Supermac’s is to spend over €35 million on Irish produce this year, according to the company’s Managing Director, Pat McDonagh.
However, Mr McDonagh has also issued a warning that farmers are currently being put under so much pressure, that it may be difficult for the agri food sector to completely recover.
“Our €35million spend on Irish produce is a very strong endorsement of the quality of produce on Irish farms,” commented McDonagh, “and I am proud to serve this in each of our restaurants. But I believe that Irish farmers have seldom been under so much pressure. The uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the fodder crisis, prices being paid for product and a lack of cash flow are some of the biggest threats our farming communities have faced in several years. The sector is one of the key pillars of Irish society and a vital part of the social fabric of the country. Regional Ireland needs a strong farming sector for many different reasons.”
In relation to the fodder crisis, Mr McDonagh said any price increase that Supermac’s was being asked to pay for beef, needed to be given directly to the farmer.
“The fodder crisis means that farmers are in a very unique and challenging situation,” he said.
“The price that Supermac’s is being asked to pay per kilo of beef is increasing year on year, yet the price being paid to the farmer is decreasing. Supermac’s will do its duty when it comes to supporting our farmers and we would ask that the factories do the same, by passing the benefit of the increase on to farmers.
"There are currently over 2,000 Irish farmers in negative equity and farm families are being targeted by vulture funds that are running riot throughout the country, without anyone seeming to be able to control them. We have been in business for 40 years this year and have been working closely with Irish farmers for all that time. Farmers that I speak to have seldom been in such a delicate situation and we need to be very careful that we don’t put Irish farm families under the kind of pressure that they can’t recover from.”
Mr McDonagh said that the ability to source fresh, local produce was a key factor in the success of Supermac's.
“We are strongly committed to Irish farmers and the farming community in general,” he said.
He continued: “Since we started in Ballinasloe in 1978 we have always looked to local suppliers wherever possible, be that for farm produce or construction materials. This is what sets us apart from our competitors and we need to look very seriously at anything that threatens to impact this.
“Since we introduced our Fresh range of beef and chicken products, customers have indicated that quality, taste and traceability are key factors when they are choosing their food. We work hard to let them know that our beef and chicken comes from Irish farms and supports Irish farm families. We still have some of the same suppliers that we had 40 years ago and that depth of relationship and the trust built up over the years is key to the success of our Fresh range.”
Mr McDonagh recently completed the purchase of the Athlone Springs Hotel, making this the fifth hotel in his SÓ Hotel Group, which also includes The Loughrea Hotel and Spa, The Killeshin Hotel in Portlaoise, The Castletroy Park Hotel in Limerick and The Charleville Park Hotel in Co Cork.
The expansion in Co Cork means that the region is one of the largest employment hubs in the Supermac’s network.
“Co Cork now has 13 Supermac’s and The Charleville Park Hotel. This is the second largest amount of Supermac’s outside of Co Galway and a lot of our suppliers come from Co. Cork.
“We opened a further six outlets throughout the country in the first half of 2018 and this brought our total number of outlets to 114. This is what has led to the €35 million spend in 2018",” said McDonagh.
Supermac’s currently employs 2,700 people across Ireland and is Ireland’s largest indigenous quick service restaurant chain. The franchise currently has over 100 outlets across the country and Supermac’s also operates Papa John’s Pizza brand and SuperSubs, which provide Supermac’s customers with additional healthy options. The latest outlet to open was Supermac’s Tivoli in Cork with a number of others planned 2019.