New Fermanagh Between the Bridges food hall, deli and café will mean 16 new jobs

Fermanagh chefs Declan O’Donoghue and Paul Curry have together found the right ingredients for faster growth in the county’s specialist food retail market.

By Sam Butler
Saturday, 15th January 2022, 5:00 pm

The long-term friends and business partners have created Between the Bridges, a food hall, deli and café in Enniskillen which is set for significant expansion over the next few months that will mean 16 new jobs in addition to the 14 they’ve already on the payroll in Enniskillen in the past nine months.

Declan (36) and Paul (41) are planning a new Between the Bridges food hall, deli and café in nearby Lisnaskea by the end of this month and a third in another Fermanagh town before Easter. Eight people are being hired for the food hall currently being renovated for opening on January 31 in the centre of Lisnaskea.

As a result of this expansion, the company expects to be employing a total of 30 people before the end of 2022. Both founding chefs also run successful small food businesses in Enniskillen Declan owns Erne Larder, a producer of sauces, relishes and jams, while Paul owns Northern Smokehouse, a pioneer of smoked products.

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One of the chefs behind the growth in Between the Bridges food halls in Fermanagh

They have also produced a range of sauces together under the Flayver brand. Their products are widely available in shops here and in the Irish Republic. Both chefs have picked up influential UK Great Taste Awards for the outstanding and handcrafted artisan foods. Declan gained widespread acclaim for condiments such as Irish bacon ketchup and Irish bacon jam, while Flayver products include Asian influenced tastes loved by Paul such as Korean BBQ sauce.

The entrepreneurs launched these artisan businesses on the back of vast experience as chefs in leading hotels and restaurants in Great Britain and the Republic. This experience of food preparation and ingredients has been carried forward into these small manufacturing operations and then into the creation of the first Between the Bridges food hall and deli in April 2021.

“Our success in Enniskillen with Between the Bridges is based on our commitment to excellent homemade products from our seven-strong kitchen team lead led by experienced chef Geri Beres. We are focused on excellent value for money and great customer service. These features will also underpin the new stores,” says Declan, a mixed martial arts enthusiast in the spare time he is currently able to set aside from his work in food.

“We developed the initial range of deli meals and snacks ourselves and also lined up other local suppliers including handcrafted breads such as sourdough and traditional Irish wheaten, soda farls, potato cakes and pancakes. Our meals are now produced by Geri Beres and his team in our fully-equipped and certified kitchen. Our heat-to-eat meals, for instance, have grown substantially during the pandemic as people have sought quality, delicious and nutritious meals they can simply pop into the over or microwave at home for outstanding flavours.

“We now have an extensive menu of freshly prepared heat-to-eat meals to suit everyone. These can also be ordered for home delivery through our website (www.betweenthebridges-ekn.com).

“Our first Christmas and the New Year seasons were exceptionally busy. We sold almost 150 prepared Christmas dinners and hundreds of food hampers with our own products and those from other local artisans. Our snack bowls were also extremely popular.”

The Enniskillen deli currently sells 3,000 heat-to-eat meals, 800 deli sandwiches and 500 fresh salads prepared by its kitchen team every week. The range of hampers of local artisan produce is now an important part of the business.

There’s also a developing range of Counted meals for calorie conscious consumers and freshly roasted coffee created especially for the food halls. Counted packaged meals include deliciously low calorie favourites such as chicken curry and chicken chow mein.

In addition to its sales in Fermanagh, the deli has linked up with the Cass and Co retail operation in Dungarvan, county Waterford in the Republic of Ireland to supply hundreds of heat-to-eat meals every week.

Declan adds: “This is an important development for use outside Northern Ireland and a business we are very keen to grow in a market that we service with products from Erne Larder and Northern Smokehouse.”

The food hall in Enniskillen also features an extensive range of food and drink from artisan producers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland including cheese and condiments.

The plans for the new retail outlets and to grow sales in the Republic will also boost dozens of other local artisan producers here who provide ingredients for the meals and snacks and for shelves in the food halls.

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