Follow Leisure, a multi-venue hospitality operator and owner of some of Northern Ireland’s most recognised eateries has acquired District, a Belfast based specialist coffee chain.

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

District will continue to operate as a stand-alone brand within the Follow Leisure group whose portfolio includes other cafes including Canteen, Output, Morning Martha and the multi-venue restaurant brand, 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” with Follow Leisure aiming to continue to operate the business under this premise. Thirty staff are employed by District with the continuity of their employment being maintained.

Gary McIldowney of Follow Leisure said, “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”, said McIldowney.

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.

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

“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”, concluded McIldowney.

Love Belfast
Love Belfast
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