Sandwich company closes with 30 jobs lost

 

A SANDWICH company which started in a coffee shop and became a €3 million business within a few years is wrapping up with the loss of 34 jobs.

Doolittles, which began as a coffee shop with a staff of three in Donegal town in 2001, has gone into liquidation.

Founder and chief executive Jenni Timony, who was a finalist in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition as recently as 2007, said the recent difficult trading climate had driven her company out of business.

She said: “While some success has been achieved in building the brand and generating new business, the high cost of doing business combined with the downward pressure on selling prices has resulted in an unsustainable tightening of margins.”

She added that she was “so deeply sorry” she could no longer give her staff employment.

Doolittles coffee shop had a €100,000 turnover in its first year when it made its own sandwiches. Ms Timony chose the name because people had to “do little” to enjoy their sandwich.

In year two, Doolittles began a small pre-packed sandwich delivery service to four local shops.

The business grew to such an extent that Doolittles opened a purpose-built food production facility in Laghey, outside Donegal town, to supply more than 200 outlets in Dublin, Donegal, Sligo, Galway, Cavan and Navan.

In November 2003, Doolittles was incorporated at the Companies Registration Office after a decision was made to concentrate on the food service side rather than continue the coffee shop business.

Bon Espresso cafe chain owner Tom Jones, an early investor in the group, came on board as a director.

At its peak, the company was the third-largest pre-packed sandwich producer in Ireland, producing more than 8,000 sandwiches a day and employing 32 people.

Customers included Aldi Ireland, Masterchef and Topaz forecourts. It also provided sandwiches for the Irish Open in Adare Manor, the Punchestown Festival, Bloom, Oxegen, the Electric Picnic and the National Ploughing Championships, along with hospitals and student union shops in UCD and NUI Galway.

As recently as September 2008, Doolittles secured a contract to provide sandwiches on more than 600 Aer Arann flights a week.

At the time, Ms Timony was looking forward to recording turnover of between €2.5 million and €3 million last year.

The company is not the first sandwich firm to falter in the downturn. O’Briens Sandwich Bars was put into liquidation and bought by Abrakebabra Investments Ltd two weeks ago, after a long period in examinership.

According to documents filed at the Companies Office, Doolittles had total assets less current liabilities of €185,716. It owed creditors a sum of €586,000.

Its profit and loss account showed a loss of €383,000 as of December 31st, 2008, more than double the losses it was running a year earlier.