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Restaurant Symposium 2016 

Nurturing Talent, Exploring Trends

The Shelbourne Hotel, St. Stephens Green, Dublin 2

2nd June 2016


Conference Content

The Restaurants Association of Ireland is hosting its Restaurant Symposium, its 45th Annual General Meeting and Conference at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin 2 on Thursday 2nd June 2016.

The Restaurant Symposium provides an important business and social platform for Restaurant Owners, Managers, Chefs, industry professionals, service and product suppliers.

This year, some of the biggest names in the industry will come together to share insights, nurture ideas and to help formulate strategies that will help drive business over the next twelve months.


10.30am – Registration

11am – 12pm – Annual General Meeting of the RAI

12pm – 5.30pm Restaurant Symposium

7.00pm – Presidents Dinner

Nurturing Talent, Exploring Trends is the theme for this years Restaurant Symposium. The conference will run from 12pm – 5.30pm and is divided in to four panels exploring;

·  What makes a world class restaurant

·  Nurturing Talent – Looking at the National Apprenticeship  Programme.

· Next Trends in Restaurants in Europe and in Ireland

· Creating the go to Food Destination

Confirmed speakers;

Lards Peder Hedberg Lars Peder Hedberg –  Worlds 50 Best Restaurants Academy Judge & Academy Chair – Denmark, Norway & Sweden

The co-founder of corporate communications group Intellecta, one of Scandinavia’s largest and most successful – listed at Nasdaq OMX Nordic Exchange – Lars Peder Hedberg is also the founder and publisher/editorial director of White Guide and Gourmet Magazine in Sweden, two institutions with massive influence on Scandinavian gastronomy.


Helena Egan Trip Advisor Helena EganGlobal Director, Industry Relations, Trip Advisor

Helena joined TripAdvisor in 2008 as the first dedicated destination marketing specialist September 2014 Helena was appointed Global Director of Industry Relations and in this newly created role she leads industry relations’ efforts for TripAdvisor, acting as a liaison for hospitality trade associations and government organisations and acts as an ambassador to the global hospitality sector, opening communication channels with leading trade and tourism associations. Helena brings over 18 years of experience in the travel and tourism industry. For the past 16 years she has lived in London, and prior to that, in six countries across Europe and in the U.S. She holds a MA from the University of Helsinki.


M Bell Visit Cornwall Head Shots web res-116 Malcolm Bell, Chief Executive, Visit Cornwall

Malcolm is a Cornishman and is the Chief Executive of Visit Cornwall, which was created as a private sector led Community Interest Company on the 2nd April 2015 to assume the role previous Visit Cornwall, which was an arms length organisation of Cornwall Council. Visit Cornwall is the tourist board for Cornwall. Prior to this appointment he was Head of Visit Cornwall and before that, Director and Chief Executive of South West Tourism, (The Regional Tourist Board for SW England). Cornwall has been voted Britain’s top holiday region in the British Travel Awards for seven consecutive years, Visit Cornwall has won numerous awards for its website, PR and social/digital media activities over the last three years.

Niall McKenna Head shot Niall McKennaProprietor/Head Chef/Apprenticeship Founder, James St South, Belfast

Since the age of 16, Belfast chef Niall McKenna has been passionate about food and cooking. With a growing portfolio of restaurants in Belfast, Niall has been hailed a ‘Tourism Hero’ by industry chiefs and has received a Belfast Telegraph Business Award in 2016 for his “Best Contribution to Hospitality and Tourism”.  Niall and his team continue to win numerous industry accolades. In 2015 alone, James Street South was named the Best Restaurant in Ireland by Georgina Campbell and the best restaurant in NI by the Waitrose Good Food Guide. David Gillmore won the Best Chef in Ireland at the Yes Chef! Awards while at the acclaimed Janus Awards, Carl Johannessen of Hadskis won Best Restaurant Chef and Niall and wife Joanne McKenna were recognised for their Outstanding Contribution to the industry.

Niall’s James Street South Group is a flag bearer for Northern Ireland’s food scene and rightfully champions the world-class quality of local produce. With five busy restaurants, including James Street South, The Bar + Grill, Hadskis, Cast & Crew as well as the city’s famed Cookery School, and with a new venue in the pipeline for Donegall Quay, Niall remains a true leader for the industry.

John Mulcahy headshot John MulcahyHead of Hospitality, Failte Ireland

John works with Failte Ireland, the Irish National Tourism Development Authority, where he is currently responsible for policy and operations in Food Tourism, Education, and Tourist Accommodation Standards.  As part of the wider Failte Ireland strategy, his key priorities include the development and roll out of a new tourist accommodation standard later this year, assisting tourism and hospitality employers to establish a culinary apprenticeship through the Apprenticeship Council, and supporting tourism businesses to implement the Food Tourism Activity Plan 2014 – 2016.  Given the theme this year, ‘Innovation, Education and Culinary Enterprise’, John will be helping restauranteurs identify some innovative approaches, developed by Failte Ireland and their partners, to improving business and awareness.  John has an MA (Gastronomy) and an MSc (Hospitality Mgt), informed by his experience as a pub, restaurant, and food service operator on three continents, and as an educator.

John McGrillen photoJohn McGrillen, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Tourism Board

John McGrillen took up his post as CEO of Tourism NI on 1 July 2015.  A former board member of Tourism NI, John was previously Director of Development at Belfast City Council where his responsibilities included urban development, tourism, economic and international development and the management of Belfast Waterfront and the Ulster Hall. Previously he was Chief Executive of Down District Council. During his early career John worked for Short Brothers and the Industrial Development Board, the forerunner to Invest NI, before being appointed Chief Executive of NI-CO, a Belfast based international development consultancy.  John is a graduate of Mechanical Engineering from Queen’s University Belfast. He also holds an MSc in Engineering Computation and an MBA in International Business.

Mr. James Burke of James Burke and Associates, Retail and Food Consultant. Photo Brendan Lyon/Imagebureau.   James BurkeJames Burke & Associates

James Burke has personally worked in the food sector for over 23 years. Having started in SuperValu in West Cork, and then moved to Superquinn he spent 10 years at the operational side of the business and 10 years at head office. During his career in Superquinn James became group purchasing manager and he was also appointed to the board of the company. He is now CEO of Irelands largest food and retail advisory business. He is also a member of the TASTE Council (the strategic advisory group for the speciality food industry).  He works with many of Irelands leading retailers and foodservice operators both at strategic level and developing management skillsets as well as helping businesses respond to market trends.

Alison Hodgson5794Alison Hodgson – Country HR Director, McDonalds Restaurants Ireland

HR Director with specific expertise in aligning HR strategies to business goals and delivering quantifiable commercial value. Alison has enjoyed a progressive career across Retail, catering/hospitality/facilities management, Banking, Telecoms, Professional Services and Logistics.

Since 2011 Alison has been the Country HR Director for McDonald’s Restaurants Ireland, who was recognised as Ireland’s Best Employer in 2012 & 2013 by Retail Excellence Ireland. Prior to this Alison was the HR Director for the Royal Mail Group UK, the European HR & Talent Manager for Expedia Inc, the online travel company incorporating Hotels.com; Tripadvisor.com; Expedia.co.uk et EU al and worked as the Project HR Director for Sodexo from 2002-2005.  Since 2014, Alison has chaired the Women in Retail Network for Retail Excellence Ireland.


John Farrell, JCF Developments (Restaurants incl; 777, Dillingers, Luna, SMS, The Butcher Grill)

Alan Clancy, Restaurant Owner (Xico, House, 37, The Ivy, Bell & Pot Cafe)



 BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW – Download the booking form here


 The Presidents Dinner 2016 

Thursday 2nd June 2016, The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin 2

Following the conference that evening (7pm) our Presidents Dinner will take place with a sumptuous 4 course menu.

The prestigious Mike Butt Award will be presented on the evening, recognising, industry representatives for their contribution to the restaurant and hospitality industry.

Please note the Presidents Dinner is a black-tie event.

There will also be a surprise after-dinner guest speaker on the evening!


Further details on the event will be posted shortly.