The Sweeney family and the Francos restaurant are an integral part of the fabric of Enniskillen for the best part of four decades.
First opened by Betty and Frank Sweeney in 1986, the Italian-themed establishment was one of the first of its kind in the Co Fermanagh city.
While Frank sadly passed away eight years after opening, his wife Betty still checks things in now, although sons Ruairi, Gavin and Emmet now work at the restaurant.
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Speaking to MyFermanagh, Betty says that although there have been many changes to the city and the hospitality industry over the years, one thing is still true.
“You need a bit of authenticity, if you’re going to give something away it has to be the real deal,” Betty said.
“There’s always the temptation to take shortcuts, but you have to give people the real deal, people smell if you don’t give them that.
“You need a passion for food, which Frank and I had. The family inherited it.
“My husband Frank and I started it in 1986, opening a pizzeria and seafood bar.
“We were making our own pizzas then and harvesting our own seafood in places like Donegal, Mullaghmore and Galway.
“It was an old building, part of which had been a forge on Lower Water Street, one of the oldest streets in Enniskillen.
“Frank designed the place and he would have used a lot of recycled wood, and he would get it from old houses and chapels.
“He once bought half a chapel in Wales and used the pulpit for part of the restaurant.
“We were trying to create an informal eating place with a continental feel.
Franco’s has evolved with changing times over the years, Betty added. The 79-year-old is now retired but still comes regularly to check on her progress and catch up with old friends.
“My husband sadly passed away about eight years after the restaurant opened, but he has evolved over the years since then.
“Our sons Ruairi, Gavin and Emmet still work in the restaurant, there is still a great family involvement.
“I’ve been around for a long time, I’ve calmed down in recent years.
“I always call, I live next door to the restaurant so I can look the other way and see what’s going on.
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“I come and chat with a lot of people who I would be friendly with, I love coming in and meeting people now that we are allowed to do that again.
“We are delighted to be back after the lockdown, and thank you to the customers who keep coming back.
“We’ve seen multiple generations of people coming all the time, and people from all over Ireland coming.
“The staff who have supported us over the years have also been integral to our success.
Betty says the Sweeneys are a proud Co Fermanagh family and love seeing new restaurants open in the county as it keeps everyone on their toes.
She added: “There is a nice atmosphere in this town, being on the water and being on an island town.
“Like many people here, we are privileged to live there to be honest.”
“The sad thing is that a lot of family businesses have disappeared, it’s sad to see this happening in the city.
“But there are still plenty of family businesses left and we have a town that is full of sensational restaurants, cafes and pubs and most of them are locally owned.”
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