Walking into Miller & Cook in Mullingar, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d entered a food hall in New York or London.
Taking cues from the some of the finest international food outlets, Miller & Cook is a brand new concept in Irish retailing that focuses wholly on fresh local produce.
Housed in spacious, beautifully renovated premises in Mullingar town centre, Miller & Cook is an ambitious project.
Situated in the heart of Ireland’s rural Midlands, Miller & Cook offers artisan foods, a café, bakery, bistro café, wine bar and food hall all in a contemporary setting.
Based around its own bakery, and recognising the growing demand for fresh, quality produce, Miller & Cook eschews pre-cooked goods in all forms.
Instead, everything on its menus is made in-house, using local ingredients wherever possible.
Central to the Miller & Cook ethos and something of a USP in itself, the bakery reflects the growing public appreciation for all things wholesome and healthy.
Miller & Cook is the creation of owner Mark Gavin and his wife, Mary.
Mark is well known in Ireland’s retail industry as he spent many years as MD at Cuisine de France.
Since transforming a former Bank of Ireland building into this modern food operation, Mark has brought all his experience to bear on the business with fantastic results.
The café offers casual dining during the day serving pastries, coffees and lunches; the bakery (or HQ) is a part of everything in the store, the restaurant offers an impressive menu featuring the best of modern Irish cooking, the wine bar serves tasting platters, antipasti and a well-chosen selection of wines plus the grocery section offers fantastic local products from across Ireland.
“This is completely different to anything you will see in Ireland,” Mark told IFCR.
“It’s high quality, refreshing and new. Our motto is ‘local goodness’. Where we can, we will take product from as near to us as possible, we are conscious of the carbon footprint too.”
Mark added: “All our meats are sourced from the best suppliers in the area, including Mullingar Heifer Beef and Tormey Superior Meats, and as much fruit and veg as possible is similarly sourced close by.”
At the centre of the operation is the bakery. It employs a mix of state-of-the-art equipment and traditional methods – all dough is proved on-site using only top-grade, additive-free flour to produce a range of artisan breads, pies, and patisserie, including wheat-free alternatives.
The food hall has a selection of hand-made cheeses, hams, terrines, imported pastas and olive oils, preserves, coffees, teas and wines, which all entice the customer to try something different. The whole feel and look of the business shows that no expense has been spared.
“Miller & Cook was built to a spec, not a cost,” said Mark.
“We could, for instance, have had coffee machines installed for free from an international supplier. Instead, we bought our own machines so we can control our blends and chose local suppliers. So now even our coffee is local – it’s roasted and ground here in Mullingar.”
It’s certainly an approach to business that is working as Miller & Cook is proving a real success with customers.
“We’ve created a destination for our customers and there’s a real buzz about the place,” said Mark
“The infrastructure in the bakery is second to none, all our food is freshly made in store; people can come in and relax and enjoy high quality foods and first-class service.
“We are in our own market we have a different profile of customer to the retail businesses around us. We are open for dinner Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and we do a free lunch with every seven bought – it’s creating a real buzz and no-one else is doing that.”
Mark is a firm believer that customers are tired of the mainstream retail outlets and that a truly independent offering is enticing them to spend that bit more for quality local products.
“The big organisations haven’t invested in their businesses, they have gone mainstream. There is a resurgence of artisan locations. The top quality retailers are doing well – as are the discounters but those in the middle are being left behind.
“It is our end of the market that is revitalising the retail industry.”
As with any business of this calibre there has clearly been a lot of investment and Mark explains that the areas in which Miller & Cook is operating are all margin-enhancing which is allowing the business to employ more resources.
Training of staff from table service to the bakers and chefs has been second to none and all staff have been trained up to the highest standards with a core focus on service.
“It’s all about service,” said Mark. “I speak to all my customers. You never know but you could be the only person that they speak to all day. You could make someone’s day by providing a good service. We are aiming to create an experience for all our customers.”
Mark is happy to confirm that business has been growing month on month since opening late last year and the customer demand is increasing with diners having to be turned away from the restaurant recently.
“This drives us on to develop our restaurant offering further,” enthused Mark.
“Even though we are serving a ground floor area of 500 sq m we have plans in place for an 80-seater restaurant on the first floor.
“I’ve been advising people on their retail businesses for years and now I’ve put my money where my mouth is,” joked Mark.
“Who would have dreamt a few years ago that this could be done in Mullingar?”
Fortunately for the people of Mullingar, Mark Gavin did.