How a school teacher left the world of education to set up the fast food business Supermacs.

Pat McDonagh turned his back on a permanent pensionable teaching job in the late 1970s, and took the unknown path of setting up his own business.  

He opened his Supermac’s fast food restaurant on Main Street Ballinasloe, County Galway in 1978 and twenty one years later it proved to have been the best decision he ever made, as he now runs a chain of 39 restaurants, employing 1800 people with an annual turnover of over £30 million. 

Supermac’s in Ballinasloe was also where he met his wife Una, who was working there for the summer.  

While there was definitely a demand for their type of fast food restaurant, as in all start-ups, there was a steep learning curve. Pat McDonagh used his knowledge of the county’s social scene to expand the business,

I figured after about two years that we could replicate this business elsewhere.

In 1997 Pat and Una McDonagh were named Galway People of the Year for their contribution to business. Proud of his roots, Pat McDonagh enjoys being able to give back to his community, and Supermacs have been the sponsor of the Galway hurling team since 1990.

Both also enjoy being hands on managers, and never underestimate the value of rolling up their sleeves and working behind the counter.

You get to know the staff and you get to know what’s going on...there’s a great buzz and I certainly enjoy it.

Any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? Set goals for yourself and keep on going, says Pat McDonagh, even when things are tough,

The end result often overcomes the difficulties along the way, once you can keep that vision in the front of your mind the whole time.

This report for ‘Nationwide’ was broadcast on 8 October 1999. The reporter is Orla Nix.