Can I have synopsis of your career?
My first taste of the hospitality industry was as a teenager working in Cavistons in Glasthule, delivering fish to Fitzpatrick’s Castle Hotel. That led me to do hotel management on block release at Galway RTC as it was then.
Ask the Manager – Cian O Broin – The Dean Hotel Galway
Much of my career has been in Galway, where I began as a trainee manager in the Great Southern Hotel. Subsequently becoming General Manager, which became the Meyrick and the hotel is now the Hardiman.
I did some gallivanting in the Black Forest in Germany, and worked in an old-school five-star hotel where the chef went hunting and foraging. He had 38 ways to cook asparagus! It was a great experience.
How did you cope during the pandemic?
About six months before Covid-19 arrived I had decided I was going to take time off to spend with my family. So timing was great. I did a bit of dairy-farming with my brother-in-law in Oranmore. Then during the pandemic my wife went back to work as a public health nurse.
Eventually the children were fed up of me being around and asked “Dad, when are you going back to work.” I think I was too strict. I had been talking to the Pressup Group and The Dean Galway was a good fit for me.
While overseeing the construction and waiting, I was asked to help out with the Glasson Lake House and Golf Resort near Athlone. Pressup had acquired it in 2018 and it has had a complete facelift. I enjoyed my time in the midlands while I waited for The Dean to get back on track.
Describe The Dean Galway?
Construction began on The Dean on Prospect Hill in 2019 and had to stop twice during the pandemic. The second time was very hard to get back up to full tilt. There were staffing and supply issues. Simple things like supply of the terracotta hand basins, and the wooden cladding that is everywhere, slowed things down. It is not easy working with 30 – 40 builders every day, the constant communications and the sound of hammering.
The Dean has 100 rooms, 101 is you split the penthouse, into two units. There is Elephant and Castle café on the ground floor and Dime coffee bar. Sophie’s Restaurant on the top floor has a wraparound outdoor terrace, just waiting for awnings.
Galway to Clifden Rail Tunnel under the Dean
The Powergym is almost ready and will incorporate part of the original Galway to Clifden rail tunnel. The swimming pool is currently being painted with 24 flamingos, by a well-known Galway artist.
The Pressup Group are keen to support local artists and The Dean Galway has 250 pieces of art from local artists in the rooms, the lobby and public areas. I am hoping to produce a catalogue of our collection, as soon as I have time.
How have you coped with staffing a new property?
The most important thing is hiring the right people in the first place then it’s not that difficult. The Dean Galway has 174 staff and we are a young, cool and friendly company, so they want to work here. It fits their lifestyle and brand too. The trick is to mix and match key full time professional staff with younger staff.
Luckily, I was able to send staff to other Pressup properties while we were waiting for the building to be finished. They were trained here and then sent out to other hotels, bars and restaurants where staff were needed due to Covid-19 and fire-fighting.
They worked all across the group from Elephant & Castle, to the Mayson, Dean Cork, Glasson Lake House and more. The same systems apply across the group, so it was easy to move people around for a few days at a time, here and there helping out.
Do you feel business has changed since the pandemic?
People management has had to change greatly, in the past few years. You have to be more hands on, a bit more casual and relaxed in your managerial approach trying to get things done. But the most important things I found, if you hire the right people in the first place it is not that difficult.
What challenges does the Midwest face with reduced air services?
I found originally when Shannon was curtailed and people were flying directly to Dublin they spent longer in the West of Ireland. Whilst if they landed in Shannon, they considered themselves to have been in the west and didn’t spend as long here.
Galway luckily has a lot to offer visitors, such as the Aran Islands, Connemara National Park, Arts Festival, Race Week, not to mention good pubs and music. They are still coming here.
The Dean brand is quite strong and it has a certain demographic or market segment that would stay in this type of property. So far this year 50 percent of our US bookings are direct. We also have the Wild Atlantic Way on our doorstep.
What can visitors expect for Race Week at The Dean Galway?
It is going to be busy, we have hardly any rooms left to sell. The bar and restaurants will be very busy and guests will get priority dinner reservations, though no-shows will be charged. When it’s not Race Week expect to pay from €209 per night for a Mod Pod room at weekends.
Cian is pictured at Table 28 in Sophies, his favourite spot in The Dean Galway.
Read my review of a Night in the Dean Galway here