She’s 90 this year, that grand old dame, that wonderful lady that is Bewley’s Cafe, the beating heart of Dublin’s Grafton St and she has just reopened her doors to welcome all and sundry.

I managed to visit this week and over a delicious coffee on the balcony overlooking the world renowned Harry Clarke (as well as a Jim Fitzpatrick) windows meditated on the lessons we can all learn from its reopening.

I had the great privilege of serving as GM there in the early ’90’s and so it has a special place in my heart and my four years there were a significantly formative part of my professional journey.

Although the business was established in 1840, the Grafton St cafe opened its doors in 1927. During its nine decades of serving the people of Dublin as well as everyone ‘up from the country’ and foreign visitors alike, Bewley’s Cafe has been on life support several times. It has had to close its doors more than once and reinvent and has just reemerged from 1000 days under a cocoon of scaffolding and dust sheets.

And it is stunning!

Paddy Campbell, Chairman of the Board, wanted a cafe to ‘delight the senses’ and I say “Paddy, job done! Congratulations.”

And my visit got me thinking.

We all need to reinvent.

Watch the short video (video length 6:42 – lesson 3:30 – with another  3:12 mins of some wonderful nostalgic music – Dublin Saunter … Dublin can be heaven for coffee at eleven and a stroll in Stephen’s Green…) or read on below to get my thoughts on what we can learn from Bewley’s Grafton St’s latest reinvention…

I have spoken over the past few months about the three things we all need to build sustainable business and they are

  1. Brand
  2. Systems
  3. People

We need a good brand that knows what it stands for and is understood by the marketplace – we need great systems to deliver our brand promise over and over and over consistently and we need what I term ‘even better’ people to implement the systems in the context of the brand.

And I thought that’s all you needed until I sat over a delicious coffee on the balcony and I realized there is a fourth element that we ignore to our peril and that fourth element is reinvention.

  • Brand
  • Systems
  • People
  • Reinvention

Another Paddy, Paddy Curley who is a colleague of mine in Carambola has often said we need to obsolete our own product before somebody else does.

You see yours and my business cannot last 90 years (or 177!) without reinventing along the way – the trick – and this is where we can take a masterclass from looking at Bewley’s in Grafton St – is to reinvent to remain relevant as the market changes without losing our core essence.

I met a man in the cafe who asked “Why closed so long? It hasn’t changed.” Not sure how Paddy Campbell feels about that, having invested €12 million in the reinvention, but truthfully I think that is a success – reinvent, upgrade, remain relevant AND stay the same at the core all at once – masterful!

So. You need to go visit. Tell them I sent you.

While you’re there, take some time to ask yourself what is it about your business that you need to re-imagine, reinvent to remain relevant and credible as the market place changes around you.

And no, I am not buying your coffee for you! 🙂 but I’d be happy to join you there for a Bewley’s ‘Coffee with Colm’ someday if that might be of interest – feel free to pm me.

How’s that?

That’ll do Ted.

See you next week.


MORE? Some of the concepts mentioned above have been discussed in earlier “Coffee with Colm” Blog posts:

  • Brand, click here.
  • Systems, click here.
  • People, click here.

STAY CONNECTED? If this is your thing, consider joining in the conversation here.

FREE BOOK? If would like a complimentary copy of my book, ‘Feeding Johnny – How to Build a Business Despite the Roadblocks’ in audio, narrated by yours truly so you get all the nuances, feel free to grab one here.

Thanks for thinking with me.

Yours truly,


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