Street food, changing trends and staying local help Swaffham-based contract caterers eye 20pc growth
PUBLISHED: 06:00 07 October 2015
Street food, picnic boxes and putting nutrition high on the agenda have helped contract caterers Edwards and Blake forecast a 20pc growth this year.
For co-founder and director Shirley Edwards, the company’s success is down to its “proud” independence, and sticking to its regional roots.
“Our clients are generally seeking to do business with local people,” she said. “The benefits are huge - they can have a personal service which means decision making is far quicker.”
Launched 18 years ago by Ms Edwards, 54, and business partner Caroline Blake, 55, the firm has steadily built a client base of schools and businesses across East Anglia.
What began in a cramped office above a shop in Dereham has grown into a multi-million pound business, based in Swaffham, with a workforce of 600 people.
Last year’s turnover reached £14.7m, and this year Ms Edwards said the firm was on track to achieve £18m with hopes of double-figure growth during the next five years.
And keeping abreast of trends has helped school dinners and work lunches stay competitive.
“The takeaway market is huge,” said Ms Blake. “Children don’t want to sit and eat a meal from a plate anymore. It is a huge snacking industry and we have to react to that.”
A street food range was launched last year, which included a selection of hot wraps, and a selection of takeaway pasta pots and picnic boxes were introduced.
Four years ago, the duo invested heavily in infrastructure, hiring a team of extra managers, and now the focus has turned to sustained growth.
“The managers mean Caroline and I can continue to be the faces of the business, seeing clients and keeping a close relationship with customers and ensuring they are happy,” said Ms Edwards.
“That’s what retains clients.
“We have turned business away because it’s important we are confident we can deliver with the resources we have. It has been a journey of managed growth.”
New contract wins in the last year include the company’s first further education college in Essex, as well as business clients Domino Printing Sciences in Cambridge and Duxford-based Hexcell Composites, where Edwards and Blake is advising on a purpose-built restaurant for 350 staff.
Now the caterers want to give something back to the community and educate youngsters in nutrition.
“I would love to have an Edwards and Blake soup station and help people less well-off than ourselves,” said Ms Blake.
“We are also looking at the sugar and salt content in food.
“Our contribution to healthy eating is a small percentage overall, but we are hoping to educate children who can take that education back to their parents.
“We want to get nutrition high on the agenda.”
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