KEMBABAZI CATERING CENTRE: 40 years of dedicated customer Service & topping the gong

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OP-ED: When you talk about indigenous companies in the Catering and Hospitality space, the name Kembabazi Catering Centre  can not miss out on  that list in one way or the other.

This year, the brand will be celebrating four decades since it’s inception and Abraham MUTALYEBWA  had a one on one rendez-vous  with Ms. EMILY KWEZI and Mr. MOSES BYARUGABA, the directors of the  KEMBABAZI  who shared the business’s Journey and plans ahead of their  40th Anniversary .

1. You are celebrating 40 years of dedicated service in this business , congratulations upon this step! What has been that sparking factor?

We started in 1982,  and  this year is  when  we mark 40 years  but unfornatunately our mother, the founder the late Eleanor Kembabazi Byarugaba, is not here it  marks  four  year since she  passed on.

Remember, it started off from one single room in Wandegeya to what it is today though the journey has not been smooth but we have managed to navigate through the storm and this has been majorly  due to persistence, perseverance and being able to grow a loyal customer base whom we have been able to  connect with on several levels not just on the food but a personal  basis.

Initially the business was built around her  personality, character which later extended  into her cooking burgers, ” Kigere” or cow hooves , french fries among others.

Her personality was captivating but also the food. She was able to build the business around those factors and expand it  to a bigger dream that is beyond as you can see.

Some of the vegetables and  fruits at the farmers market.

We are also consistent and keep up with whatever we are doing and maintain for instance;  if you came here yesterday, we will  make sure you get the similar or better service in the next two years. We are also going with the trend and are always keeping relevant by listening to what the customers are saying, what they wish for,  make changes and adjust to their needs. For us,  It is  more of food on a plate but i is the  love and passion on the plate.

2. As a company, what achievements  are you really proud of for the last  four decades?

As a brand, we are  grateful and proud of a loyal customer base over the years. We have been able to maintain it  because of the consistency . Being able to provide  from farm to table especially  things like vegetables and fruits.

Built  relationships with several  partners, vendors, clients  as well as  celebrating  their life’s  journeys  of most families from  birthdays, baptisms, graduations , weddings anniversaries which is a whole generation that  speaks volumes.

Mrs. Eleanor Byarugaba in action while in the Kitchen 

Additionally, we have touched lives of many such as  campusers while we were still  at Wandegeya and others. 40 years in business is a long time and that  alone is a privilege.

Furthermore, the facility has become a landmark  for those coming around this side and that alone tells you that there is trust and consistency.

3.Making that stride as a solid business in the catering and hospitality  space is no mean feet. What message do you have for those looking out to join this line of venture?

Well, restaurant business is all about hospitality which entails customer service, quality and consistency. For instance,  if I come and eat  my ” Kigere ” when I come back next week I expect  it to taste the same or even better because of the new cooking trends.

Hosting the first guests in Naguru, today’s catering centre.

Ability to evolve with time since  seasons  change and one has to be agile because people’s tastes keep changing and the world keeps moving. There are local and international clients  and you must be able to work on them well. 

It will require a lot of patience because there will be  ups and downs and one should not quit quickly and jump to other ventures in a short time.They will lose track and the lessons they  could have learnt in previous engagements. 

Notably, one should follow market trends, listen to criticism  because not all of them are bad and some are to guide them on what the clients need or want.

4. One of the things we can not forget as a generation is  COVID- 19. What are those tenets you embraced due to the pandemic that have put  the business to the next level in one way or the other ?

The Late Mrs. Eleanor Kembabazi Byarugaba, the founder standing at the same place where Emily and Moses are Standing today.

With the pandemic which was a global phenomenon  came with  a lot of things. It forced companies like us to re- modify and one of the things was to build our online presence for our services and this was through making orders online,  adding more information on the website and improving our service delivery.

Currently our website is very comprehensive and talks about services we offer, history of the company, the menu among other things. We also had to do soul searching in regards to upping the game interms of hygiene, washing hands and following standard operating procedures became very paramount.  

We had to train our employees and had to walk the talk  by making sure they were vaccinated among other things. We also realised if a person came to the actual facility for a service, we made sure the food appears in the same way on their  dining table or any other place they were in.

The team  improved on the  packing, online systems,delivery channels and brought out the fact that change can happen any time and so fast since no one was ready for it but what mattered most was how we handled the situation that created  the difference.

5. How have you been able to keep up with the trends and keep in business at the same time?

Here is the thing, competition is healthy and allows you to see what other people are doing and it weeds out those who cannot sustain and it is natural.

The fact that we have been in business for 10, 20, 30, and 40 years. It means that competition comes and we are able to persevere. We are agile as I told you and  have been able to stay in business this long.

Fast foods pop up around and beyond, it does not  affect us because we have our loyal clients whose needs we have met and that is what we need. It does not matter because competition is as and we need it.

6. What are some of the activities you have Iined up as you celebrate  40 years of customer satisfaction and great service delivery?

Actually, we are now in the process and our target is October and November. As a build up, we are looking at doing monthly events like commemoration, celebration, cooking  events but it is something that is in development right now to the anniversary and even beyond.

There are no plans of closing shop after 40 years even when we  are  not here it has to continue. We are going to put the message out there to attract more customers and also inform the public since some are not aware about what is going on here though some have heard about Kembabazi but really don’t know what is going on here. They always pass around and  others say we didn’t know there was a saloon, spa, massage parlour, yoga, farm market and other things. We are going to keep enlightening  them  about this message and not stopping.

7.There are few indigenous companies that have celebrated these years of existence. I’m  aware it hasn’t been a walk in the park, how have you been able to navigate some of the uphill tasks?

This has not been a walk in the park for sure and there is no success without failure. You learn from mistakes that you went  through, you retool, make improvements and  finally succeed, so failure is part of success and these two go together.

We have been able to focus on what our clients want other than focusing on competition like the way most are doing and this has kept us in business since we are relevant and minding most on how to remain relevant to them which is complimented  by being  patient , consistency  among others things.

8. What are some of the ways you are looking at so  that we can come back here after the next 40 years or more?

The focus is on improving day by day and looking at infrastructure developments.

We are also preparing and positioning our place not only for this generation but also  for the next generation which doesn’t come easy because of  challenges but heading towards that direction.

Of late, times have also changed and people are becoming health conscious which plays in our delivery also focusing on farm to table concepts, ingredients and also creating dishes that match our customer needs like Salads, smoothies and many others. 

9.What other ventures are in place to compliment the the catering business since the hospitality space is broadening?

There are a lot of additional services such as; sauna, massage,  spa, children games and parties, work out area, yoga and looking at teaming up with various vendors like tour operators, institutions offering outside catering services.

We also have games for children and adults in that,  it is a wrap for everyone in the family and getting  into accommodation in the near future.

Kembabazi is known for our in-house  indigenous  and organic products and one  of them is our Bushera  made and packed here, we have chilli  that comes in various forms that include; powder,  paste and oil. We manufacture ghee or butter, eshaabwe, salad cream, honey which is unfiltered and unprocessed so it is  totally organic, spices and many other things and looking forward to getting the Uganda National Bureau of Standards Certification so that we can roll out on a big scale.

10. What are those new offers that are available as the brand celebrates it’s 40th anniversary that some of the customers should take advantage of?

We are going to put across a massive campaign on various media platforms for instance; social media, radio stations and TVS that our customers should be ready to check out since we want to thank them  but also  invite others.

11. Do you have any community engagements as part of CSR in regards to giving back to the areas around you?

We had a social economic impact where we give back to community  and provide meals to orphans, family assistance incase one of us gets a hardship in employment,  bereavement, mass meals to those in Naguru slums, tuition for those in position not  to pay, and also  some  of our customers send their domestic workers  for cooking lessons. 

12. What are your parting shots and message  that you want to share out there?

I don’t think that people have really appreciated what Kembabazi has to offer.  There is much more  available and this is only possible if they come and see for themselves since the company has grown, evolved and flourished even with our mum’s passing away. As the children  we  are taking it to the next level because she taught us very well.

Our potential is  so much and we need to attract the younger generation because there is still a mind set that when you say Kembabazi they relate it to mature ones which is not true and they should come and pertake of  it as well. 

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