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Buy Social: Catering to the big end of town

November 10, 2015

In a big events city like Melbourne, competition between catering firms is fierce. When The Mission Caters started tendering to local government, they discovered they could compete in the established and passionately foodie scene, and still help disadvantaged people live full and meaningful lives.

Run as the commercial catering arm of the Prahran Mission, The Mission Caters provides hospitality training and support for marginalised people looking to get into the workforce.

Across a diverse range of local venues – including the gorgeous St Kilda, Richmond, and Collingwood and now Camberwell town halls, as well as their own rooftop space and lunch venue Hartley’s Restaurant – TMC hospitality trainees can receive broad experience in a highly supported environment.

Getting bigger – and busier

TMC has long received excellent word-of-mouth in Melbourne’s inner city. Hospitality Operations Manager Christopher Levy has observed how once they started tendering for substantial work that their business really shifted into a higher gear.

“Our local government clients, including City of Port Phillip, City of Yarra and City of Boroondara came about through public tender,” he says. “So we compete commercially all the time alongside major caterers. The food is great at every caterer, however our difference is that we help people in our process. Most people respond positively to that.”

The City of Port Phillip recently extended TMC’s contract for office catering, a role that regularly involves catering for up to 290 people. TMC also caters for Christmas parties of over 400. In September Victorian Department of Education engaged TMC for an awards dinner of 300.

When growth opens doors

The Prahran Mission’s long-term vision is to support people so that ‘every person has the right to a decent life’. It is with this support and shared vision that TMC has been able to flourish.

With their larger procurement contracts, TMC is able to move within a much larger and more competitive field, as well as far more scope to train and employ more staff.

“When we are engaged to cater for large events we can actually start improving people’s lives. We are working towards attracting exclusive catering contracts then we can afford to put more people in training.”

As the commercial arm of such a well-known charity, it’s tempting to put TMC’s success down to recognition of a ‘good cause’. “Sure that’s important!” says Christopher. “But it doesn’t bring us our next client. It’s our quality standards and reputation that does it.”

TMC has also built a solid reputation through adopting a more business-like stance on attracting and engaging new clients. During a recent engagement, a client approached TMC with their old rates. When reminded of their current (commercial) rates, the client was still delighted to accept.

Christopher is proud of how in the hardworking team of 20 trainees, at least 4 have moved on to bigger and more challenging roles in other hospitality venues. “They probably would not have done that had they not worked with us. Although we welcome our trainees to stay, because as they become more competent the business enjoys the rewards too!

The Mission Caters website has an overview of their long-term mission, delectable food and beverage services, and beautiful local venues.

The Mission Caters is a ST Connect certified social enterprise – find out more about ST Connect certificiation.


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