'We are taking Simply Crispy to the whole of Ireland': Crisp innovators tell JOE about their ambitious plan 7 years ago

'We are taking Simply Crispy to the whole of Ireland': Crisp innovators tell JOE about their ambitious plan

Simply Crispy for 32 counties...

You may remember a few weeks ago when JOE told you about a new crisp sandwich café called Simply Crispy that opened up to huge demand in Belfast. Anyone not living in Belfast was very, very jealous.

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We're delighted to say that the idea has proven to be so popular with crisp lovers that the Simply Crispy pop-up café could be appearing in your county sooner than you think and that you have the power to make it happen.

JOE caught up with one of the founding members, Seamus O'Shea, to discuss the concept, appeal and future of crisp sandwiches for Irish crisp lovers.

How did the idea come about?

The idea originated amongst the writers in The Ulster Fry because we wanted to create an article that captured and slightly mocked the essence of this 'hipster' café culture.

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The big recent story was the Cereal Killer café in London, which just sells cereal to their customers,  so my colleague Billy McWilliams had the notion that we could do something around crisp sandwiches.

We wrote the article with the sole intention of tricking people into thinking that there was a new crisp sandwich shop opening up in Belfast and it just snowballed. For example, we threw some mad ideas together and it just got more ridiculous as the story went on like we were charging 50p to cut the crusts off etc.

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The best thing is that thousands of people actually believed our article after it went viral. There were people all over Ireland and England who were jealous that Belfast was getting this make-believe crisp sandwich shop and all the feedback was really positive up until people realised it was a hoax!

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The next day we got a call from Andrew McMenamin, who owns the café around the corner, from where The Ulster Fry is based, and he wanted to make our article a reality. 24 hours later after, we were discussing a new café .

Tell us about the plans to expand around Ireland?

We've had a couple of enquiries about expanding into Dublin, around 20-30 entrepreneurs and those in the café business around Ireland have also contacted us, and I have a colleague in Dublin whose currently scouting locations and suitable partners.

The essence of Simply Crispy is that it's a 'pop-up café' though and that can set up shop anywhere in Ireland instantly. We're not looking to replicate the likes of Subway or Costa because our model is just to set up our shop in a current location/local café for 4 weeks and then move on to another place in Ireland.

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We see this as an opportunity to take Simply Crispy on tour around Ireland and turn up at different locations and events.

We will be in Dublin very soon, but we want to go anywhere where there's an appetite for Simply Crispy. The reality is that a fixed and settled HQ/ property isn't the ideal model for our product and a pop-up style is better.

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We still don't 100% know how much legs this idea has in the long-term because I really see it as more of a niche thing that can turn up at festivals, concerts, events, college rag weeks etc. We're talking to someone about making our service mobile also so we're not limited to just one particular area.

If demand is high in Cork, Antrim or Leitrim etc., then we'll go there. That's the beauty of what we're trying to do with Simply Crispy.

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We're very interested in speaking with any people, entrepreneurs or those in the trade, who might be willing to work with us so we can bring Simply Crispy to the people of Ireland and beyond.

Our intention is to bring this concept to the whole of Ireland in the same spirit that it was created, which brings people together in a fun and communal social setting. Even small details, like having the correct local bread, crisps and drinks is important to us because we want everything to feel as authentic as possible.

For example, the people of Galway might want their crisp sandwiches made differently than those in Belfast.

What's the timeline for opening in Dublin?

The people I've been talking with in Dublin want to see Simply Crispy open up as soon as possible but we've also been talking to people in Derry, London, Newry, and Enniskillen also.

We haven't really started to promote it just yet because the general idea is that we'll establish a HQ in different locations for a week or two and customers can get in touch with us to tell us where we should set up.

We're not naive enough to think that we can just roll up into every county in Ireland and open up a brand new café, but there is an opportunity there to work alongside local shop owners to bring crisp sandwiches to the people of Ireland.

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Is the crisp sandwich something that's very Irish?

I was in the café yesterday and there's grown men in their suits, mainly solicitors and journalists, and they were just sitting down with their crisps sandwiches and bottles of Lilt. The nice thing is that they were seated next to students and that's the appeal really.

It's essentially a school lunch and I think the appeal of our café is just recapturing that moment which is why people have identified with it.

We also realise that we're sort of caught in the middle of all this publicity and goodwill so maybe we have to pinch ourselves a little because we don't really fully know if it has the potential to be a resident, stationary business in the one location for 365 days a year.

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What's the demand been like from customers in Belfast?

For the first few days, we only opened for a few hours but we somehow managed to sell 300 crisp sandwiches on one day.

We even had people leaving the queue because they didn't have enough time on their break to wait and the numbers have just got better and better. We've ensured that our three or four staff have endured the intense two minute training to make a crisp sandwich!

What sort of crisps are on offer and what's most popular?

There's all the variety of Tayto, we have 36 different flavours, but there's also a nice mixture of Walkers, McCoys and Brannigans. It probably takes longer to read the menu that actually eat a crisp sandwich. As for the most popular, well there's only one winner. Tayto Cheese & Onion is the one that sells out most and also Pickled Onion has proven to be quite popular.

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What's the key thing when it comes to making a good crisp sandwich?

It has to have real butter on the bread and plenty of it. A thick batch loaf is also essential, along with a slice of ham with Cheese & Onion. I do love it with an old school bottle of pineapple. You can't beat that.

JOE has already put in our order for a Cheese & Onion crisp sandwich but we definitely need a mug of tea with ours. Anything else is sacrilicious.

If you're a café owner, interested entrepreneur or just a lover of crisp sandwiches who wants to see Simply Crispy come to your county then you can get in touch with the lads via their Facebook page.