A quality offering
Remaining committed to its values of quality and collaboration has proven to be successful for London based caterer Just Hospitality and a careful approach to growth is set to secure more of the same in the future
Just Hospitality has been operating within London now for ten years and, despite being hit hard by the economic crash in 2008, the company has grown steadily and committedly to become a unique player in the contract catering market, with some major global names in its client list. “Before 2008 a lot of our clients were Icelandic so when the Icelandic economy collapsed alongside the global financial crisis, we lost 90 per cent of our business over night,” outlines MD, Dean Kennett. “However, instead of moving on, we hung on with three staff and over the following years continued working according to our values, which are not cutting corners and serving fresh, quality food. We stuck to our principles and this has kept us in the game.”
Bringing on new clients in the legal and finance industries, and later tech media firms, the business began to gather pace and Just Hospitality moved to a new premises with a 3000 square foot production kitchen and office space and now turns out 800 to 1200 meals a day courtesy of 50 staff. Generating £4 million in turnover a year, the company’s core business is in contract catering, but supports this through events catering and commercial outlets such as cafes, tearooms and the William Morris Gallery.
“We’re good listeners,” highlights Dean. “Like any business you have to be able to deliver on what the client is asking and this has been central to our business from the start. We don’t have any red tape with a flat management structure, so teams are free to make decisions on the ground, according to our guidance, when servicing the clients. This can take time in larger organisations and opportunities can be missed so this gives us a competitive edge in a fiercely competitive market.”
Working within labour-competitive markets such as tech media, companies are pulling out all the stops to retain talent, and part of this strategy is to run free food programmes. A particular example of Just Hospitality’s ability to listen closely to its customers and offer a quality service is its relationship with social media giant Twitter. “Their brief didn’t match up exactly to what we were offering at the time,” says Dean. “However, we saw beyond that and gave them a plan of how we would build a food programme for them. This has since been rolled out and delivered under budget and their management are happy to entrust in us that responsibility, which is a very important perk for their employees. This has lead to further growth and referrals to other clients.”
With regards to the company’s food offering, Dean sums it up as simply “healthy, stay-awake food,” and Just Hospitality delivers this with fresh, well-sourced, seasonal ingredients and menus. “Again we have to listen to our clients’ needs and deliver healthy, well balanced and varied menus with some treats throughout the week,” he continues. “We also hold the ‘field-to-fork’ value as core in our business and so we do a lot in terms of the provenance of food. In short, we work with farm assured suppliers, and look to them as friends rather than merely suppliers. Therefore, we embark on a journey that we both agree to work together on developing and improving as the years go by, so that when we do well, so do they. We also gain a lot of education from opening up these discussions, and I’ve taken clients to the farms so that they can see that we know where we get our produce from, that we know the people, and that we understand their challenges as well. It’s a really wellregarded collaboration, which the clients like and everyone benefits from.”
This collaboration continues beyond supplier relationships into offering a diverse and technically unlimited food range. Born partly out of a need to stay ahead of fast moving high street trends and to take a different angle from its competitors, Just Hospitality actively seeks support from specialists within the catering industry. “A lot of big players will take on 100 per cent of the work in a contract, but we will happily give some of that away to specialists, which allows us to vary the offer to the client and keeps it fresh and different,” points out Dean. “Again, our clients like to see this collaboration with smaller suppliers and companies and it gives us a leading position.”
Aside from offering sustainable and quality food, both collaboration and the ability to listen are core pillars to the company’s outward integrity and inward strength. “People are our greatest asset,” says Dean, “and we are soon to hold our third AGM to sit down with everyone and talk together about our goals for next year and how we are going to move forward.” This exemplary attitude to collective thinking is enhanced by a smart and principled strategy to growth.
“By taking on contracts that we can see will give us a good return has armoured us over the last couple of years and this will be a feature of our next steps,” concludes Dean. “We work in a competitive market so we have to grow in a steady and controlled manner. Therefore, we are looking at consolidating our existing markets as well as exploring potential in Ireland as current clients are talking to us about other offices. Ultimately, we will be taking safe and sustainable steps to become a caterer of choice up there with some of the big players.”