Dylan’s aims to create 50 jobs this year by opening two more shops and potentially a fourth restaurant as bosses refuse to let the pandemic stop its growth
The Anglesey based food group currently has three restaurants, in Menai Bridge, Criccieth and Llandudno, as well as a production kitchen in Llangefni and deli shop in Menai Bridge.
It has been hit hard by Covid – from forced closures and problems recruiting to reduced capacities and more recently cancellations due to virus fears and new restrictions. The same issues have been seen across the hospitality sector.
They also know there are challenging times ahead with the combined storm of Brexit, Covid and rising inflation.
But the business refuses to step back and plans further expansion in a bid to diversify so it can protect and create jobs.
Plans include two new shops in North Wales towns in the next 12 months – with more on the locations due to be announced shortly. This follows the huge success of the deli shop in Menai Bridge and their belief that local artisan stores can help revive high streets.
One location could also include a restaurant alongside the shop. They are also still targeting other restaurant sites – remaining focused on special buildings but with a slight relaxation on having to be bang on the coastline.
They do add though that everything will be North Wales based – saying the region is part of the whole “mission statement” of the company. The only time they look beyond this is pushing the wholesale side of the group, with businesses like Co-op and Ocado and many smaller stores already stocking Dylan’s food products.
Joint owner David Evans said: “Like everyone in the industry we have had two years when we have been challenged on all fronts.
“It has been a difficult time with Omicron because we were not forced to close but people were advised not to circulate and before Christmas people wanted to avoid an infection.
“Since then we have had a lot of cancellations – often as someone in the group has Covid. Some are polite and call but others just don’t turn up.
“The overheads are still there and there has been little support – we lost money in December and will lose money in January and February. Any momentum from the busy summer is gone and in the summer we couldn’t serve at capacity because of recruitment, we were turning people away in their thousands.”
He added: “Covid, Brexit, inflation – it’s the perfect storm on a perfect storm. We are looking to renew our energy contract and face a 50%/60% increase, and we use a lot of energy. Suppliers are also putting up prices and we have to pass some of that onto customers but the margins keeps shrinking.”
The positives are that the business was well structured, well organised and had experience.
It has also meant them being forced to step up diversification with the Menai Bridge shop opening last year.
David said: “That opened in April and has been fantastic so we are in the process of finding more retail sites to open.
“We had to respond to Covid, we did not want our revenue stream wholly dependent on the restaurants working close to capacity, we had to broaden the base of the business with more retail and wholesale. We see Dylan’s as a food brand.”
New locations will be revealed shortly.
He added: “Negotiations are ongoing but they will be in North Wales, our mission statement is about local food and we will never extend the retail or restaurant side beyond North Wales. So we are looking at towns along the coast of North Wales.
“There are still plans to expand out restaurant base and one of those retail sites could include a restaurant.”
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Like hospitality, high streets have suffered in the pandemic, and that came along in an already challenging period for bricks and mortar retail.
But David believes stores like theirs can make a difference.
He said: “People want to visit shops that provide an experience and people like to buy proper local food – artisan baked bread, local cheese, pates. Visitors who come here want a taste of Wales, to try something locally made and of good quality, mussels, oysters, spirits, a flavour of their holiday.
“I have seen neighbourhoods in Manchester, like Chorlton, flourish because they have a butchers, a cheese shop, delis, on the high street and Menai Bridge is a good example here how a high street can change and bring more people in to shop.”
The business currently employs around 200 but they hope to have 250 staff by the end of the year.
When it came to new restaurants they remained actively on the hunt for sites. Due to the scarcity of suitable sites there has been a slight move away from wanting a restaurant right on the waterfront but they still say they would like to be near the sea.
David added: “We plan to have more restaurants but we are very specific. We want buildings of architectural interest that are close to the seafront. We have had offers to take on existing sites but nothing has worked yet but we are actively looking.”
On the pandemic, he added: “We have to look at what has happened not as a restriction but an opportunity, a chance to diversify.
“Some businesses are positive while others retreat, we didn’t want to just wait it out until it passes.
“We have taken the chance to secure the business and our staff and seized opportunities.”
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