When Belfast bar and restaurant, The Chelsea, picked up this year’s LCN Award for outstanding customer service, it marked another milestone for a venue where performance has consistently outshone expectations across the last 18 months.
Located at the upper end of the stylish Lisburn Road, The Chelsea was the subject of a major upgrade about five years ago following significant investment by its owner, Wine Inns. That work included the installation of the venue’s signature central bar.
Appealing to a sophisticated and slightly older customer, The Chelsea boasts a downstairs bar with 21 tables and room for around 70 patrons on a busy Saturday evening. Upstairs is the restaurant area but this is largely reserved for private functions and increasingly, for wedding receptions – 20 have been booked this year already.
‘Honestly, business in the last 18 months has been better than we expected it would be,’ general manager, Terry Loughran tells LCN. Terry has been with Wine Inns for 20 years, six of them spent at The Chelsea.
‘We also own The Doyen not far from here which opened a couple of years ago and we worried that might have an impact, but it hasn’t at all,’ adds Terry. ‘In fact, I would say that business in the last 18 months is up around 20 per cent, so we are certainly holding our own.’
Terry was delighted with the venue’s success at the LCN Awards in June, when it claimed a win in the Outstanding Customer Service category.
‘Every bar sells pints, but the level of your customer service is going to be the thing that adds value and really sets you apart,’ he says. ‘It’s very important to us and we find that people really appreciate it. If you take their drink down to their table, if you treat them properly, they come in with a smile and go out smiling which means they are more likely to come back and that’s what we want.’
Terry says that these days, The Chelsea has built a good base of consistent and regular customers on which it can rely. Four years ago, the venue might have been perceived more as a restaurant, but these days, it has a reputation as a quality local bar: ‘We have a slightly older crowd, perhaps 30 and upwards, who appreciate table service, our extensive gin list, the fact that they’re able to get a seat without being bumped around. All of that appeals to slightly older people who have no problem spending money as long as they are getting a good product and good service,’ he adds.
And it seems that news of The Chelsea’s success has been reaching celebrity ears as well. Westlife enjoyed dinner at the venue recently and country singer, Nathan Carter has called there on more than one occasion.
The LCN Awards win has been very well received at The Chelsea, says Terry:
‘Awards like this are great for staff morale and the people here are still buzzing from it. It gives them recognition for everything that they’ve been doing and there’s also the PR value. You put you plaque up outside and you hope that people see it and think ‘Oh, this must be a good place’.
‘All our regulars have been speaking to us about the win and the feedback we’ve been receiving has been great. Winning awards like this draws attention o you and helps make a difference, this has been very big for us.’