THE MAN BEHIND THE BRAND
By John Berks – former award winning South African radio host.
Back where it belongs after almost 20 years, the franchise is once again with its original creator, founder and namesake, Basil O’Hagan.
The story of Basil O’Hagan is unique and especially inspiring as one of success and loss, only to re-group and rise again.
There’s nothing people love more than a good redemption story. It shouldn’t then come as a surprise that some of the best business stories involve entrepreneurs who persevered against all odds.
And, who doesn’t love a good Irish pub? There’s just something about that welcoming Irish-inspired décor, a perfectly-pulled pint of fresh Guinness and some of that good old-fashioned Irish craic (read ‘fun’) that makes a visit to a lively Irish pub a great way to spend an afternoon with friends and family... which often leads into an evening of great fun and laughter. The legendary and re-imagined O’Hagan’s Irish Pub & Grill remains South Africa’s best place to enjoy all of the above and more!
The popularity of the Irish pub goes back hundreds of years, and by opening his first store in Johannesburg in the early nineties, Basil championed the Irish pub culture and atmosphere for patrons of all ages. He catapulted the Irish culture and craic (read fun) into the South African environment with such enthusiasm, energy and passion, it was previously unthinkable that this first store would grow into the largest Irish themed pub and grill franchise chain in the world.
While building a business from scratch is not an easy thing to do, Basil did it with the right concept, timing, and most importantly, the right people by his side. So, while you are enjoying a hearty portion of Irish stew, read the story of an entrepreneur who spent the last two decades following his dream to re-imagine, re-rebuild and re-claim an Irish pub empire from which he was unceremoniously ousted.
But let’s go back a bit...
With more than four decades of experience in marketing, Basil O’Hagan is one of South Africa’s leading marketing, customer service and franchising authorities. His specialty is building sales through strategic neighbourhood marketing and customer service. He has worked in the corporate sector as an entrepreneur and as CEO of a listed company.
In 1982 Basil launched his entrepreneurial career as a sales promotion’s specialist, developing more than 2 000 promotional campaigns over a ten-year period. His company, Basil O’Hagan & Associates grew to become the largest sales-promotions agency in South Africa by the early Nineties.
In 1993 he started the O’Hagan’s Irish Pub & Grill chain, which ultimately became one of the largest Irish themed franchised pub and grill chains in the world. Basil won numerous accolades during the late Nineties.
Franchisor of The Year – O’Hagan’s won this honour, given by the Franchise Association of Southern Africa (FASA) in 1997.
Brand Builder of The Year – O’Hagan’s was named a finalist in this category, by the Franchise Association of Southern Africa (FASA), and finished in the top three nominees in 1997.
Entrepreneur of The Year – Finalist in 1997. The award was co-sponsored by Ernst & Young, Sanlam, SBDC Ltd and the Business Day.
After losing the O’Hagan’s brand, Basil went on to establish a new restaurant & pub franchise, The Brazen Head. It grew to become another much-loved South African brand and he remained at the helm until he sold the operation in December 2013. However, it was neighbourhood marketing and customer service that had made the O’Hagan’s & The Brazen Head pubs successful in the first place.
Basil is a survivor, and coupled with a streetwise, “hands-on, in-the-trenches” approach gives him exceptional credibility as one of the most well-respected and sought-after neighbourhood marketing and customer services specialists in South Africa.
Basil weathered setbacks, unfounded rumours, and a cruel and unscrupulous press, but bounced back to run successful ventures time and again. Through resilience and grit, he was able to overcome his challenges and re-emerge stronger than ever.
But it hasn’t been easy. Many people who start a business on their own often say they feel extremely isolated at times. “The lack of success in the early years was not easy. It all came to a head in 1999, I had very publicly lost a business.”
But he powered through because he knew that business and life are never straight-forward, and if you run your own business you know that it will always present a unique set of challenges. “One has to take all the lessons learnt from the past to make future businesses better.”
So, there you have it. Irish pubs are known for great and unique character, and so is Basil O’Hagan. Not one to give up easily, he is the embodiment of a true Irish South African, who understands the Irish Pub culture as if it was bred into his very persona. Even if it’s freezing outside or pouring with rain, Ireland will warm your heart with its convivial pub houses. Here new acquaintances are made, old friendships are rekindled and family lore is passed on to new generations.
Pubs are the heart of the Irish way of life and this makes them ideally suited to the warm South African culture, and whether you’re a teetotaller or a beer-guzzler, a regular visit to an O’Hagan’s Irish Pub and Grill should be a big part of your social life.
Authentic design; authentic Irish food, together with fashionable local and international food items on the menu; authentic Irish beverages; Irish music and employees that will welcome and host you “the Irish way”. Introducing the O’Hagan’s Irish Pub and Grill 2.0.... more Irish than ever before!
There are no strangers at O’Hagan’s, just friends you haven’t met yet!
Former award winning South African radio host.