Wholesome Kitchen

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Entrepreneur: David Quirke

Business Location: 21/23 Dominick St, Mullingar

Established in: 2019

Famous for: Tripadvisor #1 restaurant for Mullingar, Westmeath and Leinster. Multi award-winning restaurant and catering, including 2019 - Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur – Best Idea (Westmeath), 2020 – Irish Restaurant Association – Best Newcomer and 2021 – Small Firms Association – Best Emerging Business

Employees: 26




Tell us about Wholesome Kitchen and what you do….

Wholesome Kitchen is a casual style restaurant, catering company and national meal plan business. We’re a local, family-run company on a mission to make healthy food delicious and fast. We launched our casual style restaurant and catering company back in August 2019 and we’re just putting the final touches to launching our meal plan business which will take our business to a national level. We currently employ 26 people and plan to increase this by another 8 employees over the next 12 months. Within our 5 year plan we also plan to launch a product range.

We’ve ranked as the #1 restaurant on Trip Advisor for the last two years continually for Mullingar, Westmeath AND Leinster

Social media has played a big role in our success, and we’ve grown our followers on Instagram and Facebook to 31k+ in this short space of time.

Sustainability is a major focus for us also, we’re proud to say that our business is powered by 100% Green Renewable Energy, we’ve planted 10,000+ trees to date and our business is Carbon Neutral.


What can you tell us about the early days and how it all started?

I’ve always been entrepreneurial and knew I wanted to own my own businesses from an early age. I completed a degree in Media and Business and a masters in Marketing. When I graduated I started working for Lidl over a 10 year period. I was very lucky to get the opportunity to move around many different positions with them from setting up and managing my own stores, to later managing largescale projects and departments. Working in a number of areas of the business such as stores, projects, HR, training, customer service etc really helped me to hone my skills with how to manage people, business and strategy. I was always passionate about the food industry and new there was a major niche in the market for a healthy food casual style restaurant and meal plan company. I worked on my business plan and concept over these 10 years all whilst saving as much money as possible. When I decided to finally leave the corporate world and set up Wholesome Kitchen, I received a huge amount of support and mentorship from the LEO and won the IBYE’s Best Idea at local level – a great kickstart to launching the business. Thankfully we launched to a resounding success and were incredibly busy from day one.


What were the high points and low points when you were a start-up?

The high points were definitely being so surprised with how busy we were from the very first day of opening. Having queues down the street is something we could never have imagined. Also, the support we’ve received locally since COVID happened has overwhelmed us, our regular customers made an even greater effort to support us through all of the varying restrictions.

The low points were maybe in the months and weeks before opening, we thought we never would actually get the doors open as we ran into a number of problems trying to get the building compliant from a health and safety perspective. We worked with all of the regulatory bodies, invested a lot more than we had planned and eventually got the doors open. It was a scary time as we thought we might lose our entire investment.


What was your big ‘break-through’ moment?

The breakthrough moment was definitely when we opened our doors and realised we had met the niche in the market that we had built our business plan around. So much research goes into the plan and you hope that you will be busy when you do open. Thankfully, the continuous queues proved that to us. Also navigating the last year and all the different restrictions, opening, closing etc really proved that our model does work under lots of varying factors and there’s a major need for our business.


Local Enterprise Office Westmeath has supported your business. Tell us about these supports and what impact they have had?

We have availed from a large amount of supports such as training, mentoring and funding. Right from when we were starting out, there were varying levels of training supports available to meet our needs at every stage of the journey. Especially with the onset of COVID, we availed of mentorship from experienced mentors who guided us during the first lockdown when we needed it most, grants that were made available to help us get online and market ourselves and training for myself and the team across a wide range of topics and expertise.


Has COVID affected your company?

We’ve been incredibly lucky in the fact that we’ve navigated each of the varying levels of restrictions positively and as a result the business has experienced a boom. We’ve done everything we can to ensure that we promoted our business during this time, added additional services, products etc. Our catering business really took off during this time, we added a range of new products that did well, we changed up our menu to suit the changing needs of customers and we also finally went live with our website which brought in a large volume of gift card sales. See below some of the COVID specific products we added as a result of changing consumer demands:

  • Dessert Treat Boxes – we added these as there was huge demand for desserts, gift ideas, treat packages at home
  • Gift Cards – we finally made the move online with gift card sales as there was a massive demand to support local and also with movements restricted people had to resort to online for presents
  • Cookie Dough – with a major focus on home baking we launched this product where people could make our famous cookies at home
  • Dog Snacks – with all of the different lockdowns we seen a major increase in takeaways and also a lot more dog walkers passing by our restaurant, healthy dog treats became very popular
  • Gift Ideas – we launched other sustainability focussed items like reusable coffee cups, water bottles etc as there was a major focus on supporting local and purchasing gifts from local businesses


What’s next on the business agenda for your company?

I’m incredibly optimistic about the future for our business. There are a large amount of opportunities out there that I know we can capitalise on. COVID has brought many challenges however at the same time an abundance of new opportunities with a lots of pent up demand. If you’re willing to think outside the box and understand how to meet the needs of the changing consumers there are endless opportunities for business.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten about running a business?

As cliché as it might sound, don’t be afraid to take a risk, very soon after I set up and told my startup story to someone and the many hurdles I faced they said ‘ahhhh but fortune favours the brave,’ that stuck with me. I guess I truly believe that - you can say it’s luck but when you plan, stay laser focussed and work really hard to make something work you can achieve anything.


Tell us why consumers should back the #LookforLocal campaign across County Westmeath…

Local is even more important than it ever has been. SMEs account for nearly 70% of employment in the private business sector. Aside from the benefits of all of this employment, they are the driving force behind the economy locally and nationally, SMEs play a major part in our towns and villages, offering produce, services, attractions, social elements etc. Also, you can have a much greater impact from a sustainability perspective and lessen your footprint on the planet by consuming locally sourced, designed and manufactured products. Keeping that revenue in Ireland and more importantly in your county or local town you will truly feel the benefits.