Hotelier Francis Brennan says “I had to take steak off menu as it’s too pricey’

Francis defended his hotel’s room prices, insisting many people are looking to indulge after a difficult couple of years. “We didn’t bow to anybody. We are not cheap, I have to say that”

Francis Brennan

Francis Brennan with Joe Phelan

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Top hotelier Francis Brennan has taken steak off his menu because his guests would complain about how expensive it has become — despite charging more than €500 a night for a room for two.

TV favourite Francis and his brother John own the five-star Park Hotel in Kenmare, Co Kerry, and guests must stay a minimum of two nights during the summer at a current cost of at least €525 a night for bed and breakfast midweek.

That rises to as much as €795 for a Saturday night.

“The price of food has gone through the roof,” storms Francis. “The price of steak to buy has gone up 42 per cent on last year.

“We have taken fillet steak off the menu because we can’t afford to put it on anymore – because people will look at the menu and the price and go ‘ohhhhhh!’

“I was in America in March working with Tourism Ireland and the price in America has gone through the roof as well, so it’s not just Ireland. Its $69 for a steak, which is almost the same in euro.

“We don’t have steak on the menu at the moment, because it’s just too dear. We have everything else — we have beef cheeks, which is a cheaper cut of beef. But we wouldn’t have fillet steak.”

Francis defended his hotel’s room prices, insisting many people are looking to indulge themselves after a difficult couple of years.

“We didn’t bow to anybody. We are not cheap, I have to say that,” he confirms.

“Kenmare is a beautiful Irish heritage town. So that sets out the ambience straight away. Our building was built in 1897, we have done a huge renovation on it last year,” he says.

“We opened up in July last year with Brian O’Sullivan, a London -based designer who is from Kenmare. He did a fantastic job on the hotel and brought it right up to contemporary standard and we are very pleased, as are our guests.”

Francis Brennan with Joe Phelan

The Brennans had a small party for their re-opening night.

“We had maybe six or eight couples in from Kenmare, and other people as well, to try the kitchen and make sure everything was working – and we all knew everything was,” he smiles.

“One of the couples who came in were sitting in the bar/lounge and the woman said, ‘did you do anything with this room?’ and I said, ‘we just spent €300,000 on this room’. That was good that she didn’t really notice.”

He admits it can be difficult keeping a business like his going.

“The two biggest problems in the hotel industry is staffing, which we are on top of thanks be to God — we don’t have a staffing issue at the moment, which is great, and number two is the price of food,” he says.

Francis turned 69 in March and confesses that when he got the travel pass three years ago he used it just once.

“I got the train when I had a problem with my car and it was a very nice journey,” he beams.

He and his siblings had been taking turns to look after their mum in Sligo, who died at the age of 97 two years ago.

“We knew she was on the way out and we were grateful she had a very peaceful passing, she lived to a great age,” he reflects.

His brother John has battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer in recent years.

“He’s doing well and is managing it well,” Francis confides.

And he says two years of lockdowns had its benefits.

“I got out a lot more, walking around Kenmare, all within the five-kilometre zone, and it was lovely. I don’t have a great leg, but it was lovely to get out and enjoy the countryside,” he says.

He and John return to RTÉ screens tomorrow for a new four-part series of At Your Service.

The programmes features a self-catering seven-cottage centre with alpacas in Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow; the Smuggler’s Inn at Waterville, Co. Kerry; Dunmore East holiday and golf resort in Co. Waterford, and Sweeney’s Hotel in Dungloe, Co. Donegal.

“We’re all facing huge challenges as we welcome guests back into our businesses. John and I want to help others navigate this process,” says Francis.

“It was a very difficult shoot because it was filming over two-and-a-half years and all those people had difficulties with supplies, like bricks for an example, they couldn’t get bricks.

“Other people hadn’t got staff, they couldn’t get tiles for the roof, they couldn’t get finance. It was just a nightmare for them.

“The Smuggler’s Inn had local workmen and they opened up in time for last year. They were opened up last July.

“Sweeney’s Hotel in Donegal is still finishing their project, because they couldn’t get bricks and then they couldn’t get labour. It was all difficult.”

Francis would love to do another Grand Tour series.

“I’d like to go somewhere exotic like Jordan,” he admits. “I hope to get away in September, but I’ve nothing planned. Hopefully, the sun will come in before the year is out because it has been pretty poor up to date unfortunately.”

  • At Your Service is on RTÉ One tomorrow at 9.35pm.

A beefy bill to stay at hotels

These are the cheapest prices for a room for two in several five-star hotels nationwide. Most only have availability for early or midweek, with weekends usually booked out, and when available Fridays and Saturdays are a lot more expensive. The prices, bar the Merrion, include breakfast. Some also insist on a minimum two-night stay.

Adare Manor, Co. Limerick – €1,185 SHEEN Falls Kenmare, Co. Kerry – €585 Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo – €750 Ballyfin Demesne, Co. Laois €1,180 Cliff House, Co. Waterford – €289 Hayfield Manor, Cork – €495 Merrion Dublin – €530. (Plus E65 each for full Irish breakfast, or E53 each for continental)

DINNER PRICES The five-star hotels featured here have a variety of menus, which we’ve also picked a trio of ordinary restaurants specialising in steaks.

Adare Manor – Its signature menu includes Angus Higgins beef cooked over coals (the four-course dinner is €140 each).

SHEEN FALLS – Includes a 6oz beef fillet on its three-course signature menu, which is €76 per person.

Ashford Castle – Five course menu includes Martin Jennings’ 28-Day Angus Cote de Bouef for €110 a head.

Ballyfin Demesne – Its eight-course tasting menu includes Aberdeen Angus beef and costs €125 a head (three courses is €105 each).

Cliff House – Beef fillet is €38.

Hayfield Manor – Its sample menu includes Beef Wellington and a five course meal costs €69 a head.

Merrion Hotel – A three course meal including fillet of Irish beef (plus fois gras) in its Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud costs €140 each.

Fire Steakhouse Dublin – Prices range from €35 for a six-ounce steak to €59.50 for a 16-ounce T-bone.

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