Breda Quigley, CEO of the Year: 'We are a small, Irish company governed by great women'

Breda Quigley, managing director of The Q Café Company, was named CEO of the Year at the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year awards 2018. Speaking to Jillian Bolger after her win, Breda opened up about growing her business (as well as the importance of sticking to the brand's core values...)


The Q Café Company Ltd was established in 1999 by Breda Quigley with a vision to change the face of contract catering in Ireland. A keen interest in good food and food experiences led her to incorporate the best products and emerging trends into everyday catering services.

Related: Anne Harris, Lifetime Achievement Winner:
'Open your eyes and observe'

She wanted to raise the bar for businesses; delivering interesting and delicious food to their employees without increasing costs. “We are passionate about food and about supporting local artisan suppliers. The most satisfying part of my job is delivering on our promise.”

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In 2013, Breda’s daughter, Leah Moore (a trained athlete and elite sprinter based in the UK), identified a growing trend in wellness. At the time, wellness was in its infancy. The Q Café created the QWellness brand, which has grown from strength to strength. “It was Leah’s coach that sowed the seed; and when she brought me the idea, it made perfect sense.”

"We are about delivering great food. We are not about low calories, low carbs."

Breda brought in a full-time wellness development manager; and through everyday service guidelines, auditing tools, chef education programmes and internal awards, she led her team in the implementation of the new QWellness directives across the business. Breda is the first person in the industry to create and deliver a holistic programme that has completely changed the face of her business.

Breda Quigley accepting her award for CEO of the Year, pictured with Dearbhail McDonald, Pamela Quinn, and Melanie Morris; photo by Kieran Harnett

QWellness now permeates the entire business, adding value to the contract catering services; with a programme offering workplaces the opportunity to deliver free exercise classes, fitness programmes, boot camps and personal training; alongside free healthy eating talks, mindfulness, motivation and goal-setting workshops.

“We have brought in some great business based on our wellness approach and structure. We are about delivering great food. We are not about low calories, low carbs. We’re all about really and truly eating.”

Related: Sonia Deasy, Entrepreneur of the Year:
'If you don’t learn from mistakes, you’ll never progress'

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When The Q Café started out in 1999, Breda was aware of the coffee renaissance sweeping the country. “I saw this great opportunity to deliver an enhanced service based on good quality food and good quality service; street food and international food but with an Irish emphasis.

"I think we are great leaders of innovation in Ireland, and The Q Café strives to be leaders, not followers. People travel more, have more knowledge of what’s good for them and more knowledge of great food. Our business responds to all these things.”

"We are a small, indigenous Irish company governed and led by great women.”

The Q Café now employs 180 staff across Ireland. “In terms of the big blue-chip catering companies, we are small, but in Irish terms of Irish business, we grow carefully to protect our ethos and our core values. In ten years, we have grown selectively and carefully to become a niche Irish provider within contract catering.”

Breda’s daughter Leah is now The Q Café’s business development manager, and together with Laura Olson, head of operations, put Breda forward for this award without telling her. “It’s a wonderful honour to be recognised like this. We are a small, indigenous Irish company governed and led by great women.”

Top photo by Anthony Woods

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