A lot of work goes into starting and sustaining an excellent business. Everyone wants to be their own boss, but many do not have a clear picture of what it entails. In today’s episode, I sort after a lady who has grown her catering company, The Perfect Plate, from scratch to exceptional standards through blood, sweat and tears. My mission: to get an excerpt into the ins and outs of service provision.
Meet Liz, officially known as Elizabeth Nafula Rakuomi. She is an introverted yet fun loving lady who is passionate about the hospitality industry. Her career started off in 2013 as a waitress at the former Intercontinental Hotel and progressed to Radisson Blu Upper Hill where she rose through the ranks until the unfortunate emergence of Covid. When her job at Radisson ended, she decided it was time to go after her big dream, creating The Perfect Plate catering service.
Here is her story;
Why the food industry? Is it something you studied in school, or did it come out of passion?
~I have always been passionate about food preparation and trying out different recipes. Growing up, I admired how my mum prepared meals with so much love. She introduced me into the kitchen at a young age and that’s how I nurtured my passion. I also studied Hotel Management in college. It was an all-rounded course with a small section on food preparation and service.
What does a typical business day look like for you?
~A good day starts at about 0430hrs. I do my morning routine which entails prayer, meditation, and gratitude affirmations. Afterwards, I schedule the day’s orders depending on urgency and divide duties amongst my team. Once the day’s deliveries and events are fulfilled, we do inventory and plan for the next day. I close my day at about 1800hrs, however, this may vary in case of evening events.
What is the best thing about being the CEO of The perfect plate?
~Oh my! I could go on and on about this one. Being passionate about service provision means that I draw fulfilment from getting clients’ feedback: positive reviews, gratitude, joy, smiles… The appreciation from customers when they are satisfied with the work of my hands is sensational. I also love that I get to express myself through different meals. My creativity is not limited to what the society dictates and it’s always an experiment in the kitchen.
What challenges do you encounter in your day-to-day life at The Perfect plate?
~Currently, high food prices are my greatest challenge. We are forced to revise our prices upwards to compensate for the hike. With this, the business has suffered as most clients are opting to cut down on costs by doing the food prep and cooking by themselves or opting for labor only option which is quite limiting.
Additionally, the catering industry has little to no regulation with regards to pricing. Some service providers quote unreasonably low prices just to bag a business but end up doing a shoddy job. This really dampens our reputation and makes it hard to build trust in the market.
What is the most challenging order you have done so far and what lessons can you share from it?
~It was a wedding of 150 people. To be honest, when I got the job I was still new in the industry and it was a pure experience of character development. However, with it I picked up a few lessons:
- Always do your calculations before issuing a quote
- Do not let an inquiry for a big event get you too excited to cloud your judgement and have you overlook things that you would normally consider deal breakers
- Seek for help and guidance whenever you are unsure of something
- Have terms and policies in place as well as contracts to protect your business and yourself
If you were to change two things in the food service industry, what would They be?
~The notion that there are only specific meals that can be served at an event. I would love to have more open-minded clients willing to take the plunge and trust their service providers to wow their taste buds.
The assumption that the food industry is just about cooking food. There’s so much that goes into seeing a successful event from actual costing, factoring in labor, time, expertise, just to mention a few.
What advice can you give to a person considering going into the food service industry?
- Lower your expectations. The food industry is a humbling one and you most likely have to start from the literal bottom and find your way upwards
- Keep an open mind as we learn something new every other day
- There is no formula on how to go about the business, passion is what leads you
- Find a mentor to walk through your growth and consistently learn from. Push yourself out there and be ready to get down and dirty to polish that diamond you are working on.
- Trust and believe in yourself
What is the future for The Perfect plate, what should your customers expect in the coming years?
~I am planning to eventually cut out my niche to strictly offering weekly meal plans and preps as well as family packages. Looking to cater to more small and intimate gatherings because with that my personal touch and finesse gets to be experienced by clients. I am also working on branching out our satellite kitchens to further locations within Nairobi and its environs.
Just for fun question: if you were to serve only one food for a high-end event, what would it be and why?
~The luhya in me will most definitely say any chicken-based meal. For a high-end event I would do a chicken cordon bleu because it’s considered a luxury meal. It’s basically a roulade of chicken filled with vegetable and cheese filling. It may be wrapped in bacon or not depending on the client’s preference. Have that paired with creamy potato mash and vegetable stir fry, you have yourself a luscious meal.
Liz finished off her interview with a very meaningful parting shot, “Passion and consistency are the keys to achieving one’s goals. On the days that you don’t feel like pushing through that is when more effort is needed.” You can reach out to Liz on Facebook @ The Perfect plate on Instagram @The Perfect plate or write her an Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Telephone: +254 (0) 786 843 899. Feel free to check out her very good reviews on Google as well.