How Supermac’s was almost a pool hall, not a fast food chain



Temperatures were soaring as the great and the good Galway rushed into the meeting room at the Loughrea Hotel and Spa last week. The final All-Ireland countdown was on in earnest for the Tribesmen with less than three weeks to get to the showdown at Croke Park.

fter a 29-year gap, hopes of lifting Liam MacCarthy are high.

Midfielder David Burke struck a relaxed enough pose, while Conor Cooney also faced the media microphones.

In the middle of the conference was Supermac supremo Pat McDonagh, who has sponsored his county hurlers through thick and thin since the 1990s.

Naturally, he hopes a few supporters will make a stop on the return routes from Croke Park for dinner at some of his 108 Supermac outlets. Some might find their way to his Barack Obama Plaza in Moneygall, not too far from Joe Canning’s home country of Portumna.

The Galway man who, along with his wife Una, built a diverse business empire valued at 110 million euros, has never shied away from voicing his opinion on business and rural issues. His position on insurance fraud has drawn national attention to the plight of small businesses. And he still sees Supermac’s as a rural business.

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Pat McDonagh inside the O’Connell Street branch of Supermac’s. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Pat McDonagh inside the O’Connell Street branch of Supermac’s. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The chain started when he was refused a building permit for a billiard hall in Ballinasloe in 1978.

Left with a building costing him money, he hired a local chef to show him how to cook, rolled up his sleeves, and opened his first fast food restaurant.

Since this first standoff with the authorities, planning has been a constant scarecrow for him.

He is also convinced of the emergence of a two-tier society in this country and says rural areas are allowed to decline while cities grow in strength.

Parents of young children often have no choice but to travel long distances in crowded cities.

“There are a lot of empty words for rural development, but nothing concrete is happening with it. It’s an opportunity that’s been missed, ”he says. “You hear a lot about the closure of post offices, guard stations, shops and pubs in rural areas, but they cannot stay in business if there are not enough people in the area. for that.”

More incentives are needed to try to help businesses get up and out of cities, he said, highlighting the Shannon Free Zone’s success as an engine of economic development.

“Governments should create an environment where entrepreneurs can seize and develop the opportunity,” he says. “A lot of companies start in their own garden or garage. You have a lot of examples, like McHale Engineering or Quinns in Athenry.

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Pat McDonagh and his wife Una and Galway pitch captain David Burke after their county won the National Hurling League Division 1 final this year.  Photo: Sportsfile


Pat McDonagh and his wife Una and Galway pitch captain David Burke after their county won the National Hurling League Division 1 final this year. Photo: Sportsfile

Pat McDonagh and his wife Una and Galway pitch captain David Burke after their county won the National Hurling League Division 1 final this year. Photo: Sportsfile

“Planning permissions need to be reviewed in upcoming development plans within a year or two in each county. It’s very restrictive and a lot of paperwork is attached to it. Sometimes it’s pretty easy to oppose it, “he said, adding that the United States has a more streamlined system.

It has branched out into the hotel business in recent years, acquiring Loughrea Hotel and Limerick’s Castletroy Park Hotel during the crisis. On that front, he says local government tariffs are the biggest bill of the year. “If they offered reduced rates for five years, that might help those who are just starting out.”

He also cautions that insurance is a major cost that continues to rise each year and must be addressed. “It affects jobs,” he says, adding that many transport fleets can no longer compete due to insurance.

“During the Celtic Tiger years, people went a bit crazy buying here, there and everywhere. were too high. So there was nothing left for the operator, ”he says.

“The costs have risen too quickly and we risk the same thing happening again. Especially since the bubble is growing again and too fast for it to be controlled in some areas. I could see it happening again in the near future if prices are not controlled. If you look at Dublin in the hotel business, the prices are out of control when you pay € 200, € 300 or € 400 a night. Tour operators who stop at our hotel say that they must stay out of Dublin. “

Yet these are two totally different economies. “In many areas, the recession is as bad as ever,” he says.

Despite seeking changes in local and national governments, he has no intention of dipping his foot in political waters. “I wouldn’t have the patience for that, so much paperwork attached to everything,” he laughs.


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