The UK hospitality market amongst the chains has seen some high-profile casualties in the past few months, but it’s not all doom and gloom in the sector as demonstrated by the growth of the Mikhail Hotel & Leisure Group.
Their recent opening of Punch Tarmey’s Liverpool in the Baltic Triangle is the third and part of a trend locally and regionally which has seen a steady growth in new Irish pub openings.
Mikhail Hotel & Leisure Group chairman Andrew Mikhail believes Irish pubs and themed pubs hark back to traditional family values with a huge warmth of welcome and familiarity for those visiting.
“I’ve seen countless amounts of Irish pubs over the years that have popped up and the only thing Irish about them was the name of the bar or pub,” he says. “Any Irish person that goes into one of our venues always says, ‘this feels like home’ which can only build the brand reputation on solid footing.”
Mikhail Hotel & Leisure Group’s focus on Irish pubs stems from Andrew’s own family history.
“I was always going to open authentic Irish pubs. It was just a case of how. The story of my great grandfather Michael Tarmey nicknamed ‘Punch Tarmey’ for his infamous bare-knuckle boxing ability in the early 1900s was an unbelievable story and a solid foundation to build on. The question was only ever how we told his story, so we did the family justice, in terms of what we created.”
Andrew says that in his strategy and planning of the brand and the business, he looked at the best first.
“I admire Tim Martin and how he created Wetherspoons. He took on the industry and changed the pub game almost overnight…the man is a legend…he saw an opportunity, took it and smashed it.
“I looked at his model, didn’t want to go down the ‘stack ‘emhigh, sell ‘em cheap’ model and decided to do the opposite. Too many people tried to copy him and failed when the ship had already sailed. I decided to spend more money on the fit-out of my sites to develop the Punch Tarmey’s theme.
“This has resulted in attracting a different demographic and type of customer that pays that little bit more to sit in a higher end outlet.
“As a family man, if I was going to take my wife and four kids out, I asked myself right at the start of us planning the business, where would I want to go given that there were far fewer choices in local pubs? Also, what would I and they want to see? That was very much in my thinking when creating the brand’s conceptual ideas.”
Mikhail positions the Punch Tarmey’s brand as an authentic Irish pub but admits the venues are both authentic and contemporary at the same time.
“The minute you enter for example, Punch Tarmey’s Liverpool, you can smell the wood, the fixtures, the fittings and, so many guests have walked in and been wowed by the state-of-the-art design and magnitude of everything they can see.”
A recipe for success
Andrew maintains that when it comes to Irish pubs in the current market, “the consumer has become very wise, the market has matured, and more people are seeking out a higher quality experience.”
He believes Mikhail Hotel & Leisure Group has been able to make Irish pubs relevant to today’s more demanding consumer using live music as a big factor plus comedy nights.
“We’re all looking to be entertained in our spare time and a good Irish pub will always do that. We’ve added brilliant teams to welcome our customers too and ensure they have an amazing time experiencing a diverse range of entertainment.”
Andrew’s growth plans for Mikhail Hotel & Leisure Group’s Irish pubs’ concept is a minimum of 20, hitting all the big UK cities with the Punch Tarmey’s brand over the next three years.