Chef Middle East, a prominent foodservice distributor in the region, operates with core values, values which supports the company’s vision and mission – values like “Passionate” “Innovative” “Progressive” “Collaborative” that participate in inspiring culinary craftsmanship among our customers.
The company values, as well as the deeply rooted sense of teamwork inside the teams, are supported by the systems, processes, infrastructure, and service offering being operated by those very same people.
Maher Bouramia, Hotels Channel Manager & Assaad Al Akoury, Operations, Warehouse & Logistics Manager at Chef Middle East tell us more about the company, their roles and share insights about the foodservice industry through their own lenses.
Maher Bouramia, Hotels Channel Manager at Chef Middle East
What does success look like and how do you measure it?
In my opinion, the company’s reputation and market referrals are the ultimate measures of success. This can be translated through customer satisfaction, which requires a proper supply chain planning, a high level of logistics services, a one stop-shop solution of quality products and an exceptional customer service. All these elements combined will lead to year-over-year growth with stronger operational efficiency and continuous new product development to provide and satisfy the market.
Which food trends are impacting your business and what new initiatives has your company introduced this year in order to remain competitive?
Healthy and plant-based eating trends are on the rise, and convenience and time-efficiency is another important requirement. At Chef Middle East, we ensure to be on top of any new trend, sourcing the right ingredients and answering the demand of our customers with new niche, innovative products that surely add value to a chefs’ kitchen and menu development plans. In terms of new brands and products we introduced this year, the main highlights are around brands such as BYou Acai, a range of this trendy superfruit directly sourced from Brazil, Belberry range of gourmet and innovative products imported from Belgium and ready to serve Guacamole and Hummus range for the best convenience.
On another note, with the fast-approaching FIFA 2022 World Cup, our company has invested in increasing its logistics and warehouse capacity to ensure the storage and availability of products during this mega event.
Why should a hotel or restaurant pick you as their supplier?
The strategic and extensive investment in the right people, both in terms of skills and numbers, coupled with the critical system and infrastructure investment required to meet the service expectations from our industry – foodservice is a highly specialized business segment where readiness to serve with speed, product application knowledge and accuracy is crucial – and Chef Middle East places all these elements at the core of its strategic business development.
From our purpose-equipped warehouse, holding more than 1,400 SKUs relevant to our diverse clients’ requirements, we deliver 6 days a week all year-round and operate with our own fleet and our own staff, ensuring the highest levels of service and efficiency.
Outside of the defined inventory range of products, we have access to thousands of ingredients from most regions of the world through our extensive supply partner network- supply relations that, in some cases, has formed part of our service offering for over 25 years regionally and 17 years locally.
How important is the cross-departmental collaboration between the Sales & Operations functions? How do you describe the process in place at Chef Middle East and how does this reflect on the customer experience?
Efficient cross-departmental collaboration between Sales and Operations function is a reflection of a healthy internal culture. When employees feel comfortable working together, they communicate effectively and understand each other’s roles and functions within the system and this leads to customers really feeling the difference.
Our company proves its worth in the cross-section between its different departments, this is all bound by a free communication culture, with a high degree of transparency and an open-door-policy, making everyone available to everyone for a swift moving, agile and fluent business adaptation to any situation that might come in front of the foodservice industry.
Assaad AL Akoury, Operations, Warehouse & Logistics Manager at Chef Middle East
What are Chef Middle East standard operating procedures and how does team training help?
Our company is a progressive business that is supported by a group of qualified personnel and management graduates with rich experience of combined decades in the foodservice sector in the region and abroad.
Our main operating procedure is to serve our customers through on-site and off-site modes of service delivery systems. We offer a wide range of food and beverage products geared towards helping all types of hotels, restaurants and food production facilities to achieve greatness and competitiveness.
Certifications and compliance to international food safety and hygiene standards and regulations are always well maintained.
Training and development are surely a great tool to educate the team about new skills, enhancing productivity, becoming more aware of the safety practices in place and the proper procedures to follow. Providing a better understanding of the industry and have clear responsibilities on the job is equally important. At Chef Middle East, we ensure continuous training covering the cutting edge of industry developments and changing standards, to always aim at elevating our customers’ experience.
What are the main challenges facing the foodservice industry operations field today?
The global logistics and availability disruption after-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic is a clear and present challenge, one which we unfortunately still do not have a clear view of. As a business, we are mitigating the impact of this challenge through working with longer term planning of inventory, which represents a significant investment in inventory, warehouse space and resources. Although this imposes a financial risk on the business, we consider this leading to opportunities in the market space as well as providing small efficiencies in logistics.
What are the best practices that lead to service excellence that you can share with us?
Communication is key and listening to your customers’ requirements and understanding the market’s demands promote a a true customer-centric approach that can only enhance the level of customer service we provide. Defining clear service level agreements with customers through specific, concise and measurable steps is another tool to ensure excellence.
Lastly, happy employees usually lead to happy customers. The attitude and behaviours of employees clearly determine and impact the levels of our customer service and satisfaction.
How important is the cross-departmental collaboration between the Sales & Operations functions?
Strong, healthy and prosperous organizations are often the ones where everyone work together as a team, towards common goals and outcomes, and understanding the significance of their own contribution in achieving these results.
The people inside our business follow their natural sense of teamwork towards servicing our customers to the best of each individual’s capacity, and that is how our team represent the values of our business.
Chef Middle East, looking to the future – opportunities and challenges
A challenge impacting the market from 2021 and beyond is the global inflation, mainly impacting the commodity markets and logistics costs – it is inevitable that this will have an impact on partners and the end-consumers in our market, even beyond 2022. The inflation development is also impacted by a shift in local consumer patterns on multiple ingredients in the countries where Chef Middle East is importing from, and it will take some time before production levels paired with a shift back to previous consumer patterns will impact this positively.
In our market, we cannot talk about opportunities without mentioning the FIFA 2022 World Cup – without a doubt a huge opportunity for the hospitality and overall foodservice sector, with the expected inflow of fans, as well as support staff up to and during the actual event; and possibly even a short time after. Clarity on our customers product requirements will be crucial for our joint food community to get the maximum out of this opportunity.
In the lead-up to the event, the hospitality sector will also see many new hotel openings, making sure the country can accommodate both staff and visitors for the FIFA 2022 World Cup. We started planning and investing to be ready to service these new locations and we all feel very excited to be a part of each new hotels and restaurants coming success.
The above challenges with availability, logistics and inflation, paired with the largest event the country have seen coming up, mean that getting clarity on clients ingredient requirements in time for product to actually reach the country, will be of the utmost importance.
Beyond 2022, the foodservice sector in Qatar will be positively impacted by the strategic development plans driven by the government – the current strive towards a higher degree of self-sufficiency will see an increase in local production companies in several verticals, service companies and both technical oriented as well as financial oriented companies inside the country.
A slight shift in demographics and an increase in the total population will secure possibilities for growth even beyond 2022 – and hopefully also a continued development of the culinary scene, offering new and exciting experiences to this new and larger end-consumer group.