Cooking up tasty profit

New cakes on the menu at Cafe Life at Robin Park Sports Centre, Helen Crawford and Kath Barlow showing off their tasty cakes
New cakes on the menu at Cafe Life at Robin Park Sports Centre, Helen Crawford and Kath Barlow showing off their tasty cakes

SMART-thinking cooks at a Wigan sports arena faced with huge funding cuts have seen profits soar with a new range of home-made food.

Catering staff at Robin Park Sports Arena have ditched ready-made meals and snacks and introduced a home-made menu including classic pies, hot pots and desserts.

The arena has had its public funding slashed and is looking at cutting costs to ensure it can continue hosting local sports events and conferences.

Cath Howarth, conference and catering manager, said: “We offer everything from hot pots and cheese and onion pies to lasagne and mushroom pepper pots. The pressure is on with so many cuts in local government. It’s snowballed through the council, to Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, so we’re now feeling the effects.

“We had to find ways to cut costs and make more profit. Overall we were making 47 per cent gross profit on our food, which was not enough to keep going. Since we introduced our home-made food three months ago, this figure has soared to 74/75 per cent. Disabled groups use the sports arena every day and they’ve all said the food is a lot tastier. Eventually we’re hoping to do everything ourselves.

“We’ve even made bread rolls for our home-made soups. It’s put a lot pride in our work, it’s a privilege to come to work.”

Ms Howarth and fellow cook Gareth Bramhall started baking their own pies for match days at Robin Park Arena based on a recipe used by Gareth’s grandma more than 60 years ago. Kitchen staff Helen Crawford and Kath Barlow have created a selection of puddings, including cookies, muffins and scones.

The arena is given some public funding through Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) but this has come under increasing pressure. To operate, WLCT is given a community service fee from Wigan Council of £16m each year. The rest of its turnover is generated externally.

Across the next three years, it is thought that the council will reduce its fee by 25 per cent.