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Northern Ireland

Restaurateur Niall McKenna inspires young business leaders

05 Jul 2017
Niall McKenna, Adrian Allen and Gavin Campbell posing for camera at James Street South restaurant

Leading Belfast chef launches IoD NI Young Directors Forum with new sponsor Barclays

Belfast chef and restaurateur Niall McKenna has urged Northern Ireland’s leading young business leaders to maintained focus and determined to succeed even during hard times.

The James Street South owner was speaking as the restaurant hosted the launch of Institute of Directors NI Young Directors Forum’s 2017 programme in partnership with new sponsor Barclays.

The Forum brings together some of Northern Ireland’s brightest young business leaders for a series of events to provide a networking platform and an opportunity to share ideas and hear the success stories of others.

Niall has grown his restaurant business during some of the hardest years of the recession.

He said the success came by “keeping it simple” and investing when times become difficult.

“No matter what I do I try to keep it simple. Don’t make it too complicated and that’s the one thing. Surround yourself by smart people.

“When we opened James Street South, it grew and everything was brilliant, then it all went bad when the recession hit. 

“I got very nervous then but we decided to open up the Bar and Grill right in the middle of it all, invested a lot of money and it’s the best thing we did.

“I’ve made loads of mistakes but we’ve learned from them and are expanding and that’s what it is about for me.”

He said the challenges now for the business is staffing, but it is a matter Niall has taken into his own hands.

“We have started our own apprentice programme so we are breeding our own chefs, our own managers and it is all self-funded.

“If it can be done in my industry, it can be done in any industry.”

The Forum is made up of directors aged under 43 and includes representation from all sectors spanning private, public and voluntary organisations.

A series of events are planned during the year which includes the flagship Young Directors Conference, taking place on 6th October.

Participants will also get the opportunity to hear from Paul Ettinger, co-founder of coffee shop chain Caffe Nero at a special event on 15 September which will be held at the new Barclays Eagle Lab in the former Ormeau Baths.

Adrian Allen, Chair of the of the IoD NI’s Young Directors Forum, said:

“Every year, the IoD NI Young Directors Forum presents an opportunity for our diverse range of young directors to develop professionally and network with existing and new business contacts.

“We are especially delighted this year to welcome Barclays as new lead sponsor of the programme and thank them for their ongoing support of the IoD.

“The IoD is made up of representatives of a wide range of firms across all sectors. Their input, and in this case the support from Barclays, is invaluable to providing the kind of support that ensures our young leaders continue to develop and promote Northern Ireland’s future prosperity.

“The Forum illustrates the breadth of talent among younger business leaders in Northern Ireland.

“The chance to hear from Paul Ettinger in September is just one event planned which we hope will provide an unrivalled opportunity for members to hear and learn from an entrepreneur on their success story to date.

“Participants can also look forward to a question and answer session with Belfast Waterfront Managing Director Catherine Toolan later in the year.”

Gavin Campbell, Barclays Corporate Banking Relationship Director, added:

“Barclays is pleased to partner with the IoD as Lead Sponsor for the Young Directors Forum – an initiative we are proud to support. We have been highly impressed by the calibre of Forum members, from those running their own businesses to those holding senior positions within local companies, and are committed to supporting Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey through our breadth of sector expertise and innovative marketplace solutions.”

For more information, please contact

028 9068 3224

Northern Ireland

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IoD Northern Ireland
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