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Restaurant Symposium 2017

Igniting Passion, Preventing Burnout

The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Cong, Co. Mayo

Monday 6th March, 2017



The Restaurants Association of Ireland is hosting its Restaurant Symposium, its 46th Annual General Meeting and Conference at The Lodge at Ashford Castle, Cong, Co. Mayo on Monday 6th March 2017.

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.


10.00am – Registration

10.30am – 11.30 – Annual General Meeting of the RAI

11.45am – 5.30pm Restaurant Symposium

7.00pm – Presidents Dinner


Igniting Passion, Preventing Burnout is the theme for this years Restaurant Symposium. The conference will run from 11.45am – 5.30pm and is divided into panels that will explore;

  • Restaurant Industry Performance & Trends
  • How to become a world class restaurant?
  • Ireland’s Food Story – Putting your town on the foodie map
  • Igniting Passion and Preventing Burnout (How to retain Hospitality Staff)
  • Preparing for Growth – Are you ready?

We are delighted that John McKenna, McKenna Guides Ireland will once again be our MC for the day.

Xanthe Clay HeadshotXanthe Clay – Daily Telegraph; Chair UK & Ireland Top 50 Restaurants

I came to food writing, probably the best job in the world, through an circuitous route. Bunking off university, I backpacked through the Sudan, Egypt and Sinai, across China and around South America, before settling down in London to work as a cookery book seller.  In my mid twenties I trained as a chef at Leith’s and worked as a chef and caterer in the West Country before starting the Readers’ Recipe column for the Telegraph. Since then I’ve worked on both food and cookery features for Weekend Telegraph, as well as contributing to Good Food magazine, olive magazine, delicious magazine and Sainsburys magazine. Xanthe is also chair of the UK & Ireland Academy for the Worlds Top 50 Restaurants.

Peter Head Shot 2Peter Backman –  Managing Director, Horizons

Peter is the Managing Director of Horizons, an expert on the structure and dynamics of the foodservice sector, and its supply chain, in the UK and across Europe. He is responsible for the company’s vision and driving the business forward. He has been involved, as a researcher and consultant within the sector, for over 30 years blending his knowledge with a deep understanding of the trends, key players and challenges of organisations with an interest in foodservice.


Food on the Edge JP McMahon Galway Ireland, photo Julia Dunin (14 of 64)JP McMahon – Chef/Patron of Aniar, Eat Gastropub, Cava Bodega and Founder of Food on the Edge

JP McMahon is a Galway, Ireland-based chef, restaurateur and author. He is Culinary Director of the award-winning EatGalway Restaurant Group, which comprises of Michelin-star Aniar Restaurant, Cava Bodega , and Eat@Massimo Gastropub . He also runs the Aniar Boutique
Cookery School. Aniar has been awarded a Michelin star every year since 2013 including in 2017. Aniar Restaurant and Aniar Boutique Cookery School are approved members of Good Food Ireland . JP is the Symposium Director for Food On The Edge , the much talked about two-day global convention that takes place annually in Galway city, Ireland. A coming together of international chefs to listen, talk and debate about the future of food in our industry and on our planet, previous speakers have included Elena Arzak, Albert Adria, Massimo Bottura and many, many more visionary, change-promoting chefs. JP is committed to the educational and ethical aspects of food – to buying and supporting the best of local and free-range produce and engaging directly with small farmers. Promoting and changing the face of #IrishFood is a topic high on his agenda for 2017. The Restaurant Association of Ireland awarded him All-Ireland Local Food Hero 2016.

Tina O'Dwyer The Burren Photo 1Tina O’Dwyer – Foodie Destinations 2016 Finalist – The Burren

Tina O’Dwyer is a professional facilitator, coach and trainer and provides independent consultancy services in the areas of strategic planning, networking, sustainable tourism and destination development.   Tina has worked intensively ‘on the ground’ with tourism enterprises in Ireland.  Through her work with the Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark and the Burren Ecotourism Network in particular, Tina led and co-ordinated the development of the Burren Food Trail between 2013 and 2015.  The Burren Food Trail connects food-based enterprises across the Burren and has successfully created a truly compelling visitor proposition and a key point of differentiation for the destination, winning the title of European Destination of Excellence for Tourism & Local Gastronomy in 2015.  Tina co-ordinated a Burren-wide application for the title of Ireland’s Foodie Destination in 2015 and 2016.  Through this application key stakeholders across the region came together to articulate the overall food experience available to visitors.  The Burren won the title of Ireland’s Foodie Destination in 2015 and was placed third in 2016.


Headshots Shane Raftery-1Shane Raftery – Food Tourism, Failte Ireland

Shane has been working in the hospitality and tourism industry for 30 years. He is employed in the Food Tourism Division of Fáilte Ireland since 2014, prior to that he had been a Business Development Advisor, providing workshops and in-house training to the tourism and hospitality industry, Shane has a Degree in Tourism & Hospitality Education from GMIT, where he specialized in food tourism, and Masters in Education & Training Management from DCU.
Maureen-Gahan-2Maureen Gahan – Bord Bia, Foodservice Speacialist


Bláithnaid-16 (1)_0Blathnaid Bergin, The Restaurant Advisor – The Business of Food

I grew up in a family business, known as a General Merchants. My family were all things to all people in the local community. This included the groceries, telecoms, correspondence, social life – pub; afterlife – undertaking; travel- service station; agricultural – fertilizer, grain, wool, etc and much more.Blathnaid Bergin has assisted and enhanced a wide variety of hospitality businesses from caterers to cafes, from public houses to hotels, from delicatessans to sandwich bars. Her in-depth knowledge of food and food operations combined with her training skills ensures that all clients benefit from her advice and support.  The mission is simple – ‘To bring excellence, professionalism, passion and enjoyment to the management and operations of the food service industry’.


Aidan O Byrne headshotAidan O’Byrne – OBK Consultants, The Food Accountant

Aidan O’Byrne is the founder of OBK Accountants/The Food Accountants the only full service Accounting firm providing advice specifically tailored for the food industry

As a former Finance Director of Batchelors and former CFO of Valeo Foods, Aidan is uniquely positioned to bring this experience to bear in providing practical advice in all aspects of finance from Accounting, Taxation, Audit, Fundraising and Consulting. Aidan acts as a Finance Mentor to many food companies involved in programmes such the Supervalu Food Academy, Cheese Institute and Bord Bia Compass Foodservice programme.

He currently advises some of the best emerging talent in the Irish food scene such as The Happy Pear and Blanco Nino.

Aidan is also one of the co-founders of Love Irish Food, the organisation that promotes Irish manufactured Food and Drink products and also serves as Chairman of the Vhi Members Advisory Board.

Olivia Duff – Foodie Destinations 2016 Winner – Boyne Valley

Stefan MatzStefan Matz – Training Consultant, Former Head Chef, Delphi Lodge & Ashford Castle

 BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW – Download the booking form here


 The Presidents Dinner 2017

Monday 6th March, The Lodge at Ashford Castle.

Following the conference that evening (7pm) our Presidents Dinner will take place with a sumptuous 4 course menu designed by The Lodge’s Head Chef, Jonathan Keane.

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!

Room Rates:

The Lodge @ Ashford Castle (Deluxe Room €140 and Suite €180) Call (094) 954 5400 to book your accommodation.

Other Accommodation availability includes;

Venue Room Type Rate Address Address 2 Address 3 County Contact Details Proximity To The Lodge @ Ashford Castle
Danaghers Hotel Single €45.00 Abbey Street Cong Co Mayo (094) 954 6028 4 Minute Drive
Double pp €45.00
Michaeleen’s Manor B&B Single €50.00 Quay Rd Lisloughrey Cong Co Mayo (094) 954 6089 1 Minute Drive
Twin €75.00
Ryan’s Hotel Cong Single €60.00 Main Street Cong North Co Mayo 094 954 6004 4 Minute Drive
Double / Twin €90.00