Stephen Buckley talks to Hospitality Ireland about the growth of a fascinating family business.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in March of 2022.
Tell us about the beginnings of F.X. Buckley.
F.X. Buckley was started by my grandfather, Frank Xavier, in 1930, as a butcher shop on Moore Street, Dublin, but we have traced the family owning butcher shops in Dublin as far back to 1660, on Bull Alley, in Christchurch. We even got a mention in the book Ulysses!
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Since 2001 – fifth and sixth generation – my father, Des, my brother Brian and myself took over the restaurant on Pembroke Street. Now our portfolio of steakhouse restaurants and bars are located on Dublin’s Pembroke Street, Crow Street, and in Monkstown, with Frank’s Bar upstairs, as well as the Bull & Castle restaurant and bar upstairs, near Christchurch, and Ryan’s Victorian pub on Parkgate Street, with an upstairs steakhouse. Just before Covid hit, we launched our first grocery store, Victualler & Grocer, beside our flagship restaurant on Pembroke Street.
How has the business evolved in the last ten years?
Over the past ten years, we have undertaken some major refurbishments throughout each location, to ensure we were positioning ourselves in the premium sector of the market. We are renowned as masters of meat, so we had to ensure the customer experience matched that level. We upgraded all the interiors and built a team, with the core of our business focusing on the highest quality. We now employee the best staff in the industry. With the expansion in locations and adding the extra bars and shop to our ever-growing portfolio, recently we launched the Buckley Collection, an umbrella brand that encapsulates our entire offering.
How do these businesses work and synergise together?
As mentioned previously, the company is run by my father, Des, my brother Brian and myself. We are all very hands-on and make the businesses work efficiently. We have daily-update meetings, and we are lucky we have an excellent senior management team in place, to take control of the day-to-day running of the company.
What is the guiding principle of the group?
Our guiding principles would be that we constantly strive to be the best and are constantly looking to improve. We will never sacrifice our high standards.
How was the lockdown for you?
We just opened a new grocery shop on Pembroke Street, before lockdown, so I was able to keep busy looking after it. We pivoted slightly and offered at-home kits, which did very well. It was a worrying time for everyone in the hospitality business, as the pandemic constantly changed. We put all our efforts into keeping the brand top of mind with our clientele, and with the shop remaining open, we were able to explore opportunities like a partnership with the Merrion Hotel.
What are the greatest challenges for the business right now?
The greatest challenges for our business at the moment are recruitment and the increase in the price of raw ingredients. It has been extremely difficult to source highly skilled employees, as a lot of people emigrated or left the industry entirely during the lockdowns. The price increase on raw ingredients cannot always be passed on to the customers, so our margins are under significant pressure.
Is now a good time to be working in the hospitality industry?
It’s a very exciting time. It’s great to see the city come alive again, and you can see how delighted people are to be out enjoying themselves again. I think the industry will start reinventing itself again, with new concepts and ideas coming to the market, which will be great to see.
What do you love about this business?
My favourite part of the business is to walk into one of our restaurants and see everyone enjoying themselves. I also really enjoy working with people who are passionate about the industry.
We are constantly looking to expand if the right project came up, but it must work under the Buckley Collection brand.
FX BUCKLEY AT A GLANCE
John Buckley, father of Francis Xavier Buckley, opened a number of butcher shops across Dublin city centre in 1900. The first steakhouse opened in 1987. The group now has 10 venues across different locations, and around 200 staff.
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