Mr Nöhre, is it true that your company started in a garage?
Yes, it’s true. In June 2006, Tim Endert and I basically started from scratch. All we had was an idea: to create the perfect “flying buffet” – a type of buffet where trays of prepared food are brought by guests’ tables, and guests can choose whichever dishes they like. So we opened “Catalogna Cologne Catering” and launched a website where customers can assemble a selection of buffet items. Back then, our kitchen actually was in a garage.
How long did it take until you started to see some success?
It was difficult for us to get started as caterers; we had to do everything ourselves. We didn’t turn a profit for two years, and we reinvested those profits immediately. But our hard work paid off. Today, we cater 4,000 events per year – everything from lunch buffets for eight people to big events with gourmet food for 3,000 guests.
You started your own business at a very early age. What were the most important factors in your decision?
I was 21 and working as a chef in a gourmet restaurant. In that industry, I saw full-time chefs who were over 50 and still had to work 18 hours a day to earn a good living. To be honest, I just didn’t like those career prospects.
Why did you decide to open a catering company instead of your own restaurant?
I just didn’t have enough money. For a restaurant, you need a well-designed space, not to mention a kitchen and tableware. In the beginning, all we needed as caterers was a kitchen – everything else we procured from external providers.
65 per cent of survey respondents would start their own business in the hotel and food service industry again if they had the chance. Would you?
Yes. I’m satisfied. I can be creative without anyone trying to tell me what to do. There isn’t much I would do differently, but there are a few things I would improve. We ended up spending a lot of money unnecessarily, simply because we had a steep learning curve; some of our concepts weren’t thought out in enough detail. In the beginning, for example, we only used expensive tableware, but now that I know that breaking a few plates is inevitable in the catering business, I usually recommend cheaper tableware that looks just as good as the expensive stuff.
What is your recipe for success as an entrepreneur in the hotel and food service industry?
Work, work, work – and lots of patience. Be ambitious, dedicated and customer-oriented. Because customers pay your rent and fill your refrigerator!