The Stuffed Olive seeks support for soaring energy costs

“Even since I was shopping around in June it’s gone crazy again,” said cafe owner Sarah O'Shea.
The Stuffed Olive seeks support for soaring energy costs

Sarah O'Shea, manager of The Stuffed Olive in Bantry. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Like thousands of other businesses across Ireland, Sarah O’Shea, the manager of The Stuffed Olive cafe in Bantry, Co Cork, is battling the impact of soaring energy costs.

Her most recent energy bill came to €5,508 for just over 70 days. This is the highest energy bill the café has received, having been in business for 16 years.

“We’re a lucky business because we’re still established," she said. "Hopefully it will be OK."

Ms O’Shea runs the family business with her mother, who co-founded it, and her sister. When she read reports about the rise in energy prices this year, she decided to shop around and see if she could get a better deal.

“I shopped around and I went with a consultant because he was able to get me a little bit of a cheaper rate with Bord Gáis,” she said.

Sarah O'Shea of The Stuffed Olive in Bantry. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Sarah O'Shea of The Stuffed Olive in Bantry. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Ms O’Shea said her usage has increased slightly from last year since they got a new oven.

She added that she is lucky with this bill, as rates have gone up since she switched to a new energy provider.

“Even since I was shopping around in June, it’s gone crazy again,” she said.

If I had a cake that was €10 today and it’s €20 tomorrow, my customers wouldn’t put up with that — but we have no choice. What am I going to do, not have electricity?”

She posted her bill on social media and Cork bakery Wildflour commented that they are now paying 64 cents per unit during the day with a new provider, which is more than what O’Shea is paying.

The energy crisis was one of the focus points of this year’s  budget, and a new scheme called the temporary business energy support scheme (Tbess) was introduced to help employers get on top of soaring utility bills.

The €1.2bn scheme will cover 40% of the increase in electricity or gas bills, and eligible businesses can get up to a maximum of €10,000 per month. The scheme is administered by Revenue Commissioners, and will run into spring 2023.

The scheme is backdated to September and the first round of payments to eligible employers is expected to be delivered by November.

Sarah outside The Stuffed Olive. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Sarah outside The Stuffed Olive. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Ms O’Shea said she did not have time to check the details of the budget yet due to her long working day, but has already heard from people that they are disappointed with the measures introduced.

HR Buddy CEO Damien McCarthy was among those who expressed concern about the new scheme.

“A support that only covers 40% of an overwhelming problem is not going to save jobs," he said.

Employers will still be left with 60% of the problem, and that is only the energy costs problem.”

Ms O’Shea’s frustration continues to grow as she is forced to pay high energy bills while she hasn’t been paid yet for exporting energy to the grid through her solar panels.

Energy prices are not the only cost pressure impacting businesses such as The Stuffed Olive. The business employs 14 people, and Ms O’Shea said wage increases are increasingly becoming a challenge.

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