Brody Sweeney grew up in 1960s Dublin on a diet of meat, potatoes and veggies. It wasn’t until years later, when curries and exotic fare from further east started to become commonplace, that his palate made contact with spices like galangal and lemongrass. When he tried Thai food for the first time, he was “blown away by the flavours”, an experience that later inspired his mission to bring his take on the cuisine – healthy, local and with a Westernised twist – to the UK and Ireland.
Sweeney is perhaps best known for being the man behind the popular O’Brien’s Irish Sandwich Bars franchise. At its peak, it had over 300 outlets in 15 countries and was the go-to destination for a classic sandwich and coffee combo at lunchtime. But thanks to the global financial crash in 2008, the economy took a nosedive and O’Brien’s was one of the casualties: in less than a year a heartbroken Sweeney was forced to put the company into liquidation. With his sunny, Irish charm, he seems unflappable but it was a devastating blow. “Afterwards, I got depressed about the situation,” he admits.
But the end of his sandwich empire didn’t put him off franchising one bit. Within a matter of months the self-confessed foodie was back with a new venture: Camile Thai, a food delivery business with a focus on Asian – especially Thai – flavours. While Sweeney was buoyant, convincing other people proved to be more of a challenge and it was an uphill battle to even find a lease. Finally, he opened his first outlet at Dolphin’s Barn on Dublin’s South Circular Road.
Camile Thai’s model is simple: fresh, healthy and restaurant-quality meals with a blend of western and eastern flavours that can be ordered online. Authenticity in flavours is key and Sweeney makes sure his input is heard in the kitchen. “I taste each and every dish before it’s rolled out on the menu,” he says. Currently the delivery side of the business accounts for at least 70% of sales and is in keeping with modern lifestyles, Sweeney explains. Rather than selling to everybody, he knows his target audience. “People these days want convenience,” he says. “After a long day at work, they want to come home and have dinner brought to them but they want it to be something special. We appeal to the young, urban professional from the Facebook generation who wants food delivered directly to their door.”