Belfast-Based Café Chain District Acquired By Follow Leisure

By Dave Simpson
Belfast-Based Café Chain District Acquired By Follow Leisure

Hospitality operator Follow Leisure has acquired Belfast-based café chain acquired District.


District opened its first premises in 2016 on Ormeau Road, and subsequently added additional locations throughout south Belfast in Lisburn Road, Stranmillis Road and Saintfield Road.

District will continue to operate as a standalone brand within the Follow Leisure group, the portfolio of which includes other cafés including Canteen, Output, Morning Martha and Slim's Healthy Kitchen. The acquisition will double the group's footprint in café locations across greater Belfast.

When District opened in 2016 its then owners described the business as "a simple blend of excellent coffee, food and service", and Follow Leisure aims to continue to operate the business under this premise. 30 people are employed by District, and their employment will be maintained.

Follow Leisure plans to close one underperforming location on Stranmillis Road when the lease expires later this year. A figure for the deal has not been made available.


Statements By Follow Leisure Representative

Gary McIldowney of Follow Leisure stated, "The acquisition of the multi-venue operator District will complement our growth strategy and enhance our brand portfolio. Our plans are to immediately provide an increased and varied food offering with a strong focus on an all-day breakfast and brunch menu. We're excited to welcome all District staff to the Follow Leisure group.

"District has demonstrated robust trading in recent months and had a quick rebound following the removal of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. We view District as having significant future potential in many high footfall locations. The brand matches perfectly with the ethos of our other café brands of great coffee, a stand-out food offering and service with a local community-based feel."

While the hospitality industry continues to experience challenges as a result of the pandemic and increased food and energy costs, McIdowney remains confident in his group's ability to remain resilient.

He said, "Loyalty and familiarity speak to customers, and we have listened to customer feedback to ensure we take onboard and implement changes that improve the customer experience. Given that many workers continue to work from home and could remain doing so for some time to come, we continue to enhance our delivery offering. Outside of the peak lunch trading period we offer mid-morning, afternoon snacks and coffee where home-based workers look for a treat direct to their desk and this is an area where we see the potential for increased value proposition across our brand portfolio."

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