Equator Catering was formed in August 1993 by its two directors, Peter Bowser and Charles Case. The business initially supplied external catering services to functions in Kampala, ranging from private cocktail parties and receptions to corporate events.
In its early days, the company also ran a Mexican restaurant/bar in Kisementi, Fat Boyz as well as a sports bar Just Kicking. Both businesses have since been sold.
Equator now focuses largely on oil camp building and management where it services various companies on a short-term and semi-permanent basis.
The company first ventured into camp management in late 2006 when it was approached by Hardman Resources to provide catering at one of their camps. Tullow Oil bought out Hardman Resources the following year and Equator then began supplying services to Tullow. Previous clients also include Neptune Petroleum as well as security service providers such as G4S and Saracen. Outside of the oil & gas industry, clients have also included film crews and high-end tourist safari camps.
Equator Catering was contracted by Tullow to build its first camp in 2009. They currently run three major camps as well as one smaller camp in Hoima, which is occupied by Halliburton.
In recent bidding rounds, foreign companies have shown interest in partnering with Ugandan firms already established in the business to submit bids for contracts. Unlike its main competitor, MSL Logistics, Equator has so far rejected overtures from potential foreign partners, preferring to bid as a purely Ugandan entity.
Equator currently employs 130 staff, 99% of whom are Ugandan. The company’s directors say they are keen to preserve the Ugandan identity of the business.
For each of the four camps it manages, Equator sources unskilled workers from the local area. Skilled staff such as chefs and managers are more difficult to find locally, but the directors say they are hoping to achieve this in time.
They are planning to establish a chefs’ training school in Buliisa, near one of their larger camps, and expect to have finished before the end of 2013.
The company actively looks to source its food locally – a ‘win-win’ arrangement for the company and locals alike.
In Hoima, it has partnered with Traidlinks, an Irish non-profit organisation that provides specialist technical skills and business expertise to support local business. Traidlinks has set up a buying centre and facilitated the formation of Hoima Farms Association Cooperative from which can supply established companies such as Equator.
Equator Catering is now looking to expand its operations to the rest of East Africa. The company has recently registered in Kenya, with Equator Uganda owning 50% of the new Kenyan start up, and the remaining stake belonging to a Kenyan partner. The directors envisage further partnerships with established catering/camp management businesses already operating in Kenya in order to successfully bid for contracts in the region. They see further opportunities to expand in the Eastern Congo, with demand from various mines and breweries, although this will also come with administrative considerations such as work permits for staff.
For more, see the company website. Report by Chantal Sirisena