Watch: Owner of Cafe Gandolfi on creating a local institution and an enduring passion for hospitality

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The restaurant has been a staple in Glasgow for over four decades and seen the likes of Billy Connolly and Annie Lennox queue for a table.

Glasgow’s hospitality scene is vibrant and exciting but ever-evolving. As the social and economic landscape of the city has warped and fluctuated over decades, bars and restaurants have come and gone, alongside the people who built these establishments. Individual lives responding to a natural order, the changing the face of a scene. The places that endure offer reassurance, a connection to the past and its stories - the events that gave Glasgow its identity. 

One such consistent presence is Cafe Gandolfi, under the stewardship of Seumas MacInnes who has been the owner since 1983.

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Seumas started as a kitchen porter and worked his way up to management before becoming a junior partner in the business. Eventually he bought the restaurant in full and today he is the proud owner, though still working hands on six days a week. He is a friendly face, familiar to regular visitors, and a person who understands what his customers want. 

We recently had a chat, where he spoke about his journey in the venue and his passion for what he does:

“I’d studied hotel management, studied as a chef. I needed a part time job and my younger sister who was at Glasgow uni, her boyfriend at the time was a part time waiter here and he told me to get a job so I did. But they didn’t need a manager, they didn’t need a chef, so I was the kitchen porter and I just loved it. I loved the place anyway and working here was just so much better than anything else I’d done. 

“I’m here virtually everyday, my children have worked here, even my brother at one point. I’ve got people who have worked here for forty years so there’s a consistency. It’s a beautiful restaurant and we’re a one-off. 

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“Back in the day, this was the place to come to in Glasgow. It had a queue, we didn’t take bookings. You’d have Annie Lennox and Billy Connolly standing in a queue to come in.”

When asked how his affection for the venue developed, Seumas said “I just loved it. I loved the ethos of the place, it’s very fair and there’s a kindness about it. No one’s really allowed to use bad language, no one should ever shout. There’s a calm.”

“It’s changed a lot”, he said about Glasgow’s evolving hospitality scene. “But it’s still thriving. It’s just a really difficult time. Just after the pandemic, it’s just hard. I think there’s a lot of places struggling. But we’ve got some fantastic restaurants - Eusebi’s I love, Crabshakk.”

“Service is what has to be, also when we’re consistent waiters. We’re here so we build up a relationship with people and we encourage repeat customers as much as possible.

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Why do you live and breathe Cafe Gandolfi Seumas? He chuckled warmly, “I love it. And I hope that comes across - to customers, to you. I feel very lucky to run such a special place and because we’ve been going so long, since 1979, people have a past with us. Even young people have because they came in as babies with their mum and dad. It’s just what I do.”

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