Case Study

Amber Catering & Cakes

Amidst the local weekend markets of Northern Ireland, a family-owned business has been leaving a lasting impression on taste buds for years. Alan Burns and his wife, Debbie, are the creative minds and hardworking individuals behind Amber Catering & Cakes. Their story is one of dedication, resilience, and a true passion for creating exceptional culinary experiences.

Alan was originally inspired to work in the food industry by his dad who owned a local chip shop where Alan pitched in at a young age. After attending a few baking and culinary courses after school, he was hooked into the wide world of food, baking & catering. He can still remember his father’s famous saying to this day…“People always need to eat.”

It’s safe to say that Alan and Debbie have gone above and beyond in filling that need for many people with their tasty creations.

After having spent a significant portion of their lives immersed in the cakes and baking industry, Alan & Debbie’s entrepreneurial journey began with a coffee shop called the Amber Room, named after their beloved daughter. However, their ambitious vision of a modern coffee shop ahead of its time faced challenges as people struggled to grasp its concept. After five fulfilling years, the couple made the tough decision to close the coffee shop and focus on their true passion: outside catering and market sales.

Transitioning their efforts to catering allowed Alan and Debbie to concentrate on perfecting their craft. With an unwavering commitment to quality, they honed their skills and expanded their menu to include buns, traybakes, bread, and sausage rolls. The market scene became their playground, where they could engage directly with customers and introduce their mouth-watering creations.


The success of Amber Catering & Cakes can be attributed to their unwavering commitment to excellence. Every product that emerges from their kitchen is made from scratch, using only the finest ingredients. The couple’s dedication to creating everything in-house sets them apart from the competition. Their customers recognize the value placed on quality food, fostering a loyal following that continues to grow. 

Over the years, Amber Catering & Cakes has garnered numerous accolades and industry recognition. Notably, they have won multiple Great Taste and World Bread Awards, solidifying their status as masters of their craft. From their award-winning Date & Apple Wheaten, and Rhubarb & Ginger to their Guinness and Treacle and to Debbie’s cake designs and creations, their achievements serve as a testament to their culinary prowess.


Building a robust network has been vital to the couple’s success in the competitive culinary industry. “One of the most important relationships to maintain is that with your suppliers”, states Alan. “You never know when you will need something quickly or an ‘I Owe You’ credit wise.” 

Although some businesses can be territorial, Alan and Debbie strive to cultivate healthy relationships with other local food entrepreneurs as well. They have collaborated with establishments like Littlepopcorn shop, resulting in themed popcorn traybakes that delighted customers. Open to future collaborations, Alan and Debbie embrace opportunities to work with like-minded businesses.

To stay fresh and up to date with their product offerings, Alan and Debbie keep a look on social media to discover trends that other businesses are doing. When the find something that catches their eye, the look to see how they can incorporate some of the ideas with their own signature twist. This has paved the way for some clever and fun creations coming out of the kitchen.


While their journey has been filled with triumphs, the couple acknowledges the importance of staying humble and prepared. The seemingly constant turn of events, as exemplified by the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, reminds them to remain vigilant and adaptable.

“The unexpected will happen… don’t get too complacent and always keep an eye on your competition. Prepare the best you can and be vigilant about what is going on around that could affect your business.”

Amber Catering have received valuable support from programs like the “Go For It” Initiative and grants specific to their business. Antrim Enterprise has been a constant source of guidance, hosting networking events and providing ongoing support.

As Alan and Debbie envision the future of their business, they dream of expanding their presence in local markets. Ideally, they would love to reach a point where their success hinges solely on market sales, even contemplating the prospect of hiring additional staff to cater to multiple locations simultaneously. The ambition to bring their delectable offerings to a broader audience is at the core of their aspirations.

Running a business can be all-consuming, leaving little time for personal well-being. However, Alan and Debbie understand the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. They create a positive work environment by infusing their unit with their favourite rock music, fuelling their passion for their craft. When they manage to steal some time away, they explore new culinary experiences, seeking out food markets and eateries across Northern Ireland and beyond.

“Sometimes (running a business) is like working 3-6 jobs at once and sometimes part of the deal is that you need to do what needs done whether you like it or no. In our circumstance, I try to make sure that my work environment is a place that I can enjoy coming to everyday. For us, that means cranking the radio and listening to my favourite music. “

Amber Catering & Cakes stands as a testament to the power of unwavering dedication, adaptability, and a genuine love for culinary artistry. Alan and Debbie’s relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to quality has cemented their place in the hearts and taste buds of customers. As they continue to delight palates and expand their presence, their journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs embarking on their own gastronomic adventures. Amber Catering & Cakes is more than a business—it’s a testament to the artistry of food and the power of perseverance.


Amber Catering & Cakes

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