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Mother’s bouncing back from pandemic

Quick service food company Mother’s Enterprise Limited is in expansion mode after being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company took a big hit with the onset of the pandemic, which saw historically low sales driving revenues down to around 50 per cent of the previous year, said General Manager Richard Foreman.

The company, which is privately held, said its sales dipped slightly in the year prior to the pandemic, falling from $2.8 billion in 2018, but it has since recovered all the lost ground.

Foreman said that for the year ending December 2022, the business turned over $3.5 billion in revenue. And now, Mother’s is looking to build on that with a sales target of more than $4 billion in 2023.

That target is underpinned by plans to spend $100 million on the refurbishment of two restaurants this year.

Next year, another $130 million will be invested in setting up a new drive-thru location, slated to open in Spanish Town, St Catherine, by March 2024. Foreman would not give the specific location, citing competitive reasons.

It will become the fourth drive-thru restaurant operated by the company, but Foreman says Mother’s plans to do more of them going forward, saying that customers are demanding that type of convenience.

The last time Mother’s expanded, the store got off to a bad start.

“The financial year 2019 was just slightly less than 2018, but by March 2020 [when the coronavirus was detected in Jamaica], the bottom fell out as it did for everybody. We had a precipitous loss of sales in 2020,” Foreman said.

It came at a time when Mother’s had just opened its first branch in western Jamaica with a new restaurant at Fairview Shopping Centre, Montego Bay. It was expected to be the driver of growth for Mother’s in 2020 but was hobbled by the pandemic.

Foreman said that overall, the pandemic erased $1.8 billion of the company’s sales amid a lockdown of the economy, which led to losses of $250 million for the 2020 financial year. Mother’s started clawing back those losses when the country started gradually opening up in 2021.

“By the time 2021 came around, we managed to recover about 60 per cent of our peak sales with revenues of almost $2 billion, and now for 2022 we’re back,” he said.

Mother’s Enterprise is a privately held company with shareholders Adrian Foreman, Richard Foreman, Victor Hudson, and West Wind Holdings Limited. It operates Mother’s Restaurants, Mother’s Bakery, Mother’s Catering, Mother’s Canteens, Devon House Bakery, DHB Too, and Pimentos.

Foreman notes that for the past eight years, Mother’s had invested heavily in getting closer to the eight schools in which they run cafeterias and the over 200 schools to which they sell patties, pastries, and other baked goods. Jamaica College, the Queens School, Excelsior, and Manchester High are among the schools where it operates canteens.

But then the pandemic led to a shutdown of schools and a migration of classes online, erasing that market.

“When we lost that business during COVID-19, beginning March into April 2020, we easily lost about 40 per cent of our business,” said the general manager. “Another 20 per cent went with the pandemic and our general restaurant operations,” he said.

Apart from the eight school cafeterias, Mother’s owns and operates 16 restaurants across Jamaica, with drive-thru facilities in Portmore, St Catherine; Mandeville, Manchester; and Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth. The company also operates three pastry shops at the historic Devon House complex in Kingston. Mother’s also caters for many large ‘mass’ functions such as Jamaica Grand Gala and the Sagicor Sigma charity run, Foreman said.

All of Mother’s locations are operated by Mother’s Enterprise, but the company may be amenable to franchising in the future, the GM said.

Mother’s operates from a sprawling compound at 14 Retirement Road in Kingston. It employs 900 persons who had to be put on a shortened workweek and staff rotations to deal with the effects of lockdowns and curfews during the pandemic.

The company’s workforce dwindled to about 650, but since the economy began opening back in 2021, the numbers have climbed back up to about 900, he said.

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