Late last year, the Business Post launched its first food podcast with FOOD AND WINE’s new editor Gillian Nelis. Throughout the course of the eight-episode series, Gillian spoke to lots of prominent figures in the Irish food industry.
In one of the most interesting episodes, Gillian sat down with Damien Grey, chef-proprietor at Michelin-starred restaurant Liath in Blackrock, Dublin. Throughout the episode, Damien continuously comes back to the concept of a restaurant as a business.
You might not think about what goes on behind the scenes at your favourite restaurant, but to survive, it needs to be run with a razor-sharp focus on the business, from cost per cover right up to future potential.
When Andrew Heron parted ways with Damien in 2018, effectively killing Heron and Grey as a restaurant, many wondered what that would mean for the tiny Blackrock restaurant that had stunned punters and critics alike. But Damien didn’t have to wonder as he already knew what lay in the future: a 22-seater restaurant that serves a ten-course, no-choice menu four nights a week.
By creating a menu that he likens to a ‘swanky wedding function menu’, costings at Liath can be tightly controlled by Damien. The refurb at Liath was undertaken with a view that the restaurant won’t exist in six years time, as he wants to move it to a farm where he can grow his own produce. Damien borrowed just enough money to see his vision come to life, knowing that even if Liath didn’t work out, he would be able to ‘pay his way’.
His focus on running Liath like a business might just be what has made the restaurant so successful. Reservations are hard to come by, so guests wait for months with bated breath for their chance to sample the fabled smoked eel cone at Liath.
What the future holds
Maybe in six years time, Liath won’t exist as we currently know it: the Grey family will be running Damien’s dream countryside retreat, where guests spend the weekend dining like kings. It might just be a dream now, but with Damien’s ambitious, business-focused mind in the driving seat, we wouldn’t bet against his plan.
To hear what else Damien had to say about Liath, listen to Plate: the Business Post Food podcast with Gillian Nelis, which is available on all streaming platforms, including Soundcloud, Spotify and iTunes.