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Power Players 2020: number 4

Stephens, Southern Regional College Armagh crop
Stephens recently completed this training kitchen project for Southern Regional College Armagh.

*Down 2*

Northern Irish-headquartered distributor, Stephens Catering Equipment, continued a 4-year streak of growing turnover, posting yet another record figure for the 12 months to 30 April 2019.

However, this was not enough to stop the Ballymena-based firm from dropping a couple of places on this year’s Power Player rankings, as other kitchen design houses grew even faster.

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Nevertheless, Stephens’ results were hugely positive for the 2018-19 financial year, with the company accruing £18.9m in revenue, a 5% uplift on the previous year’s £17.9m. Likewise, operating profit increased by nearly 12% to £401k from the 2018 financial year’s £395k.

Accordingly, the firm’s headcount grew from 117 to 126 across its headquarters and branches in Belfast, Broughshane, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The distributor has a big presence in Ireland too, with offices in both Maynooth and Donegal.

MD Paul Caves told Catering Insight that to manage a top kitchen design house “a silver bullet does not exist”, explaining: “It’s a team effort that requires hard work, dedication, focus on our goals, and a consistent aim to delight our customers and we have great people in Stephens.”

In terms of the current coronavirus pandemic, he reported: “Like every business across the world we are facing this unexpected challenge and with no point of reference of what to do, we just do our best.

“You consider your staff, customers and suppliers, and you try to do right by all of them and hope that what you’ve done will be enough to take all of us out to the other side.

Paul Caves, MD, Stephens Catering Equipment.

“We considered our position and are happy that we took decisive action and have the resolution and reserves to weather the storm; it is an ongoing process.”

However, like most companies in the industry, this year’s coronavirus pandemic forced all Stephens’ branches to temporarily close. The kitchen design house still provided essential services to the food and health and social care sectors though, and its teams remained contactable via email or phones for any customer queries.

Stephens has continued to carry out project work though, with one of its most recent completions being a training kitchen for the new Southern Regional College Armagh Campus. Another was for the Radisson Hotel Limerick, and just prior to the lockdown, the firm finished a scheme for Belfast International Airport, involving stainless steel bench units, as well as a further total re-fit of the main canteen at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, County Galway.

On the subject of how Stephens is performing in the marketplace, Caves commented: “It is difficult to say. Right now it is about resourcing our business appropriately, meeting our customer demand and using our advantages to our benefit. Competition is the lifeblood of our industry and pushes us further to achieve more.”

Analysing current and future financial years, he concluded: “2020 is about adjusting and surviving, 2021 will be a reset and preparing for grown and 2022 will be about delivering growth.”

Expert advice

According to Stephens Catering Equipment MD, Paul Caves: “Our supply chain or our partners as we like to call them are key to our success. This is a global, national and local issue and our industry will get through this together and be stronger because of it, so remember to support UK suppliers and distributors. Quality always matters, be thankful for what we have and keep the communication flowing.”

Tags : dealerdistributorpower playersstephens catering equipment
Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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