Stories of Brave

Cooking up a recipe for future success


Successful business leaders show strength and courage every day, through dedication, innovation, and commitment to their business survival. The current pandemic has highlighted that those businesses which have adapted and made quick changes to their offering are emerging well.  Devon-based Pasta King is one example.

As with many businesses, Pasta King immediately felt the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions. As the leading provider of nutritious pasta meals to schools in the UK, the closure of schools was a massive change for the business.

“The current health pandemic has had a huge impact on the business. 95% of our customer base closed their doors overnight which meant we had to change and adapt our offering in orderto appeal to sectors other than education, so we have been supplying hospitals and now some leisure customers as staycations increase.” Paul Allen, Executive Chairman.

Paul Allen acquired Pasta King in October 2019 with business partner Michael Blaney. Both are experienced businessmen with excellent track records of success matched with their entrepreneurial approach. Paul was formerly CEO of Tayto Group where he was involved in the acquisition of many companies including Golden Wonder, Red Mill Snacks and Mr Porky’s Pork Scratchings. Michael was Group Chief Executive and owner of Autoline Insurance Group, one of Ireland’s leading independent brokers prior to selling the business. Both now work together as joint owners of Pasta King, pooling their resources and experience to build on Pasta King’s track record of success and assist with its expansion into new markets.

Established in early 1990s Pasta King supplies over 13 million nutritious ‘Grab and Go’ meals in the primary and secondary education sector, with a growing presence in the health and care sector. In 2018 the firm was recognised as LACA’s (Lead Association in Catering in Education) Outstanding Supplier of the Year in the education sector. Pasta King excels at what they do in this sector but as Paul explains when they acquired Pasta King, they recognised the need to diversify and explore other sectors. This has become even more important in the past few months.

“When Michael and I acquired Pasta King the company was challenged and struggling to grow business in schools and universities. We recognised there was a wide range of new areas which we could explore to protect the firm from stagnation and therefore started expanding into new sectors including healthcare and leisure. The process of change began after initially auditing what the business was doing and looking at things which were being done well and those areas which needed improvement.

“COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our business with the immediate closure of our core market, so we have adapted our offering to service new markets and secured a CBILS facility which has provided a financial cushion for the business.  A great opportunity arose recently to work with YMCA Dulverton Group thanks to an introduction from our relationship manager, Kevin Goodall. At the start of the pandemic YMCA Dulverton Group turned The Beach Hotel in Minehead into a re-purposed centre for the homeless and vulnerable, providing 26 beds of emergency accommodation. The team have so far seen 28 individuals move on into independent living and are currently supporting a further 13 within the hotel. We joined forces with them to supply hot meals and a safe place to stay during the initial lockdown period of self-isolation and are continuing to supply food to them. We are very happy to work with YMCA Dulverton Group to provide balanced meals that are nutritious and are easy to prepare, providing an ideal solution to their current needs. To date, the YMCA Dulverton Group catering team have produced over 75,000 meals for residents across Somerset since March 2020 and are continuing to do so.

“With schools returning we have also developed pop up café solutions with a ‘Grab and Go’ offering that fits perfectly with social distancing. We have also introduced several new recipes tailored for vegans, vegetarian and halal diets so we are continuing to refresh and expand our product range.”

Paul continues “At the moment we are feeling confident for the future and having the backing of the bank is important. We have found Kevin Goodall and his team to be commercially aware, realistic, and genuinely interested in our business and in trying to help us succeed.  They have understood the challenges which we have faced trading in a sector which has been impacted so heavily.  They engaged with us very early on following lock down and have been key in allowing us to continue to trade and support our staff over the last five months.  They worked closely with us on putting together a CBILS facility which has undoubtedly been critical to our business.”

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