CEO Ontray Catering (Lahore)
Q. When did you decide to get into catering?
I come from a family of Restaurateurs. Growing up, I was fond of experiencing different cuisines, and that desire often led me to the kitchen where I have been experimenting for some time now. My father had ventured out, as a youngster to become a leading restaurateur in Karachi before moving into the corporate sector. My father’s elder brother runs two leading chains of his own. And lo and behold, I even got married to a restaurateur! After completing my Masters in Management Sciences, I immediately thought of expanding my husband’s business and started my own company as an Event Manager by the name of Ontray Catering. This was backed by the experience and reputation of our own Copper Kettle restaurants.
Q. What are the most challenging aspects of the catering business?
Life is dull without challenges! Thank God catering has its share of challenges, and the challenges have done a lot of good to the industry. Just imagine what catering used to be twenty five years ago. Multi-colored circular and triangular motifs on tents and plastic chairs. Pedestal fans. And a vast expanse of red, unending carpets. Food often started with biryani, palak gosht and muragh korma and ended with firni in small clay plates. Custard and jelly was the ultimate innovation. Now it’s another story altogether, with an ever growing desire from insatiable to want something new. The biggest challenges are in introducing new themes each year, trying to bring a number of different vendors together for the event, trying to manage it all on time and most importantly pleasing the client.
Q. How do you maintain the quality of your food?
With so much of competition one has to be on the toes all the time. We make great efforts in maintaining the quality and taste of our food. We make sure of getting the finest ingredients and are lucky to have some of Pakistan’s best chefs on our team, for over 20 years now. However, we don’t take any chances when innovating. We thoroughly taste and iterate before anything goes out to a customer. We also constantly strive to innovate new and better food choices.
Q. The wedding season in Lahore must be the busiest. Tell us about the kind of work you need to put in during the season?
The wedding season is usually extremely chaotic, spent in meeting potential clients, planning and trying to get different vendors together in time to create a memorable event. Sometimes we have to spend all nighters getting events together and then repeat the same thing the very next day but it’s all worth it when everything gels and you get appreciation from your customer.
Q. What is your target market?
We target all sorts of events from weddings to dinners to corporate events. We have done events for 20 guests and 2000 guests. We also cater for birthday parties where our wide variety of customized themes and live cooking stations are quite popular. We like working with customers who are conscious in maintaining their rich eastern culture and at the same time its fusion with new western flavors.