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August 2018, Issue"Good Catering Stands on Four Pillars - Food, Service, Presentation & Hygiene"

Nikhil TipnisPartner Nikhil Caterers

Nikhil Caterers has more than four decades of experience in catering and decorating for weddings and special events. During this period they have had the opportunity and honour of undertaking wedding arrangements for many leading and famous families of Mumbai, Pune & other parts of Maharashtra as well as special events from many corporate bodies like Mastek, Tech Mahindra, Syntel, ICICI Prudential, Tata Consulting Engineers, Datamatics Technologies and Indian Pharmaceutical Association. Their motto is to take away clients' all worries and leave them to enjoy the most important occasions of their life by expertise, personalized and efficient services. Sunil & Sushma Tipnis has started this business named after their loving son, Nikhil, a management graduate and LLB. Nikhil brings his professional management skills to the team but never fails to recognize the importance of goodwill generated from excellent service over decades. In an exclusive interview with Better Kitchen Nikhil Tipnis elaborated the plans and challenges in their kitchen. Excerpts.

Brief us about your company.
Nikhil Caterers is 46 Year old Company founded by my parents who are pioneers in the Outdoor Catering industry since 1971. We specialize in large scale events such as wedding celebrations and corporate conferences. Because of our expertise and efficient services, we have earned ourselves a valuable good will and confidence amongst our clients.

What about your teams?
Our team comprises my father, mother and myself. Father looks after the finances while mother, who is the heart of the business, is the source of all the new innovations in cuisines. I look after the overall execution and management of business. We have different departments which are supported by our able and qualified managers. Our Senior Manager Sanjay Kadam looks after the operations. We associate with a wide range of chefs who help us create a special gastronomical experience for every one of our clients.

What is your USP?
Times have changed and all high end weddings demand Pan Indian & International Cuisines. Hence, we have to keep updating our range of cuisines. Good catering stands strong on four pillars i.e. food, service, presentation & hygiene. To achieve success, we have to make sure all four pillars are taken care of. In Food, we serve international varieties amongst which our Burmese Khaw Suey and Thin Crust Pizzas are very popular. At the same time, there are people who want to experience traditional Indian cuisine. So we try to offer a Puranpoli meets Pasta experience through our Catering.

Do you have a base kitchen or you do everything at the venue?
For large scale weddings we prefer to set up our kitchen at the venue. For smaller parties we prepare the food in our kitchen. In addition to that, we have warehouses where we keep all equipments, utensils etc. required in the Kitchen.

How do you manage the kitchen when you are given an empty space?
It requires a couple of hours for us to set up the kitchen. All we need is electricity and water. Everything else is managed by us. That's the skill set come up with.

Which are the equipments, appliances and utensils you need at the venue? If something is not available how do you manage?
We don't generally need anything at the venue except electricity and water. If the venue provides utensils and equipments we make sure they are up to our standards. However, we prefer carrying our own equipments so as to not compromise on the hygiene.

How do you manage hygiene at the venue?
Our boys wash the kitchen before starting the work. The utensils and equipments are washed at the venue before usage. All our staff is well trained, groomed and provided with clean uniforms. We take extra precautions to maintain strict hygiene standards.

What are the safety measures you take at your venue kitchen?
We carry fire extinguishers and first aid kits along with us. Since the food that we prepare is fresh and not stored, there is no fear of contamination.

How big are catering you have managed till date and where? What were the challenges you had faced to succeed?
We have managed events for a crowd as big as a 10,000 plus. To manage such a big crowd we had to arrange a team of 700. The challenge was to manage such a huge team as once they are managed the crowd manages itself. Another challenge is the space. We needed a huge space to make arrangements as it's mostly a two hour show. For large crowds we have to set up multiple food counters. If the space is small there are chances of it getting chaotic, but we try to maintain decorum no matter what the space is.

Do you do catering in other cities as well?
Yes, In Pune, Nasik, Kolhapur, Sangali etc. In fact, we can cater anywhere our client takes us. We are in the process of starting a branch in Pune.

How do you manage logistics and manpower?
We prefer to buy all groceries and vegetables from our regular vendors and transporting it to the venue. Few items which are perishable, are bought from local vendors near the venues. We prefer taking our usual staff.

Is it feasible to buy things locally?
As mentioned we don't depend on local vendors, as we share a better understanding with our regular vendors.

On what basis is your costing done? In this versatile market the cost of ingredients is very flexible?
Honestly, no caterer in India can get his costing right. It's always estimation. There are times during the wedding season when the labor demands more remuneration. Sometimes, the fluctuations in the prices of ingredients in turn change our rate. But there are times where the rates have been fixed with the customers months in advance. However, we try to cover all parameters before finalizing any deal.

What challenges are you facing for theme catering?
The challenge lies in the selection of menu. In any event you can't push anything down people's throats just because a theme has been set to the event. The menu has to be planned well according to the theme. It has to appeal to all generations. We prefer fusion based themes than going with any one particular theme, unless it is a Regional Indian Cuisine.

What you do with the leftover food?
We generally ask the host to take it or distribute it amongst the labor. We don't trust NGOs as they don't have good refrigeration systems to store the leftovers and hence it is better to throw it than feed stale food. I understand that it is unfortunate, but we as an industry haven't been able to do enough to manage this particular issue.

Do you have a kitchen on wheels?

What messages do you give to our readers?
Keep reading Better Kitchen to understand what goes on behind the scenes of your favourite kitchen!