Catering Scotland

Entiér: Putting The Future First

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Entiér: Putting The Future First

October 21
20:07 2013
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When Peter Bruce met his old friend Mike Reilly by chance at Aberdeen’s Olive Tree Restaurant a few years ago, they sat down for a chat whilst Peter waited for his former boss to arrive off his flight. A single, sociable glass of wine later and they began forming an idea that would eventually change their lives – and those of 400 staff and thousands of customers – forever. Fast forward a few months (and the rest of the bottle of Merlot) and a dynamic, independent and financially autonomous operator in the form of Entiér was born.

A joint venture between Bruce – along with two ex-Compass colleagues and Reilly’s Olive Garden Catering Company, Entiér is currently defying the odds in the midst of a turbulent economy and fierce competition to become a serious force in both the offshore and onshore catering and facilities management markets. 

‘Looking after the culinary needs of 800 workers while commanding a team of 44 – that focuses the mind,’ says Peter, looking back 25 years to his inaugural posting offshore.

As the youngest catering manager in the North Sea at the age of just 21, his first job had been as a chef-manager, catering for the needs of the 800+ workers aboard Brae Bravo platform. ‘I’d completed my training by then and I was a fully qualified chef but it was the first time I’d had so many people depending on me. It was a real eye-opener for me; I saw a standard that I could improve upon and I knew I wanted to continue on that path in my future career.’

Nowadays, the Entiér MD oversees 10 times as many staff in over 30 contracts both on and offshore. With a stable of prestigious clients including Apache North Sea and Awilco Drilling, the company has grown and diversified into several other key areas, including the maintenance of domestic equipment, heli-admin and logistics services, the management of lifeboats and, in an offshore first, even launching Starbucks onto five floating rigs

However, it’s the catering operation which truly sets Entiér apart from its competitors: ‘Feeding people on an offshore unit is a vital component of our service, in part because good food maintains the morale of the workforce, which in turn improves safety, wellbeing and performance onboard the units,’ he says. ‘Thankfully, the food offering on rigs has changed significantly over the years:

‘When I started it was very different but in the intervening years the quality has improved immeasurably.’ Indeed, since launching in 2008, Entiér has been busy building up a solid reputation, not least by innovating its food concepts. With all of its UK offshore units receiving fresh produce – including locally sourced Scotch Beef on a twice weekly basis – their commitment to sourcing the highest quality ingredients has led to some commentators labelling them the Marks and Spencers of the North Sea.

As a time-served, hotel-trained chef who started his career in the kitchens of the Tufted Duck Hotel near Fraserburgh, Peter understands what it means to prioritise the food offering by investing in the core product:‘It makes a significant difference to everyone on board a rig if they’re given a decent product; things like fresh beef from the local butcher, and high quality sausages – if the workers are presented with good food and the chefs get to use a better product, everyone’s happier as a result.

‘The workers rely on being served good food and our teams have to have the right tools and ingredients to do the job of preparing it.’ Perhaps that’s why branded products feature strongly on the chefs’ menus within all of Entiér’s sites: ‘We find that well-known brands reinforce the overall quality of our offering, so we tend to go with recognised names such as Hellman’s and Mackies whenever possible,’ he adds. ‘Cost is, of course, important in a business such as ours, but value for money is considerably more so. If we can demonstrate that we can deliver higher quality for a similar price, then everybody wins.’ That philosophy neatly underpins one of Entiér’s founding principles: a commitment to refrain from profiting on the food they buy in. ‘Any discounts we may receive from our suppliers we immediately put back onto the plate,’ he explains.

‘We work to net and we reinvest everything from the food back into the end product. We are a profitable company but we do not derive any of it from the base ingredients. I think that is a major factor that sets us apart from our competitors.’ And as a modus operandi, it seems to be working; few others in the competitive arena of offshore catering have expanded as quickly, or as consistently, as Entiér. Now operating 15 onshore and 17 offshore sites, the company is regularly winning contracts from the competition and is well on its way to achieving its target of £50m annual turnover.

‘We’re focused on a steady, upward trajectory that meets our growth expectations while reassuring our clients that we have the capability to operate their contracts as they would expect,’ adds Peter.

‘Much of the reason they trust us is down to our honesty, integrity and the combined experience of our board of directors.’ And with good reason; between them, Entiér’s management team has over 100 years’ experience in the offshore catering industry, and their number one priority is to deliver on their promises. However, unlike some operators, the company’s philosophy isn’t merely shaped by the relentless pursuit of turnover and profit.

Indeed, it’s arguably as much about education and career progression as it is about developing a growing business. Having recently created 100 jobs in five new units, the firm now has more than 400 staff – from chefs and chef-managers to bakers, stewards, housekeepers and logistics personnel – and is as focused on offering rewarding careers as it is on supporting its staff who have already embarked upon them.

Fresh Olives is a case in point. Launched in 2010, Entiér’s pioneering, award-winning apprenticeship competition – where 70 pupils aged between 15 and 16 undertake a series of practical cooking assessments and demonstrations over the course of six months – is already making waves. ‘The training and education of untapped talent has become a major focal point for us, and Fresh Olives seeks to identify and recruit the offshore stars of the future,’ explains Peter. The competition – believed to be the first of its kind in Scotland – is backed by the Scottish Government’s Business to Education programme, and offers two winners a three-year paid apprenticeship, followed by a full-time job. With assignments developed by executive chef, Mark Donovan, the fourth year secondary school pupils participate in a series of set tasks and practical assignments – aligned with the national school syllabus – and judged by Peter and independent development chef, George McIvor.

‘We felt from the outset that viable work opportunities for our region’s school leavers are incredibly important, and that this was something we needed to do to secure future talent in the sector,’ admits Peter.

‘I personally wanted to put something back into the industry that has served me and so many others, and with a serious dearth of quality apprenticeships throughout the UK, this is a golden opportunity for keen, enthusiastic young people. It is our firm belief that Fresh Olives marks the start of the first rung on a very credible career path.’ Dyce Academy pupils Rebekka Cormack and Danielle Ritchie took first prize in 2010, and according to Peter they have since blossomed into star performers within the Entiér team:‘The girls have taken to the challenge better than anyone could have expected; from the outset their attitude and behaviour were exactly what we were looking for, and they have settled exceptionally well into their roles.

It’s an encouraging start to what we hope will be a long-term programme that continues well into the future.’ And with a Northern Star Award to their name already, the initiative seems to be going very much according to plan. Indeed, the next class of Fresh Olives is already being appraised, and 120 hopefuls from six Aberdeenshire schools are currently taking part with the ultimate goal of being selected to train and work for Peter, Mark and the rest of the team: ‘The calibre is very high again this year and if at the end it produces five or six excellent candidates, we would take them all on,’ he concludes. ‘Judgment day is set for 19th April, and the lucky few will find out then who’ll be joining the next generation of chefs and chef-managers here in Aberdeen.’

So that, it seems, is what sets Entiér apart from its competitors; a willingness to put food, training, growth and staff development up there as the team’s joint number one priorities. As Peter said when we spoke: ‘We believe there is a place in the market for a local company that is committed to delivering a quality service and to genuinely putting something back into the community.’ One thing’s for sure; if more operators took a similar approach instead of being preoccupied with turnover, profit, costs and – increasingly – debt, perhaps we’d hear about more 21-year-old chef-managers on rigs with 800+ people on board.

Maybe one day…

www.entier-services.com 

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CateringScotland.com meets Peter Bruce (inset), the man at the helm of one of Scotland’s most dynamic and innovative offshore caterers…

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