Future Proof: Pat O’Sullivan, Masterchefs Hospitality

Limerick-based firm, having had its hiccups, is now on the upward curve

Pat O’Sullivan: “We never scrimped on ingredients during the downturn despite the temptation.”

Pat O’Sullivan: “We never scrimped on ingredients during the downturn despite the temptation.”

Tue, Jun 3, 2014, 01:00

It can take many years to build up a good reputation for your business, but just moments for your standing to be called into question.

In 2009, Limerick-based catering company Masterchefs Hospitality found itself at the centre of a wave of bad publicity through no fault of its own when a company with which it had previously been associated went into liquidation.

Suddenly, it had to fight tooth and nail to convince customers and suppliers that it could still be relied on.

Having successfully overcome that challenge, managing director Pat O’Sullivan has gone on to win new contracts with the likes of NUI Galway and Thomond Park Stadium. He has also established a popular restaurant chain and opened up a food manufacturing facility in his adopted city.

O’Sullivan, a Kerry native, who started out in the catering trade with a summer job in the kitchens of a restaurant in Waterville, set up Masterchefs Hospitality in January 2001 after a number of years working in hotels and restaurants in and around counties Kerry and Limerick.

The company, which provides high-end catering services, was originally established as a subsidiary of Masterchefs Dublin, then one of Ireland’s largest hospitality outfits with high-value contracts for a number of racecourses including Punchestown, Leopardstown and the Curragh.

Concern

The two companies co-existed happily enough for a number of years during which O’Sullivan’s firm won plenty of business across Munster. However, he became increasingly concerned about the way the parent company was being run and, in 2005, bought out the Dublin shares in order to go it alone.

“I didn’t like the direction the business was going and felt that the owners didn’t have control of the situation,” he said.

As it turned out, O’Sullivan’s concerns weren’t without foundation as four years later, the parent company went into liquidation with the loss of 600 jobs.

While now working as a completely separate entity employing 50 people full-time, the impact of the liquidation on O’Sullivan’s business was significant.

“The liquidation was devastating for us. As we shared the same name and it was covered in the national media, I had suppliers pull out on us and had to get in the car and drive out to clients and our remaining suppliers and convince them to stick with us.

“It was touch and go for a while, but I managed to steady the ship without losing contracts or any of our employees.”

New contracts

Among the clients that O’Sullivan managed to win during that period was Thomond Park Stadium, which recently agreed a new 10-year contract with Masterchefs. Other clients won since then include the Pavilion at the University of Limerick.

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