When one thinks of catering, it’s likely that images of buffets for weddings, anniversaries, or corporate events spring to mind. However, one concept company is fast revolutionising the contract catering industry in Malta, offering greater flexibility and a tailormade approach.
The Big Kitchen, or TBK, is the brainchild of Joseph Zammit, the grandson of the founder of Neriku Catering, a company that has become a leader in the outside catering scene in Malta since its inception in the 1960s.
Joseph describes his grandfather as “a true entrepreneur and visionary leader.” Now in its third generation, the parent company currently has 50 employees, with Joseph’s father (Charles Zammit) and uncle (Raymond Zammit) as Directors; his sister (Anne Marie Zammit) as Sales, Marketing and Events Manager; his brother (Christian Zammit) as Financial Advisor and his cousin (Karl Zammit) as Operations Manager.
Talking to Joseph it is obvious that he is passionate about his work as he recalls childhood memories of helping his late grandfather, Neriku, and it comes as no surprise that he followed his footsteps into the family business.
“I knew I wanted a career in catering from a young age. I enrolled in a Food Preparation and Production course at ITS – a four-year course which teaches students the skills required to be a successful chef. The course offered a one-year international internship, and I had the opportunity to work at the Hilton in Brighton, UK, which was a great experience for me, both professionally and personally.”
After graduating from ITS, he started working at the factory, continuing his studies in marketing and finance whilst working his way up from the most basic jobs to the role of General Manager in the family business. Around six years ago, however, he realised that the catering world was evolving and changing, and that an opportunity existed to capture a niche market.
Drawing on the family’s experience and knowledge of the last 50 years and, after a careful market analysis that lasted 18 months, Joseph and his management team knew exactly what was needed, and invested in the necessary equipment and kitchen facilities, and bringing the right people on board.
The result is The Big Kitchen (TBK), providing contract catering services to a host of companies, offering a solution that is both cost-effective and high quality. By offering a strategic service, it enables organisations of all sizes to focus on their core business while TBK focuses on optimising the performance of its catering service.
To date, TBK has a broad base of clients – who have all understood the advantages of outsourcing their catering needs to a third party. The strategy is proving to be a winning formula, enabling companies to significantly reduce their costs by handing over the responsibility to experts whilst their workforce or clients are guaranteed a superior product that can be tailored to meet individual needs. Now, as General Manager of both Neriku and TBK, Joseph sees the legacy started by his grandfather continuing to develop in an exciting new direction, and is witnessing TBK grow at an exponential rate.
Joseph explains that TBK currently provides services to four different sectors.
“The first is the healthcare sector. We currently supply daily meals for two elderly homes. The second is education, where we are contracted by the Education Department for the Breakfast Club, which provides breakfast for thousands of children throughout Malta and Gozo during the scholastic year. The third sector is tourism; we supply buffet lunches for chartered boats as well as lunches for some language schools. The fourth is businesses – we cater for companies that want to offer their employees food. Our industry expertise is very comprehensive, including the operation of on-site catering, vending machines and meal delivery services.”
Joseph describes his days as “long and full”, as in addition to fulfilling the role of a General Manager he is committed to the smooth-running of TBK and, although some clients have their own account managers, he adopts a very hands-on approach in the day-to-day running of the business.
“Our approach is customer-centric; our clients can always expect flexibility, responsibility and distinctive service,” he maintains, affirming that it is this personal touch that gives TBK the edge and that it is important to be easily contactable and available to discuss with clients, whenever needed.
He adds that in an ideal scenario for the company, consumers from every sector would be happy to eat the same meals, but this is far from reality and this is where TBK draws its strength – in providing a service that can be tailormade to cater for different clients’ needs.
“At TBK we believe that cooking is an artform and that the meals we serve have the potential to create memorable experiences for our clients,” he says.
In addition, the chefs constantly seek to craft varied menus using fresh, seasonal produce and to create dishes that offer a mix of traditional and contemporary meals using only ingredients of the highest quality.
“Using research and our team’s expertise, all the menus at TBK are crafted with the highest standards whilst keeping the different clients, their needs and requests in mind,” Joseph continues, using the example of care homes for the elderly, where food intolerances are less frequent but other factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure must be taken into consideration when creating a menu. Breakfast Clubs for school children are another challenge, as many children today have food intolerances. Joseph also recounts how TBK is catering for companies employing foreign workers that have particular preferences, including a number of construction companies that cater for Turkish, Indian and Filipino workers as well as another with an Indonesian workforce.
TBK, the General Manager says, is dedicated to staying upto-date with culinary trends and consumer attitudes, and to be readily adaptable to these in the future.
Whilst there is a constant battle between cost and quality, Joseph explains that it is of the utmost importance to be au courant with the latest developments in the industry, and that today’s challenges include providing environmentallyfriendly packaging, healthy food and catering for specific dietary requirements such as halal or vegan.
But perhaps TBK’s mantra to provide and excel at an affordable price is best summarised in its mission statement: “We are committed to consistently deliver the highest quality and performance, whilst relentlessly driving to be the lowest cost, most efficient provider.”
This feature was first carried in the Autumn edition of Business Now magazine, the sister publication of BusinessNow.mt
Photos by Tyler Calleja Jackson
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