In 2018, Conor Sheridan co-founded Mad Egg, a free-range fried- chicken restaurant, and built it into one of Ireland’s fastest-grow- ing establishments. Being new to the restaurant game, he felt the acute pain of hacking together existing restaurant management systems, spreadsheets, and paper printouts first-hand.
This gruelling experience inspired Sheridan to tear everything up and build the operating system that he wished he’d had from Day One, so he set up Nory, an AI-powered operating system for hospitality businesses borne out of the need to make things easier and more profitable than they had been before.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2023 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in December of 2023.
Tell us about Nory – what it is and how it came about.
Nory was borne from my experience building Mad Egg, a fast-casual restaurant brand in Ireland. We launched Mad Egg in 2018 and went on to grow the business to over 100 people and more than €6 million in turnover in less than 18 months.
I came from a finance background, where I was familiar with modelling data in my day-to-day work. Opening a restaurant, I had always intended it to be a data-centric operation, but couldn’t believe the lack of quality systems available to manage and grow the business. Most products available were glorified spreadsheets and input tools. I wanted and needed something that could support non-technical teams by analysing business data and suggesting actions to improve business performance. It didn’t exist, so I started Nory.
What are your ambitions with this project?
Our ambition is to become the leading provider of hospitality technology globally. Our goal is for Nory to be the category leader.
Talk to us about how macroeconomic pressure is impacting the hospitality industry.
The industry is facing pressures from all sides – cost and margin pressures from staff, supply chain, taxes and energy. Layer this with a struggle to find and retain staff and constantly changing consumer habits due to the recessionary environment. It’s an incredibly tough time to be an operator. Every day is a new challenge and a new headwind.
Tell us about the role of artificial intelligence in transforming hospitality at a pivotal moment for the sector.
AI is offering green shoots of hope for hospitality businesses. In an industry that was traditionally quite ‘low tech’, operators are leaning into AI extensively. It offers the ability to drastically reduce the pressures faced. Whether it’s through the automation of tasks/roles that they are struggling to fill or using AI to enhance efficiencies and profit margins, or boost guest experiences, there are a plethora of opportunities.
What are the current consumer trends, and what is the best way to adapt business strategies to a changing landscape? Consumer trends are rapidly shifting in the industry – from moving mostly online during the pandemic to working from home or feeling the cost-of-living crisis, trends are evolving quarter on quarter. Operators need to adapt. They need to offer the ability to serve their customer wherever they want, in whatever format they want – digitally or face to face. Equally, they are fighting for a smaller share of their wallets, so ensuring high quality, consistent value for money, and awesome experiences is more important than ever.
How does Nory’s technology prevent food waste through its AI-enabled food- ordering and preparation system?
Nory uses AI to empower businesses to be data driven overnight. We predict demand for restaurants by analysing a huge amount of data from their own business [and connecting it] to external sources like events, weather and seasonality. We use this data to predict what items you’re going to sell and how much revenue you’re going to make. This enables us to recommend what inventory and ingredients to purchase and prepare each day, drastically reducing over- and under-ordering and food waste. This boosts bottom-line profits, but also massively reduces a brand’s carbon footprint – a win-win all around.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Castleknock, north Co. Dublin. I have been obsessed with entrepreneurship since a young age. I grew up in a family where my dad was a serial entrepreneur, and I idolised him. I watched him turn ideas on paper into living, breathing businesses – some more successful than others, but always his.
My first venture was when I was eight. I had a team of local children mowing lawns and washing cars for around four or five pounds a pop. Once I realised you could provide a service for money – and that, in turn, meant you could buy what you wanted – I was hooked!
Post-university, I ended up in finance and consulting. Both were great learning experiences, but they never felt right. I still had that hunger, that entrepreneurial bug. I started looking at restaurant franchise options during my time in finance, initially as a ‘passive’ investment– naive, to say the least – but, after meeting lots of different brands, I realised what drove me wasn’t just running a business, but building my own business. This was an inflection point, where I decided to take the leap and start Mad Egg. The rest is history!
What brought you to the hospitality industry?
I’ve always been fascinated with the industry. In my lifetime, it’s shifted from quite limited options to truly staggering levels of choice and innovation.
I was drawn to the creativity in the space, but also the mechanics of it. To run a great restaurant is like conducting an orchestra – there are so many variables that need to come together to make it work, and when they do, there are few better experiences.
How did you set up Mad Egg?
I worked on the concept, sourcing and closing the first location, and crafting the menu alongside the day job. For me, it was a no-brainer. Ireland is a nation of chicken lovers, but most chicken is poor quality and boring. We saw a gap in preparing a super-high-quality local product at a reasonable price point in a fun atmosphere – and that’s what we did!
What motivated you to move on from that?
I am still a director of Mad Egg and involved with the business. I decided to run with Nory because of the size of the opportunity. I have always wanted to build a truly global business that solves really hard problems, and that’s what we are doing here.
Any other plans on the horizon?
No! I have enough on my plate – pun intended!