Catering to the millennials

MILLENNIALS, also known as Generation Y, are considered to be the biggest workforce in many industries, particularly in food and beverage (F&B) industry. And it is this group that Orange Clove Catering, which counts amongst its corporate clients Google, Microsoft and Ernst & Young, aims to target.

Despite being a relatively young seven-year-old company, executive director Elvis Lee has managed to successfully advance Orange Clove into a corporate entity that has now expanded into the wedding and food truck industries. His mantra is to "differentiate, or die", which he explains hinges on people and innovation.

Customer focus is a core aspect of the company's vision, and as such, having a big millennial workforce within the company is important in targeting the younger generation.

In the firm's team of 165 people, 80 per cent are millennials, with the percentage increasing over the past three years. "Millennials have dynamism. They are enthusiastic, and are curious to find out why and how things cannot be done in other ways," says Mr Lee.

The company appeals to this generation by focusing on a culture of grooming and nurturing. Fresh graduates are given the platform to cultivate leadership skills, with the incentive of being promoted within two years. Mr Lee says: "They know the ladder is there, they choose how fast they want to climb."

Mr Lee also has three objectives - motivation, engagement and empowerment. For events such as the company's bi-annual corporate night, Mr Lee creates smaller task forces, which requires teamwork and commitment from employees. The leadership positions are open to all staff members - there is no requirement of being a manager in order to head certain projects.

He encourages millennials to seek greater exposure, volunteer for tasks, and show their capabilities to the management team. Mr Lee says: "If you cannot handle one scoop of ice cream, how can you expect two scoops of ice cream?"

With many landmark events handled by Orange Clove Catering, millennials get the exposure to celebrations like the South East Asia (SEA) Games celebratory dinner hosted by the President and Formula One events.

"They are coming to a place not for a job, but for a career where we are building people", Mr Lee adds.

Millennials are considered to be "digital natives", hence having them on board will be a huge advantage, in line with the company's goal to implement new, modern technology.

Mr Lee explains: "At Orange Clove Catering, we believe we have to be like Apple, to be innovative and challenge the status quo." They have certainly taken steps towards this, with the unveiling of their portable conveyer belt earlier this year. The concept was adopted and modified, to become an off premise server of canapes for instance.

The caterer has also moved 50 per cent of its advertising and promotional tools - usually done by printing brochures and displays on buffet lines - to digital platforms instead.

Noticing the shift in how consumers receive information, the firm has converted most of its promotions into video clips and posted on social media platforms such as Facebook.

Mr Lee emphasises: "Not only are we recruiting millennials, we are also targeting millennials." Additionally, the company is unveiling its new website next month, as well as a new app.

The strong influences of customer needs and innovative technology led to the creation of a one-stop Complete Events Solution programme.

Customers started requesting for Orange Clove to be in charge of absolute event management, and the firm decided to deliver. A team has been formed, and handles everything from venue management, lighting, sound systems, and anything else that may be required for a particular event.

Being the appointed caterer for approximately 80 per cent of the venues available for public bookings in Singapore has further helped the programme succeed. The caterer has done very well, winning the Promising Brands award at the Singapore Prestige Brand Award (SPBA) ceremony in 2014.

The staff turnover is remarkably low, with only 5 per cent of employees leaving last year, and the company has grown by 40-50 per cent annually in the past two years.

The company is always ready to adjust to market needs. This includes focusing on healthier menus with their food truck - Captain 500. The truck only dishes out food below 500 calories.

The caterer also aims to continue its high quality catering service, serving events from 10 to 10,000 people, and menu choices from S$15 to S$200.

Finally, Orange Clove maintains its vision to groom leaders.

Being a leader means to help others become leaders themselves, Mr Lee says: "I aspire to inspire before I retire."

This article was first published on August 25, 2015.
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