Slim’s Healthy Kitchen owner purchases Belfast coffee shop chain District

The owner of hospitality business Slim’s Healthy Kitchen has taken over another Belfast coffee shop chain.

Ollow Leisure said it had paid an undisclosed sum for the District chain of four coffee shops, the first of which opened in 2016.

However, the business said it would shut the “underperforming” branch of District on Stranmillis Road when its lease expires later this year. That will leave the business with branches on Saintfield Road, Ormeau Road and Lisburn Road.

As well as Slim’s Healthy Kitchen — a healthy-eating venue inspired by owner Gary McIldowney’s own weight battles — Follow Leisure, of which Mr McIldowney is the founder, also owns Canteen, Output and Morning Martha. The business said acquiring District would double its footprint.

The jobs of District’s 30 staff will transfer over as part of the deal. District was founded by businessman David Rea and operated by hospitality professional Richard Stitt.

Mr McIldowney said: “The acquisition of the multi-venue operator District will complement our growth strategy and enhance our brand portfolio.

“Our plans are to immediately provide an increased and varied food offering, with a strong focus on an all-day breakfast and brunch menu. We’re excited to welcome all District staff to the Follow Leisure group.

“District has demonstrated robust trading in recent months and had a quick rebound following the removal of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

“We view District as having significant future potential in many high-footfall locations. The brand matches perfectly with the ethos of our other café brands of great coffee, a stand-out food offering and service with a local community-based feel.”

Mr McIldowney said he was confident his group could remain resilient despite challenges facing the industry.

“Given that many workers continue to work from home and could remain doing so for some time to come, we continue to enhance our delivery offering.

“Outside of the peak lunch-trading period we offer mid-morning, afternoon snacks and coffee where home-based workers look for a treat direct to their desks and this is an area where we see the potential for increased value proposition across our brand portfolio ,” he said.

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