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A seat at The Captain’s Table

April 6th, 2018 | by LCN Editor
A seat at The Captain’s Table

Casual dining is now one of the busiest parts of the hospitality sector and differentiation has become key. A focus on ambience combined with traditional standards of service and product has helped Mark and Hilary Braniff make a stand-out success of The Captain’s Table in Glengormley.

Mark Braniff, a Belfast-born third generation fish fryer and his wife, Hilary, are the experienced duo behind one of Glengormley’s most popular fast-food outlets.

The Captain’s Table on the Carnmoney Road is an atmospheric take-away and 60-seater family restaurant which recently benefited from a comprehensive investment in new equipment and décor by Mark and Hilary.

The refurbishment builds on the success the outlet has enjoyed since Mark’s parents, James and Charlotte, bought the business – known then as The Glen Fish Restaurant – in 1997.

The family’s roots in the fish and chip trade begin with Mark’s grandmother, Rita Braniff, who had a fish and chip shop in Belfast. That tradition was carried on when James and Charlotte bought their first shop on the Ballygomartin Road and it was here that Mark got his first taste of working in a busy take-away.

When the family bought the outlet in Glengormley 20 years ago, they changed its name and invested heavily in the business to bring everything up-to-date:

“The original business really needed that investment,” Hilary told LCN this month. “Glengormley is a highly populated area with a good potential for trade, but the old shop was very tired. The business began to grow steadily after the investment and it has been strong every since.”

James and Charlotte retired from the trade some years ago, handing the business – which includes The Captain’s Take-Away in Ballyduff, Newtownabbey – on to Mark, and Hilary – who had been busy at home raising a family of four children – joined her husband behind the counter.

More recently, Mark and Hilary have invested heavily in another large-scale refurbishment at the outlet. They have installed cutting-edge new equipment and given the whole premises a bright new look:

“We also spent money on some historical memorabilia, including an original lifebuoy from the gangway of the Titanic,” added Hilary. “We’ve also got a large amount of old pictures from the local area.

“Because we are right in the centre of Glengormley, we thought it made sense to encourage this kind of local interest. The restaurant is very family-orientated, but we get a lot of older people coming in and they really like to look at the old pictures. We are also now on the Just Eat app, so that’s brought a whole new generation of young people into the shop.”

Hilary (end, right) with some of the staff from The Captain’s Table.

Mark and Hilary know that one of the most important aspects of any fast-food outlet is the product itself, however, and there has been a significant focus on the offering in recent times. A number of novel new product lines have been introduced, including Snow Shakes and ice-cream and The Captain’s Table now offers a gluten-free menu as well as pizza and a selection of home-cooked stews and lasagne.

“All of this is really important,” added Hilary. “Twenty years ago, when Mark and his parents took the shop on, it was the only fish and chip shop in the Glengormley area, but now it’s full of fast-food outlets, so we need to be aware of that. But a bit of competition is also good, I think it helps make sure that you don’t get too complacent about things.”

There are now 30 staff employed at The Captain’s Table and Hilary says that business is growing at the shop on a monthly basis.

“I think the priority now has to be to keep the standard of service and the food as high as we can because being so busy, it needs that extra attention in order to ensure that things stay as perfect as they should be.

That should prove a little easier going forward as Hilary and Mark’s 19-year-old son, Daniel, has just joined them in the business.

“In three years’ time, if the business keeps growing the way that it’s doing, we may well need an extension,” says Hilary with a smile, but she rules out any additional outlets:

“I think that one of the key reasons that we are so busy is that one of us is here at all times and I think that’s very important when it comes to running a good fish and chip shop,” she adds.


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