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In Conversation: Brendan O’Connor, General Manager of Adare Manor

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By Niamh Walsh on 7th December 2023

For Brendan O'Connor, Adare Manor is more than a job; it's a passion intertwined with the very essence of Irish hospitality, and as he reveals the secrets behind the historic estate's unique blend of grandeur, sustainability, and personalised service, you're invited into a world where every stay feels like a cherished homecoming.

Hidden within the heart of Ireland, Adare Manor stands as a testament to opulence and grandeur. And at its helm is Brendan O'Connor, the General Manager whose journey into the world of fine service began with a passion for food and travel. In this exclusive interview, O'Connor takes us on a journey through his career, the unique offerings of Adare Manor, and the evolving landscape of luxury hospitality. From preserving the estate's rich history, to embracing sustainable practices, Brendan shares insights into the meticulous efforts that make Adare Manor a leader in high-end hospitality.

Could you tell us about your journey in the hospitality industry and how you came to be the General Manager of Adare Manor?

BO: Starting from a young age, I have really nurtured an appreciation for good food and travel. I grew up surrounded by brilliant bakers, such as my mother who was involved in many areas of baking and confectionery. I initially thought I might become a chef, but my interest in food and travel led me to study hotel management and that was the beginning of my journey into hospitality.

Before joining the Adare Manor team in 2015 as Director of Food and Beverage, I held senior management roles at a host of prestigious hotels around the world, including Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman, Sheen Falls Hotel in Kerry and the Waldorf Astoria in New York. I was also involved in senior hospitality management roles during the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. In 2020, I became General Manager at Adare Manor, and I’ve been enjoying this role ever since. 

Brendan O'Connor, General Manager of Adare Manor
Brendan O'Connor, General Manager of Adare Manor

Adare Manor is known for its opulent luxury. What sets it apart from other luxury hotels and resorts, and how do you maintain such high standards?

BO: The setting and location of Adare Manor really sets us apart: it's ethereal. The Manor itself is the most beautiful example of romantic Neo-Gothic architecture and the pristine estate — thanks to our team of skilled and precise gardeners — offers incredible vistas of the limerick countryside. As you drive up to the gates and see the property for the first time, it really does take your breath away.

Adare Manor

The hotel's history and heritage is also rather special. Between the 1830s and 1980s, Adare Manor was a family home, only becoming a luxury hotel in 1980. Preserving its homely origin has been at the heart of all decisions relating to interiors and restoration of the many magnificent spaces. 

One can't escape Adare’s rich history, nor do we want to. We fully embrace it and that inspires us to maintain high standards, to do the manor proud. We do have rigorous standards and an incredible team of people who really care about what they do, the guest experience, and creating those special moments that guests value.

Adare Manor

Luxury travellers often seek exclusive experiences. What are some of the most unique and bespoke experiences that Adare Manor offers to its guests?

BO: Where to begin! We are home to Ireland’s only spa concept by the globally-recognised skincare brand, 111SKIN, as well as Ireland's first custom-built indoor padel courts. We are also home to County Limerick’s first Michelin-starred restaurant, The Oak Room, and a championship golf course redesigned by award-winning designer Tom Fazio that will play host to the 2027 Ryder Cup. We also host other estate activities, including trout fishing on the River Maigue, falconry, and archery. Adare intrigues even the most experienced travellers!

The Oak Room
The Oak Room

The pandemic has affected the hospitality industry in many ways. How has Adare Manor adapted and evolved in response to the challenges brought about by COVID-19?

As a team we worked hard to implement all social distancing measures and Covid regulations in a luxurious, discreet way. We wanted the hotel to continue to be an escape. For example, we created a hand sanitisation ritual in our Michelin-starred Oak Room: our team developed a gin-infused hand sanitiser in a gel form, which was served in an oyster shell. It was sensory, it was unique, and it shows we have the guest welfare at the forefront of what we do, always.  

Sustainability and responsible tourism have become important topics in the luxury hospitality sector. What initiatives has Adare Manor undertaken as a result?

We’ve always cared for our estate as it’s so important to the Adare Manor experience. Passionate about this topic and adamant that we want to not only preserve the Adare estate, but improve our sustainable initiatives year on year, I put together a brilliant sustainability team who are keeping us on track. We are currently proud holders of the Green Hospitality Gold Award 2022 & ISO 20121 Sustainable Event Award 2022. Earlier this year the team were shortlisted for the Irish Times National Green Awards 2023

We now track and measure our environmental impact using a cross-departmental tracking system all for waste streams. These are reviewed monthly by our sustainability expert group which will set out the actions to be completed by one or more departments and be reviewed once complete. This has been extremely insightful and helped us reduce negative environmental impacts such as waste management and prioritising local suppliers. 

We use green energy. All heat and power is provided by a CHP unit and solar farm and in 2024 we will run a 100% all-electric green transport fleet. We also have a bio-digester to turn food waste and cuttings into usable compost.

We love our green estate and caring for its wildlife is a central focus to us at Adare Manor too. We have four species of bats on our grounds and have a number of bat summer roosts, and two protected large winter roosts on the grounds fittingly using our old gamekeeper's lodges. Bird nesting sites are spread across all areas and our 12 native Irish black bee hives are given a special area adjacent to much of our rewilded areas. We have also been actively engaged in resort-wide initiatives including tree planting, wetland restoration, and pollinator planting. We work closely with experts at Bat Conservation Ireland, Three County Beekeeping, National Parks and Wildlife and Inland Fisheries to carry out this work. 

Adare Manor

Adare Manor is situated in a historic and picturesque location. How do you blend the rich history and heritage of the property with modern luxury offerings for your guests?

Ireland has the most amazing people and storytelling is a gift the Irish have. There is a story behind everything; from our stunning landscape, to rich history and music and dance. The country is constantly offering up rich and authentic experiences and our team narrates this effortlessly and beautifully to guests. 

The culinary experience at Adare Manor is highly regarded. Can you tell us about the dining options and the creative approach to cuisine at the resort?

Our guests and visitors have a little of everything at Adare Manor. The Oak Room is a truly magical setting overlooking the River Maigue. Helmed by Chef Mike Tweedie it is the perfect accompaniment for an unforgettable fine-dining experience. The Tack Room is filled with an array of rare Irish whiskeys: we have almost 200 bottles sourced from the best producers internationally. The Gallery, where we serve afternoon tea is the perfect marriage of grand scale and exquisite detail, whilst The Drawing Room overlooks the lush formal gardens and is an ideal spot to meet for morning coffee or to enjoy a light lunch. Finally, The Carriage House — introduced to complement our golf course — offers a warm and welcoming environment with unrivalled service.

We proudly display our commitment and support for Irish products and suppliers throughout all, with 90% of our food items being of Irish origin and 75% based within 100km of our resort. This number increases with seasonality and changes in our menu year on year. Our Culinary team's aim is to not just maintain our Michelin Star in our Oak Room restaurant and Michelin Guide status for the Carriage House restaurant, but are working with suppliers to hopefully achieve a Michelin Green Star in 2024. 

The Carriage House
The Carriage House

Exceptional customer service is a hallmark of luxury hospitality. How do you train and empower your staff to provide the highest level of service and exceed guest expectations?

Adare Manor has a very strong emphasis on developing our team members and helping them to achieve a solid pathway to career progression and development. 

In association with the Atlantic Technical University in Limerick, those participating in the university culinary course are given the unique opportunity and experience to train under and work with the resort's leading kitchen team. We also work with hospitality colleges in Ireland, the UK and Europe to offer the same experience. 

For junior members of our team specific training is provided to develop them into future supervisors and onto the pathway to management. In the food and beverage department, team members can avail of - Bartender apprenticeship / Mangers in Training one-year programs & Wine & Spirit Education Trust certification trust courses. And all team members have the option to shadow teams from other departments that they feel they would have an interest in expanding into in the future. 

We also recognise that the employer value proposition is constantly evolving in our business. To keep up, we constantly review and amend employee pay and benefits. Our current employee benefits are comprehensive and increase with length of service. Examples include team events and socials in the local area and across the country; our international team members especially enjoy visiting other parts of the emerald isle! We also organise weekly sports events, wellness and mental health seminars and extend experiences such as overnight stays to team members' families. 

Adare Manor has received numerous awards and accolades. Can you share some key moments or achievements that you are particularly proud of during your tenure as General Manager? 

Yes we have, and this is down to our brilliant team that makes the Adare Manor experience truly special. Every award and accolade is a tribute to them. 2023 was a great year. We were awarded a Five-Star rating by Forbes’ Travel Guide – the annual list is the only independent, global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas. We were also Condé Nast Traveller (UK & US) readers #1 Resort in the World last year, and in Europe this year. The readers of Condé Nast are inspiring guests of ours and we are humbled that they have chosen Adare Manor as their favourite destination twice in a row! 

Adare Manor

The guest demographic in luxury hospitality can be diverse. How do you tailor experiences to meet the needs and preferences of different guests?

We make sure our guests feel known. Adare Manor is a place where even your first visit feels like a homecoming, where the first glimpse stirs something familiar down in your bones. It’s your drink the way you like it and the best seat by the fire. It’s the feeling that everything is possible and the knowledge that nothing is left to chance.

Luxury hospitality trends are constantly evolving. What do you see as the most significant trends shaping the future of Adare Manor and the industry as a whole?

The future of travel will be green. Sustainability innovations are growing at an exciting pace and will become pillars at luxury hotels. 

What's next for Adare Manor? Are there any exciting developments or projects on the horizon that you can share with our readers?

Of course! Next year we will launch our very own Chocolatier shop where guests will be able to see our team work, visit for tastings and even try their hand at making exceptional chocolate creations. In 2027, we will host the Ryder Cup. I hope for another rare whiskey collaboration with Midleton Distillery too!

GOLF


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