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Gloucestershire firm Cater Cater wins top wedding accolade

By RupertJ  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

  • Cater Cater _Paul Holmes, Beth Page, Austin Powell

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You’ve got to be doing something right if your company is aiming to turn over more than £1 million only five years after starting trading.

Catering’s a competitive market in which many of its smaller operators have struggled to survive over recent years.

But not Cater Cater , a business which started as an extra project for its two then otherwise occupied directors and has now burgeoned to employ 14 full time staff, 30 more part-time workers and which turned over more than £750,000 last year.

Industry recognition for the company’s development has come their way by being named The 2013 Wedding Industry Awards winner for the South West.

And directors Paul Holmes and Austin Powell have designs on bigger things, aiming to grow further this year and targeting the potentially lucrative corporate catering contracts with companies in and around Gloucestershire.

The company has prospered mainly on a diet of events – weddings, christenings, parties and so on – since it started up, working all over the country and feeding famous faces including Princess Anne, Liz Hurley and cricket legend boyfriend Shane Warne, musicians Ed Sheeran and Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft, alongside a number of star rowers from last year’s London Olympics.

But with a solid list of local suppliers and contacts they are looking to expand in Gloucestershire and the South West this year, aiming to bid for the catering operations of big businesses in the area.

Old friends Paul, a -year-old former advertising sales manager from Highnam, and chef director Austin, aged 36 from Hempstead, work with 32-year-old Beth Page from Abbeymead who looks after the sales and marketing.

Together they manage several sites around the county, including kitchens at the Rodway Hill Golf Club in Highnam, the social club of the Unilever factory in Barnwood, Cotswold Hills Golf Club in Cheltenham, the Messier-Dowty headquarters near Staverton and also at one of their main suppliers the Over Farm Market just west of Gloucester.

Paul explained that it was the project renovating the Wall’s Club at Unilever that gave him and Austin the idea that their company might have more mileage than simply weddings and events.

“That was the springboard for us really,” he said. “We started up the business while we both had full-time jobs so we didn’t need any loans to get started. And everything we earned we could then invest in new premises, equipment, stock and so on.

“It was a lot of hard work, doing evenings and weekends and taking calls at work to confirm bookings. We both had new babies with our partners at the time as well, so we definitely had our work cut out but it was worth it in the long run.”

From the Wall’s Club, the business strategy developed dual strands: weddings and events on one hand and contract catering on the other.

Contracts with several construction firms such as one for Airtanker at RAF Brize Norton, won against industry giant Compass Group, soon followed.

But following projects as far afield as Northamptonshire and Liverpool, Paul, Austin and Beth reckon that keeping it local is the way to go forward.

“We’ve decided to focus on sites closer to home,” said Paul. “There are the costs of travelling and managing further afield but it’s really about supporting local business and working with people we can have regular contact with, who we trust in terms of quality and reliability.”

One such place is Over Farm Market, which now has a new kitchen and barn dining facility to cater for 120 for weddings and other parties.

Cater Cater also runs cooking classes for school pupils, where the children can pick and cook their own produce.

The company is also active in other community initiatives, sponsoring a local football team in Highnam and organising a club fireworks display which now attracts more than 1,000 people each year.

Dedicated charities including Increase The Peace, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the Lord Mayor of Gloucester also benefit from support from Cater Cater . From a purely business point of view, this of course brings this company more trade through word-of-mouth recommendations, which is great for the events side of the company.

But it’s back to Austin’s roots, working in business contract catering, staff canteens, where he and Paul envisage the company’s future lying.

“We want to stay with what we’ve got on the events side and expand into the corporate market,” says Paul. “Now we’ve got more buying power we can save on our costs for ingredients and so on, then pass those savings on to our clients.

“So we think we’ve got a lot to offer – great suppliers, highly trained chefs, a financially-sound business. It’s an exciting time for us and the future’s looking really positive.”

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