Ballymaloe’s €193,000 loss ‘could have been so much worse’ – Darina Allen

Co-owner of cooker schools says it is in full compliance with Covid-19 regulations

Darina Allen during a demonstration at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Photograph: Eric Luke

Darina Allen during a demonstration at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Photograph: Eric Luke

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Losses at the Ballymaloe Cookery School hit €193,097 last year as the pandemic took its toll on the Co Cork business.

Co-owner of the school Darina Allen said that while nobody wants to make a loss, “ it could have been so much worse”. The losses followed profits of €148,429 and €62,134 respectively in 2019 and 2018.

In an interview, Ms Allen said there were 57 people on the payroll at the school this week.

With courses halted during the first lockdown last year, “we had to think outside the box and be versatile”, she said. This involved ramping up sales at the Ballymaloe Farm Shop and setting up two farmers’ markets selling produce from the 40.5-hectare (100-acre) organic farm at Ballymaloe. Teachers at the cookery school were redeployed cooking for the farm shop and sowing seeds in the farm.

“I am a great one for not having all your eggs in one basket,” Ms Allen said. “It is not about big amounts of money – it is about small amounts of money that help to keep the show on the road and maintain cash flow.”

Full compliance

Ms Allen said she was “hugely grateful” for the Government support during the pandemic “because we wouldn’t have a hope of doing what we are doing without it”.

The accounts show the company received €282,596 in Government Covid-19 wage subsidy supports for employees last year.

It paid out €1.24 million in wages, which doesn’t include the wage subsidy paid to employees.

The school’s 12-week certificate course, at €12,695 per person, runs three times each year and provides a sizeable chunk of the cookery school’s revenues.

Earlier this year, gardaí visited the school concerning a suspected Covid-19 breach relating to eight students attending the course, which commenced in January, during the lockdown.

On Friday, Ms Allen said the gardaí subsequently got in touch to confirm that the school was in full compliance with Covid-19 regulations concerning the eight students sitting the modified course. She said the eight students completed their course, and the school is hosting its second such course of the year, at half capacity with 35 students.

At the end of December, the company had accumulated profits of €2.64 million. The company’s cash funds totalled €1.097million.

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