Caspian Energy (CE): Mr. Hasanov, important measures, aimed at simplifying business dealing, are currently carried out under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev. Tax holidays are introduced. The number of spheres, requiring licensing, has been reconsidered and reduced. To what extent have these reforms affected the catering sector?
Namiq Hasanov, Director of Seaport Catering LLC: Reforms, introduced under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev, including reduction of spheres requiring licensing, stoppage of tax inspections and other measures have considerably simplified conducting of business and given an additional incentive to entrepreneurs. The reality is that devaluation has affected all business areas including a catering sector and our customers. However, concern and support, provided by the government of the country at such important period, promotes revitalization of our business.
We already witness serious changes in our area of activity. Apart from this, nowadays purchase of food products is carried out in accordance with the official documentation, and it is a very positive aspect for the development of our business.
In general, I do believe that these reforms will play a very important role in our future activity.
CE: What prerogatives should be offered for the development of the catering sector?
Namiq Hasanov: We are dealing mainly with corporate clients. The concept of catering is perceived as corporate catering in Azerbaijan but in reality it bears a much broader meaning. Catering implies not only corporate foodservice but also buffet reception and banquets.
Companies often address food issues on their own. Very often they have no slightest idea what catering is.
We want businessmen to consider catering companies more seriously.
Apart from this, we really would like to see a more broad-scale introduction of catering services in our country. It is noteworthy that both a company and workers benefit from catering as it lets them spend less time on food supply and focus more on the labor process.
As far as price parameters are concerned, it costs a company 10-15% cheaper to apply our service than arranging food supply for its workers on its own. In other words, we try to offer competitive prices.
CE: I.e. you are offering services that save time...
Namiq Hasanov: We say leave all the work concerning foodservice to us. Yes, we can hold a consulting but it is a short-term solution of the matter as provision of catering services requires a well-run system and skilled personnel. We think that everybody must mind his own business. Catering company must bear all responsibility for foodservice.
I find it important to mention that lack of foodservices for a worker means waste of time, concentration and personal financial means. Employers must realize that catering enhances performance skills of workers.
In general, we want to change companies’ views in order to provide workers with qualitative catering.
CE: How does domestic catering business differ from the international one? What should be done in order to switch to a new stage of development?
Namiq Hasanov: There are certainly some differences. The most important thing is to have skilled human resources. We handled this issue within our company.
Our whole activity starting from purchase of food products right to preparation and delivery to clients is being controlled by professionals. At the same time, our employees regularly attend trainings and courses aimed at enhancing their professional skills. As a Seaport Catering, we fully guarantee safety of products we offer. As a catering company, supply of high-quality food products to customers is one of our top priority goals.
I would like our companies to work in accordance with HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) standards. It is a global standard of food safety. As Seaport Catering LLC, we have organized our work in compliance with HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) standard, the most prestigious standard of the world in the field of food safety and hygiene.
Food security, quality and hygiene lie in the basis of the major philosophy of Seaport Catering trying to maximally observe HACCP standard which is also recommended by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization for all stages of the working process.
We are currently working to obtain another certificate ISO 22000 (Food Safety Management System). We will have an audit over this standard in November of this year whereafter we are able to move to an international level.
CE: What are company’s capacities on provision of catering services at present?
Namiq Hasanov: We are currently arranging a foodservice of over 3000 people. However, the company is capable of providing foodservice for over 10,000 people simultaneously. Therefore, a company possesses a high-skilled personnel and a well-run supply system.
Our marketing department is currently expanding the coverage of our activity.
In general, the company’s potential is boundless once it has a professional system of food supply. At present, our annual turnover exceeded 1 mln AZN which is not a limit as well.
CE: What importance is attached to the quality of food and variety of menu?
Namiq Hasanov: People in Azerbaijan like delicious food rich in calories. The quality of service and food, neatness of workers and cleanness of facilities is of great importance to Seaport Catering which has been offering a broad assortment of delicious dishes to its customers since 2009. Seaport Catering, which at present supplies 3,000 people with high-quality food, has always served its clients by skilled employees. High quality services we offer have always been highly appreciated by clients and specialists engaged in this area. The experience proves that Seaport Catering, making and offering delicious dishes of our local cuisine to a high standard, has been repeatedly certified by different structures and awarded by letters of gratitude and diplomas.
We use an individual approach to employees of companies serviced by us. Before issuing a menu, we arrange questioning among employees and define preferences of the personnel. We make dishes considering the age, nationality, religion as well as working conditions of our customers. It is known that in the majority of cases there is a food taste difference between the younger and older generation as well. Young people prefer fast food while the older generation tries to abstain from it. We also make special diet dishes for people getting treatment in hospitals. We are very sensitive to nationality and religion of customers when making food. As we know, Muslims account for the majority of the population in Azerbaijan. For this reason, we try to make sure that meat and meat products we use are “khalal” meaning that animals are butchered in accordance with the rules of the Islamic religion.
One of the major advantages of the Seaport Catering is that we compose a menu for a client in accordance with working conditions. Obviously, the content of food made for an employee working in the office in a sitting position cannot be the same as food made for a person working at the construction site. People doing work requiring physical efforts must eat more calorie-rich food compared to office workers, as they spend more energy. It is what specialists of Seaport Catering, possessing big experience in this area, take into account while composing a menu. They attach a due attention to a relevant distribution of calorie as well as to a variety of food.
Every employee can choose food on the day of supply. As far as variety is concerned, a menu includes two types of side dishes, two types of salad, two types of soup, two types of major dishes and a dessert. The first-course dish mainly consists of meat and chicken products, which means that an employee has broad assortment. It is a difference between our catering and other types of activity concerning foodservice. Maximum observance of hygienic terms in the course of the working process is the major feature distinguishing us from other catering companies.
CE: You mentioned that catering is a multisided system. Which areas do you plan to develop in future?
Namiq Hasanov: As I have already mentioned, the concept of catering implies not only corporate food supply but also buffet reception and banquets. As far as organization of banquets is concerned, this area is broadly developed in Azerbaijan. But now we are developing buffet reception services which are also in demand. We also see the interest of companies. The system has already been set in this area. We permanently receive proposals each considered individually.
CE: What made you enter a catering sector and develop this area of business?
Namiq Hasanov: I hold a degree in economy and worked a financial director in different business areas for a long time.
In the course of the work catering aroused an interest in me, so I decided to open my own company in 2009. The purpose was to introduce all my goal-directed ideas to the catering development through my own company. I think our company is on the right track which is of great importance now.
Thank you for the interview
Interview made by Jeyhun Bayramov and Emil Mammadov