Mary Catherine and Dan Allat weren’t always on the same career path.
Following university May Catherine decided to go teacher’s college, while Dan enrolled in a hospitality & hotel management program at George Brown College.
It wasn’t long, however, before Dan realized it probably wasn’t the right time for the couple to venture into the restaurant industry, so he got his teaching certificate and both he and Mary Catherine ended up working at schools in the Ottawa area.
Eventually, the couple had two boys and began to look for a more rural setting in which to raise their family. While Dan was from Hamilton, Mary Catherine’s family was from the Ottawa area and had a cottage on the Rideau. As a result, the couple often visited the Perth area.
In 2009 when they spotted a home they liked, they moved their family to Perth where Mary Catherine left work to look after the boys, while Dan continued to commute to his teaching job in Kanata.
During his time in the classroom, Dan never gave up his desire to open a restaurant.
“You can put the dream to bed, but it keeps waking up,” reflects Dan.
It was while playing for the Lanark Highlanders Rugby Club that Dan learned that O’Reilly’s Pub, a popular Perth eatery, might be for sale. “I thought we’d approach the owners about a purchase,” says Dan and with Mary Catherine on board that’s what they did.
“When we approached them about selling, I think the fact that we were a local family committed to the community was an important selling point to them,” says Mary Catherine.
Their offer was successful and in April 2012 the couple took over ownership of O’Reilly’s Ale House.
At the time the pub enjoyed a reputation that Dan and Mary Catherine wanted to build upon.
“We wanted it to have the feel of a neighborhood pub where people gathered as much for the company and camaraderie as they did for the food and drink,” says Dan. “It was to be a place where one could meet and make new friends.”
Even the seating arrangement set up by Dan was done with the expressed purpose of facilitating conversation as well as the enjoyment of food.
“From the beginning we wanted the pub to be a place where not only did we want to hang out, but so did our staff and our customers. We figured if it was a place where we wanted to be, then others would feel the same. It was to be a place where people could enjoy themselves.”
While Dan and Mary Catherine remained true to their vision, they knew that their staff would be critical in helping them to achieve it.
“We selected our staff carefully,” recalls Dan. “We wanted people who wanted to be here, who appreciated the environment and felt invested in the operation the same as we did.”
It’s a philosophy that has served Dan and Mary Catherine well. While the restaurant industry, as a whole, has a substantial turn-over rate and at times struggles to find workers, the Allatts have maintained a loyal staff.
Dan admits the hospitality industry is a tough place to make a living, but says he and Mary Catherine have never looked back.
“I love it too much to complain,” laughs Dan who says they’ve never questioned the decision.
The fact that Dan and Mary Catherine are great supporters of their community is reflected in the way they run their business. Much of their product is sourced locally, including their beef from River Run Farms.
“We want to support the local farmers and to showcase their skills by integrating their food into our menu,” says Dan.
The fact that they are parents has also played a critical role in shaping the couple’s business outlook.
“Parents still want to go out, but they want it to be a kid friendly atmosphere,” says Dan. “From the beginning, we wanted O’Reilly’s to be a place for families too.”
These days it’s a philosophy exemplified by the fact the couple’s two boys, Jackson and Oliver, both work at the restaurant.
O’Reilly’s is a family affair and Dan and Mary Catherine wouldn’t have it any other way.