Different strokes for different ventures

How a couple is thriving on catering

BY VICTOR ADAR

In 2012, Graham and Lulu Roy started Specialised Chef Consultants limited as a high end medium sized food and beverage service-provider, a company behind Lime Inc., Lime Catering, and Lime Bar. The couple felt that there was a gap in the Kenyan market for a bespoke approach to the food and beverage industry. 

Comforting is how they approached the financing of the company. It was based on a needs basis whereby an inventory would be acquired as the need for equipment for specific functions came up. The firm has gradually grown over the years with current turnover of between Sh1 million and Sh3 million a month and asset value of around Sh10 million.

“We have various overseas investments that we utilise as and when needed. This means we don’t have a huge amount of defunct equipment,” says Lulu. “We have discussed a few times mass expansion and there is definitely room for that, however, with young family we are not sure if we are the right ones to continue it forward or whether someone else would be positioned to take it on. We’re open to offers to take over.”

Mrs Roy, born and raised in Nairobi and finished higher education in Cordon Bleu cooking in UK, worked for tiny restaurants and cafes in UK as well as a large private estate but always focused on the food aspect of life. When she moved back to Kenya, her heart went to safari industry with her eyes focusing mainly on hospitality development and training. But more interesting is how she landed in Southern Sudan and took couple of years in trying her hands in the food retail industry, and briefly in construction. 

Mr Graham, also born and raised in Kenya, trained as a chef at The Edinburgh School of Food & Wine and there after worked as a private chef and estate manager at various estates in Scotland before specialising in seafood and fish with Seafood Scotland. But would later move to Australia to work as a chef at the popular “Boat Shed” in Brisbane before returning to his roots in Kenya to consult briefly as executive chef at O’Sinkirri Restaurant. 

Lulu

Driving Lime Catering division while doubling as commercial director of Specialised Chef Consultants Limited, Graham is a darling of Nairobi food lovers. Although on a day-to-day basis a team of 5 to 8 people make things happen, Graham says that catering business is definitely not for the faint-hearted. 

“It takes a lot of time and effort and passion but the rewards are countless and the job satisfaction is immense. We offer a personalised service and can cater pretty much anywhere in Kenya. We have a core team of dedicated personnel we’ve trained & grown with and we have a good base of casual staff who we bring in on a needs basis,” says Lulu.

Specialised Chef Consultants’ different services include outside catering and equipment hire, full bar services as well as ready meals. Graham admits that there is robust growth in other divisions apart from “our ready meals” which have never really taken off thanks to what he terms “fridge fillers”.

“There’re more fridge fillers that we occasionally do on a needs basis. Bar services are essential to all catered events and we feel we can’t rely on other bar providers to meet the high standards we require to complement our food. Some weeks we are crazy busy and some are very quiet; it keeps us on our toes,” Lulu says, noting that the company uses its own equipment for outside catering operations, as there is a significant lack of “good quality service ware” that one can hire. “When it’s not in use for our catering or bar services then we hire out the surplus,” she adds.

We all pull our weight and clients often remark on this … I hope that the scope for entrepreneurs in Kenya is nurtured rather than stifled which we have seen happen this past year especially

To stay professional and on solid ground as far as getting repeat clients is concerned, what the smart entrepreneurs decided to do from the onset was to ensure that their team is motivated, and that their attitude to work remain positive. As senior managers, Lulu says, there is no acrimonious meltdown in company. It is, therefore, expected that the company will continue to thrive.

The current business climate, not only in Kenya but throughout the world is changing rapidly and it is difficult to keep up with trends and be trend setters. But one striking thing is the fact that Lime Catering is owner-run, a move that is making it easy for customers to get a personalised service. The couple is in fact changing the narrative that family businesses, especially start-ups, must coil, stagnate and die within the first two years of operations. This story is one of hope, and the many family run businesses ought to borrow a leaf. 

“We are not a large company and we mainly depend on word of mouth and that gets us by for now. We work hard and we expect everyone to work just as hard. We all pull our weight and clients often remark on this … I hope that the scope for entrepreneurs in Kenya is nurtured rather than stifled which we have seen happen this past year especially,” says Lulu.   

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