Capitol Caterers, the brain child of Giles King, was founded in 1993 and is one of the country’s most prestigious catering companies. Headquartered in Pietermaritzburg, Capitol Caterers is entering its 26th year of service to the education, health, commercial and retirement sectors. Giles explained that in 1992 catering was a growth industry and he saw that there was potential. He added, “It is important for me to stress that we are not function caterers but that this type of catering is industrial and institutional catering.”
His initial contracts were for two hospitals in the Eastern Cape, then the Transkei. “We have now celebrated our 25th anniversary with our 100th contract. It has been a good growth and a good vision from Giles,” says Merrill King.
“Capitol Caterers has been a company that has been steadfast in the industry. To be part of a family, which is the business motto, keeps our staff happy and retains our clients,” says Ugashnie Moodley, operations manager.
Giles is the current chairman and although semi-retired still plays an active role in the business. While he considered the father figure of the business, a shift management occurred in 2018. Two managing directors were appointed, who each focus on the contracts suited to their individual level of expertise.
Russell Nzimande, who has been with Capitol Caterers since its inception, as an assistant catering manager, catering manager, area manager, operations and then a director, gaining strong experience in the management of tender based contracts, such as hospitals, is now managing director for Capitol Itakane. “The division that I run is mainly public sector business and based on tenders. I also need to make sure that locally based suppliers are being looked after which is key to our success,” says Russell. Merrill King is managing director for Capitol Select. Merrill has a strong propensity for the quality of food the plate, having been the group executive chef for past 10 years. She focuses on supporting clients staff in the education and retirement sectors.
“We favour a collaborative style of leadership and obtain input from all divisions when decisions are to be made,” explains Merrill. “Nothing lacks in either section of the business, and our staff are just amazing. We keep ourselves relevant,” says Ugashnie.
“The catering industry is a service industry, so its assets are its staff. We can only execute our mandates with many committed hands,” says Russell. “While wages may motivate some staff members, supporting our staff so that they are happy means that all our clients are happy too,” added Giles.
A Workers Trust was initiated in 2003 by Giles, an innovation that is part of the company’s ethos of empowerment. The company transferred 21% ownership of Capitol Caterers to all staff who had been with the company for five or more years. A total of 36 staff qualified to be the inaugural beneficiaries of the trust in 2003 and received a pro rata share of the R116 000.00 dividend p ay-out. I n j ust 1 5 y ears, t he b eneficiaries have grown to over 500 and now boast a 49% share in Capitol Caterers. Every year the beneficiaries of the trust get dividends from the trust based on their years of service and hierarchy in the business.
This methodology has really empowered Capitol Caterers staff and helped with the stability of the workforce because the employees feel that they have a sense of ownership of the business. Russell says, “This has been cherished as something very valuable and even copied by our competitors.”
In order to ensure that the staff are skilled, through another innovation, Capitol Caterers has registered Midlands Hospitality Academy (MHA), which is accredited by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) and CATHSSETA. Apart from upskilling their own staff on new trends, the academy runs learnerships for unemployed workers who may then be employed in the company.
Capitol Caterers is proud to be the preferred caterer to more than 100 clients in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Free State, Gauteng as well as in Swaziland. The client base varies from low cost budget meals to catering for exclusive board room type functions. However, the passion for quality, innovative, home cooked nutritious food is reflected in the many happy clients that Capitol Caterers can claim.
“Capital Caterers has established an identity in the catering sector as a family feel type business. Every client is personalised, and every client is taken care of in the way they want to be taken care of. And this is where we pay attention to detail, we have passionate people creating passionate food,” says Ugashnie.
“It is great to say we have new contracts, but it is just as important to say that we have retained our contracts. Many of our clients are tender business and at the end of each contract you are put back to the test again. That is one of our major areas of success,” says Merrill. “We pride ourselves in continually striving for excellence and in ensuring that our food is interesting, local and relevant, but most importantly, being steadfastly mindful of our footprint on the environment by adhering to strict QMS and ISO practices.”
Capitol Caterers can also proudly claim their level 1 BBBEE status. Amongst other initiatives obtaining and retaining this level 1 BBBEE status has meant ensuring a strong focus on employment equity, training, empowerment and procurement initiatives across the business.
Capitol Caterers is an important player in the KwaZulu-Natal economy and is proud to have its head office Pietermaritzburg. While the company is one of the five catering companies in South Africa, it would like get its name out there more in the future by focusing on marketing.
In addition, “We want to strive for excellence in every facet of the business. At the end of the day the food on the plate must be excellent,” concluded Merrill.