Open Food provides catering to the aviation industries and a broad range of clients, big and small, across South Africa. we caught up with managing director Tamar Klonarides to find out what makes the company tick.
Writer Hannah Eiseman-Reynard
Project manager Jason Gilkes
Open Food is a catering company which runs 360 days a year at nine different facilities, and
has recently added a night shift. It has been specialising in the aviation, hospitality and corporate catering fields; yet can cater for both big and small events.
"We believe that the days of the canteen are over, and dull, stodgy mass produced canteen food are a thing of the past. there is no reason why food for corporates needs to be mass produced and of inferior quality. You can create wonderful, fresh and healthy food at good prices," says Managing Director Tamar Klonarides.
The company has been making waves serving a wide range of high-quality, good-value food to a wide range of clients. "our greatest strength is our diversity of skills," she says. "Not only are we able to cater for events ranging from ten to 3,000 people, but we have a manufacturing division servicing the food wholesale and retail industry, and we have a Corporate management team who specialise in managing Food and Beverage requirements for several corporate facilities." that sounds like quite a lot of different scales to work along. How does open Food adjust? "We are still a very customer driven company, where personal service is our key selling point."
And the approach certainly seems to be working. with clients including Bentley, Henley Business School and movie launches at Nu metro Facilities, Open Food is clearly able to adjust and make a menu to fit for any event.
"We have been very fortunate to have worked with inventive and dynamic clients who are constantly encouraging our company to find new and inventive ways to produce and serve food," says Klonarides. this includes FNB's sponsored events. "We recently catered for FNB in the middle of a field at Aardklop music festival for five days in the sweltering heat and this was an unparalleled
success. We will also be doing some very exciting work with FNB at Whiskey Live next month."
Meanwhile, on the non-events front, Open Food has big contracts in aviation. "Open Food has been associated with Menzies Aviation Hospitality Lounges since the onset. We were commissioned to create their catering spec and supply on an ongoing basis." In addition Open Food has been associated with Comair Slow Lounges "creating and managing their entire food and beverage image. Here our role was to create their catering image, supply staff, and manage, produce and constantly update their food and beverage consideration."
So what's Open Food's secret to winning all these contracts? Good old-fashioned customer service, paired with an extremely modern and diverse range of catering options. "We have a dynamic team who are personally involved with every client and every aspect of each job undertaken," says Klonarides. "Personal commitment and care make the difference.
"By diversifying our company and valuing all business; big and small, we have managed to meet the needs of most of our clients."
The global economy has affected almost every industry: what are challenges has it created for Open Food? "The industry has taken some knocks over the past few years given that fewer companies have big budgets for functions and events. Part of our process to manage our client needs have been to be very cost conscious and wherever possible offer unparalleled value."
Clearly something is working since the private company is still growing – it has scaled-up from having three members of staff to 300 and now runs a fleet of eight refrigerated vehicles. How has Open Food adjusted? "Growth for any business brings its own set of challenges," admits Klonarides. "Not only have our faculties had to change to meet our production needs, but as the company grows, one needs to instil a more corporate dynamic without compromising your core principles: such as being a personal business that cares about each client and their needs.
"The other challenge is complacency. This is an ever changing business. We believe in traveling and exposing ourselves to as much as possible within the food industry, constantly looking for new and exciting ideas for our clients."
With their sights set so high, having the right team for the job must be important. How does Open Food recruit and retain skilled people? "Finding the right staff is always challenging, but there are some wonderful and passionate people out there," says Klonarides. "When we find the right staff, we believe in investing in them. We try and offer further training, not only through courses, but also through personal investment from the management team into each individual." She has personally mentored a couple of members of staff, and the company – despite its recent growth – maintains an
open-door policy and avoids titles. "As a company we do not really believe in titles – everyone is on a first name basis, as this encourages and perpetuates the personal dynamic. We have often had staff leave us to further themselves and gain alternative experience in the industry, and then rejoin us at a later stage. We believe this is because we try and encourage everyone to gain pleasure from their work and their working environment."
Open Food has recently identified a gap in the market which is the focus of its next stage of expansion. Is Africa Outlook allowed a sneak peek? "Corporate space comes at a huge premium today and often companies cannot accommodate dining facilities and smaller conference and meeting areas. We believe that this need has been seriously overlooked. We are currently working on a very exciting project in Sandton which basically offers prestigious but relaxed and private dining spaces within corporate buildings."
With rollout due in March next year, we'll keep our eyes peeled.