This year kicked off in the most auspicious way for CaterEssence as it marked its post-pandemic “rebirth” with the opening of its third The Cake Box retail outlet at Campus Hub in January. “This outlet is our first new operation and expansion after the pandemic,” says Alex Tranter, chief executive officer of CaterEssence. “The Cake Box has had a very positive story. The growth in the local economy last year has had a positive effect on our retail food section. People are going out again and are buying again.”

CaterEssence was the Group’s “most injured party” during the pandemic, as catering and hospitality were the hardest hit sectors. But with tourism now picking up business is showing a healthy revival, albeit stunted by the challenge of sourcing staff. CaterEssence now services two hotels, down from the seven it used to service pre-pandemic, “as we build up and find our feet again”. It has also started catering for TEFL students after a two-year break. Alex paid tribute to all the people who remained in the sector and stayed loyal to the company after the terrible Covid storm.

“I am very grateful for their determination, dedication and loyalty.” The war in Ukraine has led to an increase in the cost of raw materials and difficulties in securing adequate supply of grain and other food. “It doesn’t necessarily mean you increase prices overnight. We had to adjust all our pricing ranges to ensure we remain cost conscious and competitive. Despite all this, we still registered growth, which shows we have managed to ride the storm. We did not sink.” “We’re not back to full normality. We probably have to live with this situation for many years. We are operating in a very dynamic environment where the unexpected can happen overnight. It is all about being agile enough and having a team who is loyal and capable that can adjust and help the whole company move on.”

Alex concedes he is only “cautiously optimistic” about the future, as the current price hike on food is slowing growth prospects. “We are always driven to grow but we are being very selective. There could be changes in our sector which could give rise to opportunities. We would only look at opportunities which are close to our core competencies and strengths.” CaterEssence is planning to seek more high-volume food production opportunities for its central food production unit and to expand its retail food activity through. The Cake Box brand. It will also adapt to increasing demand for healthy meals, vegan, lactose and gluten-free food.