Thai restaurant chain to expand across Northern Ireland

by Emma Deighan

The first Camile restaurant on the Lisburn Road

The owner of a Thai restaurant chain is on the lookout for new franchisees to help expand the business across Northern Ireland.

Former O’Brien’s sandwich shop boss Brody Sweeney is looking to grow the burgeoning business Camile, as he prepares to open his second Thai unit in Belfast this month.

Mr Sweeney, who opened his first Northern Ireland branch of Camile — part of a chain of healthy Thai takeaways — on the Lisburn Road last year, is preparing to set up shop in Ballyhackamore.

The new restaurant in east Belfast will employ 20 people, bringing the number of employees at Camile in Northern Ireland to 38.

“Ballyhackamore is developing as a foodie area with lot of restaurants there,” Mr Sweeney said.

“We’ve just about finished the fit-out and have employed the bulk of the staff but we are still looking for chefs.”

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.

He said: “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 isn’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.

“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 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 his Lisburn Road 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.

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