Good catering can turn a good event into a very good one, but that requires flair, knowledge of human nature, craftsmanship and passion. For Dennis Latz, Managing Director, Käfer Service and his team, successful catering is their day-to-say business. In this interview, he explains what shouldn’t be overlooked in catering planning and which of his customers' comments he likes to reply to with a counterproposal.
What distinguishes a good caterer?
Post-covid, we’re in a completely different era. Before the pandemic, we were always bigger and better and went further as a catering and gastronomy company. Then came the emergency stop and a price explosion for all suppliers and trades, which our customers are also feeling. Nowadays, I think a good caterer is someone who responds decidedly to a customer’s needs. Empathy and expertise are important. Right from the beginning, you have to create an atmosphere where we can ask questions and the customers can express their needs. Once we find a good basis, we can provide very targeted advice and also provide some surprising offerings.
What do you need to know – apart from the size of the event?
The demographics of the event participants are important, the occasion of the event, and how international it is. The budget is important, too. As a company, we define ourselves by quality, but quality doesn't just mean beef tenderloin; it can also mean making something out of the perfect potatoes from our region. When we hear "We've always done it that way", we often reply with "May we make a suggestion?"
And what would that be?
Something individual. Maybe the solution is a great vegetarian dish that requires little kitchen equipment, little space on the buffet and that doesn't overwhelm a large event, i.e. doesn't lead to queues of guests all trying to decide whether to have fish or meat. And then the customer says: “I wouldn't have thought of that. It's just as good!”
What principles do you adhere to? What are your do’s and don'ts?
For me, a don't is building castles in the air. Advising the customer incorrectly. A simple example is that if a sandwich needs eight preparatory steps, it’s more expensive than one with only four. And perhaps things can be done easier without making any quality concessions. You always have to bring in the sustainability option right from the start, because every major customer has that on the agenda these days. There are certain products that don't fit in storytelling terms. Regionality always has to be a priority, I think. There are customers who can afford the best ocean fish, but we can at least offer alternatives that are a better fit in 2023. Of course, we can offer culinary treats, but sometimes they just come from close to home.
To be specific, what is not “2023”?
Working too much with products that are not in season, or have to be flown in. For sure, avocado is an ingredient in many Asian dishes, but I find it more exciting to achieve the same effect with local products. There's quinoa that comes from Munich; there are excellent potatoes here; there are great vegetables and great meats. It often makes sense to make processes a little simpler and to put the available budget into good, regional products. That can also be a piece of Bavarian beef.
Is the avocado really that bad, or is it just the most obvious example?
(laughs) Avocados are delicious, and I think the supply chain has been optimized to get them to us in the most efficient way. But like strawberries in winter, an avocado immediately sets off some alarm bells. And why do I have to offer it at all in winter when I can pickle a local kohlrabi that tastes just as good in the bowl as an avocado does? That's where we like to advise customers.
How individual are the needs at an event? Do you have to take into account as many special requests as, say, at private events?
Well, you might plan a wedding once or twice in a lifetime (laughs) but trade fairs or congresses are something different – bigger and somewhat less individualized. To deliver hundreds of thousands of products in a short time, you have to standardize. But at the highest possible level.
How do you decide which products to include in your delivery service?
We have a quality group in which our kitchen and sales teams sample products together. Our assortment changes over time. For many years, canapés were a standard product in delivery services, for example. At some point, we said we wanted something healthier and so we made a "superfood roll”, which is now a perennial favorite. It’s a crispy roll that always has some superfood in it – whether it’s goji berries or seeds. From time to time, we simply take some products out of our assortment.
Because they are no longer up to date.
Yes, and we now focus to 50 percent on vegetarian products, and to a smaller extent on vegan. If a customer is planning a large event, we know from experience that we can offer something vegetarian that 99 percent of the guests will like.
And there are no complaints?
None we’ve experienced. At the G-7 Summit in Garmisch, we did the catering for 2,000 journalists every day – and it was almost completely vegetarian. Meat was a very small side dish. It went really well. We had top-class media guests, and no one complained. Not even those who were used to having roast pork or a kettle of white sausages.
Where do you reach your limits?
At Käfer it's in our DNA to first try to fulfil the customer’s every wish. But nowadays, personnel is always a critical factor. We stick to our core team, but if the manpower requirements are immense – without any added value for the customer – we suggest alternatives. And customers are happy to be advised. To that end, we always keep teams and chefs on hand who can specifically cater to high-end requests. At München Exhibition Center, for example, there is the protocol department that always has very high-profile guests. When the German Chancellor comes, you just have to be ready.
What would non-Munich residents not expect here?
Pragmatism and Bavarian cordiality – even in a big city.
The best place for a sundowner?
The BMW Welt terraces.
The most beautiful walk?
Along the River Isar – upstream and downstream from the Emmeramsmühle.
What does Munich taste like?
Lye pretzels, white sausages, Helles beer and Lugana.
Everybody should know this Munich landmark?
The Bavaria, of course.
Favorite Bavarian word?
Beer garden or bar?
Definitely the beer garden – simply the most beautiful place in the rare free moments with my family.