The catering industry in Namibia is rapidly expanding, with the Yellow Pages alone listing 89 catering companies all over Namibia. This list includes small, work from home companies to large companies that cater for big events as well as catering equipment and supplies for hire.
History of catering
People have been catering for centuries, the earliest account being in 1778 but the catering business began in 1820 in Philadelphia, being a respectable and profitable business and disproportionately founded by African-Americans.
By 1840 the industry began to professionalize under the reigns of Robert Bogle who was known as the “originator of catering”. The word “caterer” became common by the 1880’s at which point local directories began listing numerous caterers.
The industry became more popular over the decades and by the 1960’s home-made food was overtaken by eating in public catering establishments (FYI the first McDonalds was opened in 1955) .
There are two types of catering. Commercial and non-commercial.
This sector can be defined as the operations in which profitability is the main objective. It can be private as well as publicly owned.
– Hotels and restaurants
– Wine bars
– Fast foods and take away
– Licensed house (pub) catering
– Motel and travel lodge
– Guest houses
– Youth hostels
– Transport catering
– Outdoor/off premises catering
– Franchising, etc.
This sector can also be referred to as subsidized or welfare catering and is defined as the operations in which the profitability of the catering facility is not the primary concern. The operation is either completely or partially subsidized by a parent body. The primary obligation of such an establishment is the wellbeing and care of their customers. Unlike customers regularly choosing to go to a commercial catering facility, these customers often do not have a choice. The non–commercial facilities are usually subdivided by government bodies or parent companies who dictates the allowance per heads.
– Institutional catering
– Hospital catering
– Industrial catering
One of the leading catering businesses is International Facilities Services (IFS). They offer a high class catering service amongst other services, like construction, housekeeping and laundry. IFS believe that “a good workforce must be sustained by good food” and therefore they provide a diverse range of hearty, nutritional meals. Because IFS does catering for the whole of Africa, big or small events, they ensure that all ethnic and religious cuisine preferences are considered in their menus. They will also import chefs from the specific countries to make sure their clients are happy.
INTERVIEW WITH INDUSTRY EXPERT
MARCO DU TOIT
Financial & Operations Manager: West | Namibia IFS
What are the challenges you face in the industry and when catering for large events?
IFS use its specialized knowledge and years of experience to provide comfortable living and working conditions for employees and contractors in remote locations. We have the capacity to handle everything from site design and construction, catering, laundry and housekeeping, through to providing leisure and fitness activities. Put simply, IFS creates comprehensive home-from-home solutions for remote business operations on the African continent.
Ultimately, any catering event is as strong as the supply chain and logistic infrastructure set up by the company performing the work. Our attention to detail, effective management of people and passion for executing a world class service for our client remains a key differentiator at IFS.
How long does it take to prepare for a large event and what kind of preparations go into it?
IFS prides itself on being a customer centric company, which means preparation for most contracts begins up to 24 months before mobilizing.
We consult continuously with the client on what the desired scope includes with particular attention paid to: meals specifications; quality, timelines etc. In addition, regular engagement with the company’s supply base and logistic arm takes place to ensure volumes, schedules and general expectations are managed with efficiency and a seamless transition being the ultimate goal.
As a company, IFS is in a fortunate position in that the Group has developed a wide customer base/platform from which to leverage off experiences and networks. Operating in a number of regions and executing contracts ranging from canteen services, to procurement contracts to remote site solutions for our client base, project managers have a wealth of information to draw from.
On some occasions we make use of external registered dieticians to review our meal plans, cycles and menu compositions.
Preparation is critical in the catering business as this will determine the service delivery and profitability of the contract.
Does this rapidly growing industry have an effect on the Namibian economy and the Hospitality Industry?
The industry has become extremely competitive with a large number of catering companies entering the market in search of new business. The various sectors making use of catering companies are therefore benefiting from better prices and improved service offerings.
Catering companies specifically have had to refine their models in order to implement more efficient processes followed from farm to fork. This focus has ensured best practice is delivered by all stakeholders in a more regulated manner, contributing to the upliftment of the hospitality industry. These changes and the continued competitive nature confronting specialists in the industry, has afforded management the opportunity to improve contract implementation through investment in people, with particular focus on skills transfer. Ultimately the improvements made contribute to greater efficiencies in the workplace.
Furthermore, IFS has seen the need to diversify its’ service and the adoption of a solution driven approach has allowed for a more customer centric approach to be adopted.
What kind of charity and welfare work does IFS do?
The IFS Group of companies and its shareholders are increasingly passionate about contributing to the upliftment and education of communities with which it comes into contact with through our operations.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a part of the Groups lifestyle since incorporation and the “birth” of the IFS Development Trust has allowed for a transparent platform from which to launch exciting initiatives and partnerships to lead the way in this area.
We started working together with our sister companies, ACS, AFS and IFS Operations, sharing lessons learnt and improving our professionalism amongst stakeholders. A key learning is that the communities rely on support from corporates and it is with this in mind that we aim to possitively impact the lives of people who inhabit these spaces throgh offering employment opportunities, educational opportunities and exposure to sport focusing on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The ultimate goal is to be inclusive and set a platform for sustainable growth the industry, has afforded management the opportunity to improve contract implementation through investment in people, with particular focus on skills transfer. Ultimately the improvements made contribute to greater efficiencies in the workplace.
Furthermore, IFS has seen the need to diversify its’ service and the adoption of a solution driven approach has allowed for a more customer centric approach to be adopted into the future.
The main objective of the Trust is to promote and to advance persons in local, disadvantaged and underprivileged communities in which the IFS Group of companies conducts business so that they may directly beneift from our presence in the region. The Development Trust is an active shareholder in Atlantic Food Services, where they are currently providing a service to the MoE for the Omusati / Oshana Regions; Atlantic Catering Solutions, which is also providing a service to the MoE in the Omaheke Region and IFS Operations providing services to Namibian Breweries, National Training Authority WHK and most recently Ohorongo Cement. The growth of these three companies’ plays a vital role in the impact that the Development Trust can have in Namibia, as all funding is gained through the continued operation of the above mentioned group. Funds are held, managed, administered and controlled by the Trustees in such a manner that the Trust Incomes and Benefits shall be available, from time to time, for vesting on a temporary or permanent basis in one or more beneficiaries.