUPE regulations and I can happily say that each and every one is a credit to the business.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
At the age of 18, I went to Cheltenham to study Hotel, Catering & Institutional Management. Once there, I started working for McDonald’s Restaurants and was offered a salaried management position in their Cheltenham Drive Thru which was the business in the central region. Over the next few years, I progressed through to become an operations consultant, managing a group of up to 15 stores at a time with a turnover of up to £50m pa. At the time I became an operations consultant, I had only been a salaried manager for just over three years and a store manager for only 15 months; making me one of the fastest ever promoted operations consultants in the UK. During my time with McDonald’s, I looked after stores from Worcester right down the M5 corridor to Weston Super-mare. After 12 years working for a large corporation, I decided the time had come to start something myself and that is when I came up with the Cookiebox concept.
WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
I can honestly say there are no bad parts to my current working life. It can be exhaustive at times and some days are better than others but, in general, I enjoy going to work every day and seeing just what that day has to offer. The best part by far is being able to offer people opportunities to grow and develop and seeing the influence this can have on their life.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT THE INDUSTRY?
The big challenge is consistency. Everyone can offer a great service or product on their best days but it’s trying to ensure that every day is as good as it can be because every customer deserves our best. This sector is all about people and the real challenge is in trying to get the best from them each and every day they are representing my businesses.
OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
Generally my day will start at 6am with one of my 3-year-old twin boys waking. From there, I generally will be out to work between 7am and 8am. The hotel is only two minutes from my house so I have very little commuting for the first time in 20 years. We are currently rebranding all aspects of the hotel from website to key cards for the rooms and menus etc, so a lot of my time is currently spent working on this with designers, suppliers and internally with the management team and head chef.
Generally, I will have breakfast in the hotel about 9.45am by which time I can speak to my family regarding Cookiebox topics. My morning is generally taken up by admin-based tasks or meetings but I try to be floor-based over lunch in the hotel and again at dinner time to make sure that our guests are well looked after.
Every day is different and, to date, I have tried to be in the hotel during busy times to meet as many of our long-established customers as possible and offer support for the staff during peak periods of business. It’s during these times of stress that you learn the most about both your staff and the systems in place to run the business.
PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE
Probably the day I signed the paperwork to complete the deal for the Curran Court Hotel. I had put a tremendous amount of work into getting the deal completed and it was a massive relief to finally get it done. The Curran Court Hotel is the first place I can ever remember eating out with my family as a child, and it made me incredibly proud to secure the future of the business and its staff. I have always been very proud to be from Larne and represent Larne in various sports and being able to give something back to the community felt very rewarding.
BEST THING ABOUT BEING INVOLVED IN THE INDUSTRY
The people you meet and experiences you have. No two days are the same as every day brings new and different people through the doors each with their own personalities and experiences to share.
Taking the time to listen to these can be enlightening, humbling and very rewarding.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO TO UNWIND AWAY FROM WORK?
Spending time with my wife Claire and our boys, Hugo and Louis, is how I enjoy spending any spare time I get at the minute. Every day seems to bring something new as they develop and I love to spend as much time seeing them grow up as I can.
I am also a keen sports fan. I played table tennis for Ireland as a junior and tennis for Ulster at both junior and now Vets level. I enjoy competing and have held national tennis titles at both Over 35 and Over 40 age groups. In addition to this, I am in my second year as Tennis Captain at Larne Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club; a club that I first joined as an 8-year-old.
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