THRIVING BUSINESS OF CATERING




Not in the very distant past, it was considered taboo to dine out of one’s home. This of course has changed as is evidenced by the countless cafés and restaurants that have filled up the sides of the streets. In fact, not only has it become accepted, it has become all the rage. Taking this a step forward, individuals and groups have begun to provide catering services that have recently become popular.

Angesom Kidane Afework, the CEO and founder of Fiesta Catering, started outdoor catering around three years ago. He had little experience in catering and with a gentle push from his friends found himself preparing his first outdoor catering service with a cost of 15,000 Br.

The catering service in Ethiopia expanded with the beginning of railway services, says Yitaseb Seyoum, lecturer at the Catering and Tourism Training Institute (CTTI). The 785Km first railway which stretched from Addis Ababa to Djibouti was inaugurated in 1929. Following the inauguration of the Ethio-Djibouti railway, businesses that prepared and sold food and drinks for the travellers also flourished. However, their services were limited to the perimeter of their establishments.

With the opening of international standard hotels such as Sheraton Addis, catering services started to flourish wherever an event was held, explained Yitaseb. Other than hotels, outdoor catering is also provided by institutions that are strictly established for this purpose. Their services range from preparing a menu to providing sound systems, to coffee breaks, and letters of invitation are delivered to prospective guests.

According to Yitaseb, the required standards for event organisation and preparation in the catering industry are fulfilled by only a few catering services but remain the cause of failure for many. He further claims that the catering service is also in its infant stage in terms of logistics, capacity and presentation.

The transportation of food and drinks should be carried out using refrigerated vehicles in order to protect perishable items from contamination and bad taste. During the event the catering firm should also be prepared for the worst. It has to be ready for unfortunate occurrences such as fire and power loss. All these are standards customers should demand and the catering services also should strive to fulfill, stated Yetaseb.

Outdoor catering service quality and capacity are highly affected by the time frame of food preparation. For example, Fiesta’s kitchen, which is located 44Km from Addis Abeba in Sebeta, has the ability to prepare for up to 1,000 guests if a customer places an order three weeks ahead of the event or earlier. However, the kitchen can handle only up to approximately 300 guests for an event that is booked one week ahead of the presentation, said Angesom.Short notice will also cost the customer more than the usual price, he added. A meal can be ordered from around 180 Br to 500 Br depending on the selected menu list.

There is no fixed price tag for catering services. It is calculated and determined based on the number of guests, the kind of dish that will be prepared, and the existing market for raw materials which all vary from time to time.

Catering companies mostly provide services for various non-government organizations (NGOs), embassies, private companies and events, and the number of customers always fluctuates, varying from season to season and year to year, explained Moira Bonaiuti, manager of Grab n’ Go catering, which was established six years ago by Tallero Plc. Also, indicating the growing demand of the industry, Angesom confirms that at the beginning Fiesta used to have up to 10 small orders in terms of guests. However, at present most of the orders cater to a larger number of guests but the quantity of orders is half that of the past.

According to data from the Ministry of Trade, 1,327 businesses are registered under the provision of catering service. The growing number of entrants has caused Fiesta to look to other options in order to increase their market share. Currently, as the competition increases, as a market strategy Fiesta is moving to camp catering, explained the founder of Fiesta Catering. Camp catering is the provision of catering services to remote areas which requires more resources and the capacity to exploit untapped market opportunity, he explains. Previously, Fiesta has catered for camps as far away as Gambella.

Today, many more people are joining the business with an objective to exploit the market created by the many international and locally organized events and meetings, said Angesom.

Addis International Catering (AIC) which is a subsidiary company of the MIDROC Group, owned by Sheik Mohammed Al-Amoudi, is one of the companies that joined the outdoor catering business a short while ago. The company began to provide home catering services in Ethiopia starting in December, 2014. For the previous six years it provided catering services only for international airlines. AIC participated in the 24th General Assembly of the African Union by catering lunch for 300 guests and coffee services for around 1,000 guests, which was a milestone for the company.



By SNETSEHAY ASSEFA
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER

Published on March 30, 2015 [ Vol 15 ,No 778]


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