An Issue With Food Costs

In a recent blog posting on my web site I wrote about what makes a great marriage – a great food marriage that is. As a young chef working in London I learnt about the true values of food marriages. This revelation on flavours & ingredient parings how the marriage of two food ingredients work together i.e. scallops & garlic. Simple flavours with no messing around. Continue reading


Donegal Food Strategy

Martin Lynch at Launch of Donegal food strategy










The Donegal Food Strategy was officially launched in Glenveagh Castle by Minister John Perry TD on Monday 23rd July. The strategy, commissioned by Donegal County Enterprise Board in conjunction with the other state development agencies, was prepared with input from representatives from all of the sectors within the food industry in County Donegal.

The magnificent Glenveagh Castle made for a fitting surrounding for the launch of the Donegal Food Strategy, which will form the road map for placing food in Donegal at the fore front of sustainable development, creating employment & making the county famous for food.

The Strategy Action Plan has identified 7 strategic points:

  1. Put enablers in place
  2. Increase the amount of new food start – ups
  3. Growing turnover & profitability of existing producers
  4. Consumer education/ consumer focused events
  5. Wider geographical promotion of Donegal as a food destination
  6. Strengthen links with farming community
  7. Strengthen links with fishing community

Several hundred people from the Donegal food & business community attended the launch. After all the formalities & the official launch we feasted on a tasting of local food, which show cased products from 25 local suppliers & local people.

On a personnel & professional note I am delighted to be participating on the steering committee which will oversee the implementation of the Donegal Food Strategy. We had our first meeting on the steering committee before the launch & our next meeting will take place on 10th September.

Click to download the Food Strategy document


Keeping It Simple – Hedgerow Foraging & Free Food

Donegal Hedgerow Blackberries

Donegal Hedgerow Blackberries









Donegal Hedgerow wild rasperries

Donegal Hedgerow wild rasperries








Donegal Hedgerow Wild Blueberries

Donegal Hedgerow Wild Blueberries
















Here in Donegal now known as the sunny North West. (Yes its official we’ve had more summer sunshine then any other county this summer) its been a great month for collecting some free food, the mushroom season started on the 1st of July & has been yielding about 1 ½ kg of wild mushrooms per forage. The Cep or Porcini count has been low & slow. Looking back at my notes from last season I’m about a week behind on the Cep harvest – so hopefully this week- end will mark the start of “Cep Time”

As well as wild mushrooms on my rambling I’ve been helping myself to some wild berries. My favourite is wild raspberries. It makes a lovely dessert or sweet with the addition of a few ingredients.

1 cardamon pod – split & crush the seeds

1 tablespoon of honey

1 tub of small thick set yoghurt such as Greek yoghurt or crème fraiche

2 tablespoons of shelled, chopped pistachios


Method – mix all off the above ingredients together & serve with wild raspberries , delicous with some short bread biscuits; Enjoy.

Wild Mushroom Hunting in Donegal

girolles Donegal

Collecting the first wild mushrooms of 2012 in Donegal

A damp start to July has been the bain of Irish agriculture & local farmers. Whilst ” Damo” are local farmer tends to the ewe’s & lambs in this inclement weather, even his 4×4 struggles over the damp ground – hence its parked at the top of the lane & its a trudge down the fields to keep the “Agri food business” at the front off our economic recovery.

I have been empathising with “Damo” & his plight. I suggested it could be a good season for wild mushrooms & I’d keep him updated on my wild mushroom foraging. So far July has been warm & damp and this been proving great for wild mushroom.  I have been out twice so far this month & have collected around 3kilos. A nice mix of Ceps & girolles. Its been the earliest start to the season here in Donegal. I found a new spot & so far it’s proving a good choice, even though their are some parts where I’m crawling through the forest floor & old pine needles are so deep you can’t see the soil. The great thing about this is that the mushrooms are well preserved & relatively soil free. I literally stumbled across a real bounty of girolles & ceps last September, I got lost in the middle of the forest – was going in a straight line & completed a semi circle & came across the new patch.  Try it some time, get yourself a good mushroom guide book, a bit of  local knowledge & go mushroom foraging.   

wild mushroom hunting Donegal

Menu Planning and the Cost Implications for Business

Martin Lynch LCN catering costs












As most business operators in the hospitality trade will tell you they’ve been living with rising costs. So how can you absorb costs like this & be profitable. A good place to Start is with your current menu

Menu planning and the importance of the menu is an essential tool in creating the power to bring customers in though your front door. The menu is a highly important factor not only because of its content but also in the way it is set out. The way dishes are displayed and its use to maximize profit. When creating the menu – it is vital you understand the basic principles – Know your customer base. Know your produce & how to match/marry produce. What food gross profit margin you want to achieve & how much can you charge per item/dish on the menu

Okay, assuming that you have established your customer base via location or social media & old fashion word of mouth. Let’s move on to the produce/ingredients & how they marry together. Most business will leave this to the head chef. It normally takes the form of the following brief – write me a menu on what you want to cook? Or let’s write a menu that you can cook well & what the customers want. The latter statement tends to work much better as it satisfies the chefs cooking & creative needs & focuses on the customers taste.

Working on a food Gross profit margin of 70 percent will assist in pricing the dishes on the menu. So before you do this – a few questions to ask yourself – have you an upto date pricelist from your supplier? Do you negotiate quartly price agreements with key suppliers? Do you know who much you spent over the past 12months with key suppliers? Do you get quotes from the “usual” suppliers? Do you check invoice prices with agreed price list? Are you using a branded product when a yellow label product is better value? Do you employ a stock taker to measure your food gross profit? If you answer yes to all these, well done you’ll be ready for the decade of rising prices

Harrods Food Hall – Morel Mushrooms

Morel mushrooms from Harrods













Having pondered on my lack of success in collecting Morel mushrooms. I was curious as to what the market price of these luxury mushrooms would be in a large food hall. Well on my most recent trip to London I snapped the photo & modest price tag.  Whislt  browsing in Harrods Food Hall I was also reliving ever taste sensation from a long lunch . Having  just finished dinning at The Ledbury Restaurant in Notting Hill. The meal was composed around a six course lunch, five different tasting wines is now firmly ranked as the best dinning out experience in my twenty five years in the Hospitality industry. Superlatives are not enough to describe this dinning experience, but in my next blog post I’ll give it a try.

So next blog round will also look at gardening in the Finn Valley & updates on the wild raspberries & Wild Bilberry.

Coming down the blog line will be “How to do extraordinary food with ordinary ingredients” #Keep it Natural

Martin Helps Spreads The Cost With LCN Readers

Martin Lynch LCN Food Costs












I am delighted to be penning several  articles for the LCN Licensed & Catering News. First published in 1940, LCN magazine, as it has fondly become known, is regarded by many of its readers as the ‘Bible’ of the licensed and catering trade. The business newspaper for the hospitality industry, LCN is a firm favourite with publicans, hoteliers, restaurateurs and indeed everyone associated with this important industry. Second article above was about food costing, gross profits & the vital role that it plays in a profitable hospitality & catering business. Gross profit is a measure of how your business is performing. It is the profit made on food sales before any overheads are deducted. Your menu should work on an average food cost of thirty percent which will give you a gross profit percentage of seventy percent. Inadequate cost control is the number one factor contributing to food businesses failing. Look out for my next article in the May edition


The Start of the 2012 Wild Mushroom Season? A False start!

morel mushrooms










It was with great gusto last Sunday I went on my first wild mushroom forage of 2012 -ruck sack packed with my flask of hot coffee, a tub of borlotti bean salad & crusty bread ( you need sustenance for foraging & i don’t do slumming when it comes to foraging fuel!). Water proof gear to the hilt my thermal lined Donegal weather proof trousers & my trusty expert companions in tow ” Charlie the Stray & Sasha” – my two terriers!  My mushroom of choice on this forage was ” Morel” mushrooms – they are the jewel in the crown of culinary mushrooms. Ask any chef about these mushrooms & they go weak at the knees (with excitement) at the thought of cooking with them, equally restaurant owners go weak at the knees at the thought of buying them. Per kg fresh morels can cost upwards of €75 plus.  Morels grow over a very short season in these neck of the woods, around 3 weeks. I normally find them in woodlands in broad leaf & coniferous areas &  in solitary formations rather than in small groups. I rummaged around in the forest floor, strayed onto the adjoining fields & nearly went crossed eye straining to find my morels –  after 3 hours I called it quits! Not a morel to be had – the chill in the air & cold rain just isn’t the weather for morels. Weather & temperature permitting I will try this weekend. Also hope to find some ” St George” mushrooms from mid May onwards – watch this space

Running A Tourism Buisness in Ireland

Atlantic Drive, County Donegal

A briefing paper entitled “Reducing State Imposed Costs on the Tourism Industry:The Case for Better Regulation” by Failte Ireland makes for a great insight into regulation across the tourism sector. In general, tourism businesses are required to interact with at least 24 different public, statutory and other bodies in operating their business. The studys findings were based on in-depth qualitative case studies with 20 businesses across the breath of the tourism industry. The case study group comprised off the following businesses:

 ·         Five hotels and two hotel chains

·         Four restaurants

·         Three coach operators

·         Three firms from the activities and attractions sector

·         Two self-catering group schemes

·         One B&B

·         One language school and one large commercial hostel.

Read the full briefing paper – Failte Ireland Paper

The West & The North West of Ireland

Galway Hooker Ale & Fresh Donegal Crab







Artisan brewers & local produce make a great marriage. A great food marriage that is.  As a young chef working in London I learnt about the true values of food marriages. This revelation on flavours & ingredient parings started for me with  Nico Ladenis of Chez Nico. This was a 2 Michelin star restaurant with all the accolades & a fantastic reputation. There were  four Irish lads that formed about a quarter of the kitchen team which was  led by Paul Flynn. Nico had written book ” My Gastronomy”. One of the key things that stuck in my mind from the book was how the marriage of two food ingredients work together ie scallops & garlic. Simple flavours with no messing around. That was London in the early 1990’s In Ireland in 2012 putting food marriage on the menus of restaurants, bars, hotels in the west & north west  is alive & kicking in the Oarsman Restaurant & Harry’s . I wonder what Nico would have made of my food marriage of Galway Hooker Ale & Fresh Donegal Crab

Whats Your Recipe For Success?

Martin Lynch & Gary Rhodes working 1 michelin star Castle Hotel


Martin Lynch young chef on a Roux Brothers Mission with Gary Rhodes


As a young aspiring chef working with Gary Rhodes , I had high ambitions (working in Michelin star restaurants does that to you!) along with another chef from NI John Simpson who owns successful catering business in Swindon – Hospitality Services – I had recipe for success, inspired by Gary Rhodes & fantastic West Country ingredients I was a finalist in the Roux Brothers Scholarship  

As a business in hospitality & catering, whats your recipe for success? Do you have a recipe? Does the recipe include

  • know your food cost
  • Achieving a Gross Profit on food/ingredients of 70%
  • Growing your business & foot fall = the bottom line
  •  Managing food costs & not compromising quality
  • An expert who delivers on the ” Goals & Objectives”

Have a look at some of the results that Hospitality Solutions Recipes have delivered for our Clients   Get in touch & improve your Recipe


Its In Season Now

Home grown Finn Vally purple sprouting broccoli

 Well there’s still lots of lovely ingredients available to use in your business or at home.  Here’s some of my favourites & eating very nicely

Sardines, Mussels, Lemon Sole, Scallops, Monkfish, Prawns, Cod, Mackerel, Herring,
Beetroot, Radishes, Parsley, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Leeks Early Rhubarb.

 check out our new face book page to see what other ingredients  I used to make with the purple sprouting broccoli even tastier.

 face book Hospitality Solutions Ireland






On The Trail off Donegal Good Food Treats




On my working days treks & trails around Donegal & the North West. I get to work with lots of local businesses. Results for the clients are the essence of business. Results which leads to better business for them –it gets them more customers, attracts more attention to their service & converts to the profitability of the business

Times are tough for businesses, but out of these tough times opportunities arise. Some businesses ignore these opportunities others grab them & run with them. One such opportunity was seized by a group off 10 Donegal businesses. The result; Donegal Good Food Taverns a group of iconic restaurant-bars dotted throughout Donegal, each with our own wonderful history, style, traditions, charm and picturesque surroundings. Collectively, they aim to bring you a genuine taste of Donegal by sourcing the very best fresh, local ingredients and serving them with lashings of pride.

Some Worrying News For Scottish and Irish scallop producers under threat from EU regulations


Scottish and Irish suppliers of hand-dived scallops, used in fine dining restaurants across the country, are at risk of going out of business because of draconian EU regulations.

More on this at –

Good food safety with Hospitality Solutions; our food safety training is based on best practice  & is all risk assess based. Has common sense gone by the wayside in this approach by European legislators? See our food safety services

The highlights of 2011

A Review of the year led me to file Hospitality Solutions highlights of 2011

Hotels In Westport Ireland

Working with the team at Hotel WestPort to bring the food to 1 AA rossette standard – which was awarded to the Hotel in October Well done to Declan, Stephen & all the team

The Oarsman winning the national award for Food Pub Of The Year 2011 at the Annual Good Food Ireland Awards. Ronan & Conor Maher are the brothers behind this gastro pub. Ronan & Conor are consummate professionals – every town should have an Oarsman Restaurant gastro pub!Accepting the award from An Taoiseach Mr. Enda Kenny is Ronan Maher, co-owner The Oarsman and head chef Shaun Hanna.gfi oars













And Finally Collecting Wild Mushrooms in Donegal

It’s been a bumper season – from June through to October when not working & advising my customers. I love collecting wild mushrooms. I’ve been “hunting ” wild mushrooms for the past two decades from the west country in England to Richmond Park in London – from the Wicklow hills to the Fench Alps & now the Hills & forests of Donegal its been the best season yet! ( 30& kgs) Roll on June 2012

 Donegal Wild Mushrooms


Ruby Chard

How a 30 minute conversation with Hospitality Solutions helped a Client to save €3,000 on food costs

On a recent review with a new client the question was asked “how can we control costs on our food margins with out affecting the quality of the food & the choice of dishes that we offer?” – we looked at the average weight on a roasting striploin of beef , spoke with the butcher & re specified  the weight & trim on the beef – this worked out at an average saving of €57.69 per week x 52 weeks = €3,000 – this savings can now be invested in growing the business. Hospitality Solutions can help you manage your costs & help grow your profits

What’s in season now?

The flavours of October – no recipes this month, instead a list off ingredients to inspire youRuby Chard

Swiss chard (some cut from my own garden), apples, beetroot, borlotti beans, brill, butternut squash, cabbages, celeriac, chard, chestnuts, clams, cockles, cod, crabs, curly kale, Dover sole, duck, eel, fennel, figs, grey mullet, haddock, hake, halibut, hare, John Dory, kohlrabi, leeks, lemon sole, lobster, mackerel, monkfish, mussels, onions, oysters, parsnips, pears, plaice, plums, squash, quinces, red kale, salsify, scallops, sea bass, sea bream, skate, spinach, squid, swede, sweetcorn, thyme, turbot, turnips, watercress, winkles



And from the Wild Larder – October’s wild food
Apples, crab, grouse, hare, horseradish, mallard, nettles, partridge, rosehips, sea beet, sloes, teal, tufted duck, venison, wet walnuts, wigeon, wild mushrooms, woodcock, wood pigeon

Donegal Wild Mushroom 2011Season Highlights


Donegal Chanterelles