Upcoming Easing of Restrictions, the Catering Business Moving Forward, Handling the End-of-Year Festivities and Tips from The Chef Catering, a 100-Million Baht Catering Business!
Nov 27, 2021
Other than the food business, one business that’s been hit hard by Covid-19 is the party planning business. Due to the situation and government policies, the business has suffered like never before. However, as the restrictions ease and the situation improves, allowing everything to move forward again, plus the upcoming end-of-year season, which is the golden opportunity for the party planning business, how can you make a great comeback?!
Ms. Natkotchaphon ‘Khwan’ Wiraphatsirikun, Managing Director of The Chef Catering tells us about the path of her business to success that reached up to 100 million baht, the Covid crisis and the key to a great comeback!
From a Family Delivery Business to Catering
“We began about 15 years ago. My youngest brother was studying to become a chef at the Dusit Thani College. Our house was on the Lad Krabang Road. There were a lot of communities there, but not many restaurants, so we came up with the idea for a business that delivers food to the communities under the name ‘The Chef Delivery’. After about a year into the business, an influential person hired us to cater a company event. That’s how we were introduced to the catering business. After we catered that first event, we continued to work in the field.
It allowed us to see that the advantage of this business is the ability to get big payments and manage each event separately without having to keep a stock, making it different from the delivery business where we’d have to stock up. And if there are no customers, the stock can go to waste. After many catering jobs, it came to a point when we decided that it was better to focus on this aspect of the business.”Ms. Kwan told us that, 14-15 years ago in the full-function catering service business, there weren’t as many competitors as there are now. If you wanted to hold buffet or cocktail events, most people thought of hotels, which were better equipped to handle full services. Later on, people started to hold more events outside of hotels because they could maintain a lower budget and add concepts and themes more freely. In addition, the increased popularity of events allowed the catering business to boom.
This was the origin of and opportunity for ‘The Chef Catering’, which places great importance on food quality and flavor, impressing customers to repeat their business and spread word until the business has gained a lot of reputation and trust. Another key to success is the tailor-made services. This meets the needs of the themes and customers. Any type of deliciousness can be conjured up, whether it’s buffets and cocktails or Thai, Chinese, Japanese or European cuisine, bakery or others, etc. The food can also be made to suit the mood and tone of the event.
Growth and Success of a 100-Million Baht Catering Business
“A major turning point for us was the opportunity to go on the show, SME Titaek, which made The Chef Catering known and gave us a lot more business. Once the catering industry started to grow, a lot more people turned to it. The competition started to grow with it. However, since we were already in the business, we had a customer base that trusted in our quality and service, so there was nothing to worry about because, other than catering for regular customers, we’re also a supplier for organizers, hotels, conference halls and event venues that give us business almost daily. We cater for events like weddings, exhibitions and national-level events, etc. This forced us to expand and hire more teams. Originally, our team was only 3-4 people. This expanded to one point when we had up to 50 people, not including freelancers we collaborated with for each event.”
The Key to Success, The Chef Catering Style
● Creative flavors and quality of food by professional chefs only.
● The ability to provide a variety of foods for buffets, cocktails, menu sets such as Thai, Chinese, Japanese or European cuisines, bakery and others, etc.
● Meeting all of the customer needs. Having the ability to tailor-made the services to suit the mood and tone of the event’s theme.
● Emphasizing B2B customers-meaning becoming a supplier for organizers, hotels, conference halls and event venues which provides a consistent work flow.
100-Percent Impact from Covid
A prosperous business still encounters hiccups such as when an unexpected crisis occurs. Ms. Kwan says that The Chef Catering is no different from other catering businesses that have been 100-percent affected by Covid-19 due to the disease prevention policies that forbid festivities and events. This has resulted in catering businesses not being able to operate in the past two years.
“When we couldn’t cater, we suffered significantly. It forced us to scale down the business according to the situation. Now we have less than 10 employees. We’re trying to adjust by providing delivery services under the name ‘The Chef Go Food Delivery’ using our own central kitchen. Fortunately, since we used to cater, our customer base which already loved our food, started ordering from us. It helped to a degree. It gave us enough income to pay our remaining employees.”
How Can Catering Businesses Move Forward During This Easing of Restrictions?
The government’s announcement of the plan to open the country up and ease restrictions was good news to a lot of people in the catering business. Ms. Kwan gladly told us that some of their business is starting to return, “Although we’re not catering parties or events every day like before, our business is starting to return, even though it’s not at the same scale-meaning only 30-60 attendees. Just this number of people already worries people. It’s not like before when there used to be hundreds of attendees. However, it’s a good sign that makes us feel more relieved.”
“If you ask me about where our focus should be and how to adjust our operations in this era, we have to take care of our employees first. Other than ensuring that they’re all vaccinated, we have to maintain sanitation standards, including the kitchen cleanliness and contact with food. Masks, face shields and gloves are worn at all times. Our employees are regularly tested for Covid and ATK tests are performed before each onsite catering job to ensure customers and protect our own employees because our business might be in jeopardy if anyone on our team contracts Covid.”
“Furthermore, to build consumer confidence, our food and catering style may have to change. For cocktails, we’ve suggested serving food in tightly lidded containers to prevent people from coughing or sneezing into the food. The utensils we use are wrapped in plastic and arranged into sets. Otherwise, we recommend customers to serve individual menu sets for each person to better meet current safety needs rather than offering a buffet for which people have to wait in lines with social distancing measures sometimes not being followed. When we recommended these measures, customers generally agree and are happy because they, too, want to ensure safety for their guests.”
“Once the situation improves, we plan on hiring back our regular employees and we’ll do our best as caterers to maintain safety standards during the end-of-year season. I think this is the key to moving our business forward during this period when nothing is certain. At the same time, I actually want to tell everyone to be careful and don’t let down your guard, because we really don’t know if our large gatherings will cause the spread of the disease. Both the organizers and attendees should help each other prevent that. At the moment, we can’t anticipate how the situation is going to be in the future. I don’t think anyone can expect anything for certain, but we don’t want to have to go through another lockdown.”
TIPS: How Can Catering Businesses Move Forward and Meet the Needs During the Covid Era?
● Ensure all employees are vaccinated.
● Be strict regarding sanitation standards, including kitchen cleanliness and contact with food. Masks and face shields should be worn at all times.
● Test employees for Covid regularly and perform an ATK test before every event to build consumer confidence and protect your own employees.
● Present safe food serving styles to customers.
● Advertise, communicate and use safety standards as a selling point.