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Cafe in Limerick | Different is Good

Journal & Press

bits & pieces

A lot from a little

The morning of the second day we opened, 8th June 2012, I was standing in the doorway of canteen in an empty Mallow St wondering had I made the right decision to open my own place. I was hoping to get more customers than I had the previous day, which wasn’t much, when a young man came to the door and said ‘don’t open here …my friend opened here, and went out of business and is now bankrupt’.

It was a bit late for this advice, as that train had left the station, we were open. secondly he knew nothing of our ideas and ambitions, but his comment echoed in my mind for weeks when the dark thoughts of self doubt surfaced. but it made me more determined to stick to my principles; great ingredients, cooked simply equals great good. since that day just over two years ago with only hopes and dreams, what we have achieved is a great deal (in my opinion). but we started with very little.

– a little –

We stared with too little money; A small second hand car was about our budget. I had never ran or opened a cafe/restaurant before, and there was many other things we didn’t have. Design consultants, cafe consultants, investors, no heating, no air conditioning, no dishwasher, no kitchen porter (and still don’t), no walk in fridge, no walk in freezer, no storage space, poor location, no marketing budget, no marketing experience, tiny kitchen smaller than most apartments and probably no common sense. We had only enough space for 15 people to sit down at one time. in a location and street that most would think wouldn’t work. and why did it ?


– simple rule, doing things right –

We have one oven; Only big enough to cook/bake one item at a time. It will only fit a six muffin tray at a time. but we still bake all our muffins and cakes every day. good coffee is about great beans and 6 simple steps, which we repeat about 100 times a day.

Our sauces; smokey chilli, garlic aioli, hazelnut and rocket pesto, are so simple to make, but we make them our selves, we make our own soups and everything from scratch.

Our lettuce; we don’t by in ready wash packs, we cut and wash lettuce every day.

Our meat from local organic farms.

Our team; great employees with a passion for what they do.


– a lot –

What we have achieved; We are still open after two years, probably the greatest achievement for us or any small business as failure rate are approx. 45% for SME’s in the first three year.

We have ploughed our own furrow. sticking to our own ideas and principles, even when it would have been easier of change or copy others. the amount of times at the start We got asked for chips; the shock on faces when we said ‘sorry we don’t serve chips’. It might have been easier or more profitable to just make chips. but we did it our way.

We have been praised by eminent food critics and awarded locally and nationally

Tom Doorly
Pol O Conghaile
Restaurant Awards 
McKenna Guide

We have been included in McKenna’s 100 Best

RAI Best Casual Dining Limerick

(this one make’s me so happy, as I hold them in high regard)

Our exploits on social media/internet/marketing have been recognised

Best Digital Marketing Ireland – Restaurant Awards
Nominated: Best Business Twitter Account Social Media Awards 2013


People call to see how we do things, I get emailed about setting up a cafe, about our coffee, our suppliers, our ideas. as if we are some kind of experts! Some of our ideas may have been copied, well imitation is the highest form of flattery.

We have made ‘Canteen’ into more than a name. We have poured our heart and souls into a tiny building on a non descript street in Limerick to make it into something we hope is special. we don’t feel what we do is amazing, it’s just the hard way but also the right way; simple things done right. The titled is a lot from a little, and for those wanting to start a business, any business, don’t worry about what you don’t have, just what you can bring, your skills, your drive, your energy. sometimes hard work and passion is enough.