Stephens at Catex crop
Stephens promotes its business in Ireland by regularly exhibiting at Catex.

Ballymena-based distributor, Stephens Catering Equipment, is recording storming performance year after year, with both 2017 and 2018’s revenues being new records for the company.

In the 12 months to 30 April 2018, the Northern Irish dealer generated £17.9m turnover, up 12% on the previous year’s £16.0m, which in itself was a 22% uptick from 2016.

MD Paul Caves said of the reasons for the good performance: “All the credit goes to the hard working and dedicated staff that we have.”

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However, gross profit margin slipped slightly from 29 to 27%, of which the firm’s latest annual report detailed: “Gross profit margin has reduced from that achieved in the previous year, with that year’s margin having been enhanced due to favourable currency fluctuations.”

This is also likely to have been a factor in the 37% reduction in operating profit, from £0.6m to £0.4m. Looking forward, the directors stated: “The directors anticipate that the company will continue to trade profitably in the incoming year.

“The key risks to the business in the future relate to competition from other suppliers and the demand from the catering industry, including government departments. The directors are confident that their customer service record is such that the company can compete successfully in the current economic climate.”

The distributor worked with names big and small throughout 2018, from Facebook’s Dublin and London ventures to creating The Pizza Library’s foodservice area within the Kelly’s entertainment and holiday complex in Portrush, as well as a new kitchen for St Michaels Scout Hall in Enniskillen. Prior to that, schemes include a sixth outfit for Google, in its Dublin offices, as well as a scheme for Microsoft in Dublin, and an induction kitchen for Ramore Restaurants’ Neptune & Prawn, in Portrush.

Stephens has branches across Northern Ireland, in Belfast and Broughshane, and in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland. The distributor has a big presence in Ireland too, with offices in both Maynooth and Donegal.

Originally part of the long established Stephens Suppliers Group, catering equipment was established as its own division in 1971. Thomas and Elizabeth Caves took over ownership of this division in 1977 and renamed the company following its long tradition Stephens Catering Equipment. The business still continues to be family run, with Julie Morrissey and Paul Caves heading up the company.

In 2016 the kitchen house added new showrooms and test kitchens to its Belfast and Broughshane offices. Plus it invested £250,000 in new machines in its fabrication plant.

Last year the firm capped off its success by winning the Catering Insight Award for Distributor of the Year, Rest of the UK. Caves collected the trophy, saying at the time: “It really is fantastic to win, and it’s a tribute to the staff back in Ireland who do a great job for us.

“It feels great to win this after we started as a small family business 41 years ago, and now there are 120 of us and we are still growing.

“We like to think that our suppliers, who we regard as partners, are key to our success.”

Power Players 2019 is sponsored by Turbochef. To visit the company’s website, click HERE.

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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