The recent passing of Myrtle Allen is an opportunity to stand back and acknowledge what can be achieved in the Irish food industry with some vision, ambition, and hard work.
Mrs Allen helped put high-quality, sustainable Irish food on the map. In so doing she inspired a number of world-class restaurant and artisan food entrepreneurs to pursue their own dreams and create myriad businesses serving domestic and international customers.
Such pioneering work needs to be built upon by developing a network of restaurants and food producers. They could then use technology to market their output.
What this means in practice is creating what was achieved with the Wild Atlantic Way for tourism:
Identifying and promoting small to medium-sized restaurants and gastro-pubs across the country. Foodies are a fast-growing tourism group who value high-quality food and service.
The global Food Travel Monitor estimates that 46% of foodies value authenticity first, with 44% favouring eclectic offerings and 35% preferring so-called local themes.
Culinary travellers account for 47% of US tourists and spend an estimated 48% more than leisure tourists. Almost 60% of travellers believe food and beverage is increasingly important for their vacations.
It is clear that the volume of tourists pursuing authentic food experiences is growing and is set to expand further.
Towns and villages across Ireland are ripe to benefit from these large trends if they can combine attractive settings with top-class food served by friendly staff at affordable prices.
There are loads of challenges. Too many food outlets in Ireland produce low-quality meals served by rude staff and sold at exorbitant prices.
Technology has a part to play in all this. It is now possible for any tourist, using Google Maps, to quickly find their way to any restaurant in Ireland. Adding a high-end app that identifies, profiles, and connects consumers with authentic restaurants would help.
Ireland also needs access by airports and ports, good transport, and a range of accommodation at competitive prices.
A world-class network of restaurants at various price points would be a worthy tribute to the great East Cork food pioneer.
<i>Joe Gill is director of corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are his own.</i>
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