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Location, Location, Location

I was recently at the excellent Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council workshop delivered by Digital DNA (part of the optimise 2.0 programme) about writing web /article content and the speakers suggested always writing about topics that you have a certain amount of expertise in, so I’m writing this article on Top 10 places to meet for business outside the office. This is written from several perspectives:

  1. As a Virtual Assistant with several steady clients including one whose diary I am a managing and another for whom I’m researching coffee (variety is the spice of life for Virtual Assistants –www.virtuali.uk/services )
  2. As a freelancer who likes to meet my own regular clients at least once a month face to face to maintain a good working relationship
  3. Seeing my clients, who are also sole traders often working from their own premises, deliberating about where is the easiest place to meet prospective and existing clients

As most of my regular clients are based in a 15mile radius of where I live (Moira), I thought I would concentrate on Co. Armagh/Down area ( a lot of debate about which county Moira is actually in, that I won’t go into here!).

My research about coffee for one of my clients, unfortunately, doesn’t involve me sitting trying out lots of coffee shops around Ireland but I’ve come to realise that freelancers have at least 7 criteria when it comes to choosing a place to meet clients outside the office:

  1. How easy it is to park
  2. How good the Wi-Fi connection is*
  3. Supply of plugs (as our laptops/phones are constantly running low)
  4. Good space between tables and comfy chairs so you can talk without fear of someone overhearing your empire building conversations!
  5. How much light there is ( as we freelancers are busy running around like headless chickens and never see the light of day)
  6. How good tea/coffee is (and how many times they refill your cup for free)
  7. How good the goodies to go along with your tea/coffee are

(If anyone is organising a workshop or conference I’ve been reliably informed that tastiest savoury item available at the moment is Belfast Bap offered at Crumlin Road Gaol)

*Justin Bentley from JCB consulting has made me very paranoid about sharing documents on open Wi-Fi in coffee shops so if you want to find out more about how to protect yourself online please check out upcoming Create Digital NI workshop  Tuesday 17th May http://www.createdigitalni.com/upcoming-events/be-cybersafe-and-sound-online-security-and-marketing-workshop

The importance you place on these items, of course, varies from individual to individual, which is what us makes as unique as humans, but as Lynda Willis from Customer Sense Training and Consultancy will tell you the most important criterion wherever you choose is good customer service that will bring you back even if the other variables are missing. I used to work in a building with 1,800 employees and one of the cafeteria ladies –Ondina –knew everyone’s names, their drink of preference every morning and what’s more was able to converse in English, French & Portuguese- now that’s customer service!

These are my 10 top places to meet

Moira, if you didn’t realise already, is, of course, the epicentre of Northern Ireland (easy to reach from north, east, south or west), famous for Battle of Ireland fought here in 637 and more recently for our award winning sausages (and now also white pudding!) and you are spoilt for choice, as there are no less than 6 coffee shops (all independent no less).

I’m listing Moira meeting spots in order of entering the village from the Motorway exit, not in order of preference, as I know better than to offend my neighbours.

  1. Pimento Coffee Shop (101 Main Street, Moira) http://pimentocoffeeshop.com/
  2. Quirky Bird Tea Rooms (4 Meeting Street, Moira) http://www.thequirkybirdtearooms.com/
  3. Fat Gherkin (57 Main Street, Moira) https://www.facebook.com/thefatgherkin/?fref=ts
  4. McCartneys Bistro Deli (56 Main Street, Moira) http://www.mccartneysofmoira.com/
  5. Cairo’s Coffee Shop (1aBackwood Road, Moira) https://www.facebook.com/CairosCoffee/?fref=ts
  6. Fine Coffee Coffee (70 Main Street, Moira) https://www.facebook.com/thefinecoffeeco/
  7. Edenmore Country Club (70 Drumnabreeze Road (outside Moira/Maralin) http://www.edenmore.com/ (excellent if you are also looking for a round of golf )
  8. Ichthus Café, Lurgan (18-21 High Street, Lurgan) (car parking entrance to the side) https://www.facebook.com/Icthuslurgan/?fref=ts
  9. Quails Fine Foods, (13-15 Newry Street, Banbridge) (car parking to the rear) http://quailsfinefoods.co.uk/banbridge-cafe.php
  10. Vic Ryn is also a very handy place to stop at between Lisburn and Moira on Moira road http://thehouseofvicryn.com/
  11. And lastly, if you want to treat yourself to lunch in an award-winning restaurant check out Wine n Brine (59 Main Street, Moira) http://wineandbrine.co.uk/

I’m gluten intolerant, until a year ago I cycled or took public transport everywhere, lived abroad for 10yrs and  drink coffee occasionally so my preference for private or business is somewhere a) accessible to train halt b) has lots of light c) lots space d) does really good coffee in continental sized portions (hard in NI) & e) has savoury gluten-free snacks which are like gold dust apart from in cafés no. 4&8 mentioned above.

As this is Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink, why not buy local and at the same time support NI economy. A lot of establishments in Moira as well as Quails Banbridge & Vic Ryn stock produce from local artisan makers such as Abernethy Butter Company & Hollah Preserving and salted caramel sauce- to die for -produced in Ballinderry by Brambleberry jams .

Location, Location, Location

Parking is always a touchy subject in Northern Ireland with our poor infrastructure so if you are entering Moira from the motorway, you can turn right into Moira Demesne and park behind the Main Street. There is also a car park opposite Boots the chemist beside Moira Library. When you are there, why not take a walk around the park and get some fresh air at the same time (circuit around the park takes a brisk 20minutes).

So as Kirsty and Phil from Channel 4 programme of the same name would say its all about the location! which is why when I decided to move back to Northern Ireland, I chose to go back to my roots and chose Moira. The aim of a Virtual Assistant is always to help their client save time so I hope this article helps you the busy entrepreneur, whatever your occupation, to do exactly that.

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