The Hospitality Entrepreneur
We caught up with Steve Sidd, CEO and Founder of Catering HQ – an Australian company providing a range of commercial consulting, hospitality, catering and function catering services to the tourism, leisure, hospitality and food services sectors. We learn all about it over the next few pages.
The history of Catering HQ
Food appreciation is a Sidd family tradition and value! Steve tells us that his father was in the catering business and all he ever wanted to do was to follow in his footsteps. During school, he helped out at his dad’s restaurants and instantly fell in love with the buzz and the passion that went on behind the scenes.
Steve lives and breathes ‘food’. His parents were always cooking and entertaining family and friends, so when Steve started his first catering company in 1996, it felt natural and wasn’t a surprise to anyone.
Steve is a highly experienced retail and food services specialist with decades of experience in hospitality management, project management and consulting experience. He has been very involved in workforce reform in the hospitality industry and has in-depth knowledge and expertise in business and workforce planning and management.
Over the years Steve has owned and operated cafés, restaurants, bars and catering venues. Today, under the umbrella of Catering HQ, Steve heads up the highly successful boutique catering business specialising in three main areas: venue catering (clubs, pubs and hotel groups); external catering (for large and high-end events); and hospitality consultancy (for the club, pub, hotel and franchise group sectors).
Employing 300+ people and on a strong path of growth, Steve prides himself on delivering quality food and service, always looking at trends and, importantly, setting trends themselves.
Steve is an innovator, a pioneer of the industry and a true hospitality entrepreneur. He has perfected his systems, logistics, the ability to operate and manage excellence across multiple sites and duplicate his award-winning services in each of his venues through these systems and management teams. He understands that a restaurant or dining experience requires outstanding leadership, and he invests heavily in training and leading his team to ensure the service is exceptional across all venues. This is his point of difference in a growing industry and he is pioneering how to do it!
Steve’s experience includes significant operational and management experience having owned his own catering business for more than 25 years. He has been recognised through industry bodies both state and nationally for being amongst the best in the hospitality, club, restaurant and catering awards.
The breadth and depth of Steve’s skills and experience base is unparalleled: project management, human resource management, industrial relations, staff training, budget establishment, concept development, performance measurement, quality control and new product launches.
“Helping your business manage the risks you face today, to maximise profitability and to limit your exposure tomorrow” is his motto and he has devoted his career to do exactly that for his clients.
With over 300 employees, 22+ dining concepts and 28+ event/function spaces at Castle Hill RSL, and the beautiful Indulge Brasserie and alfresco area at Moorebank Sports Club, they have also recently moved into Lynwood Country Club, the beautiful The Garden restaurant in Wests Ashfield Club and the popular MaZi restaurant at Lantern Club in Roselands. Branching out of Sydney metro, the most recent acquisitions also include the very popular Mingara Recreation Club up on the Central Coast and Springwood Sports Club in the Blue Mountains. Catering HQ have also expanded into Parramatta RSL and personally oversaw the redevelopment of the dining spaces launched late last year.
Steve is passionate about everything that he does, and that includes his downtime and family time. When he’s not working, he ensures there is always time to fit in a daily gym training session to help clear his mind and soul and get him mentally ready for the day ahead. When he’s not working out though, he does enjoy lazing by a pool or enjoying a meal with his beautiful wife and two sons.
Staying up to date with the latest trends in the hospitality industry
Steve, his partner Albie and his team are always looking at new trends and pride themselves on their ability to be at the forefront of setting trends in the local industry. Although he gauges what the trends are in the US and the UK, it’s important to keep things relevant to Australian audiences, he tells me and things are certainly fast-paced especially now that the country seems to have entered the post-COVID phase that the rest of the globe is still longing for.
Steve and his team are always researching and developing new products and are frequently well ahead of the game. When plant-based food products first came in, for example, Catering HQ were one of the first in the industry to embrace the movement. This is now growing from strength to strength – so much now that they have even incorporated an area on their menus accommodating plant-based, vegan and gluten-free dietary requests.
It is important to be ahead of the game, and the team regularly change their menus continuously and with the seasons. For Steve, it’s important that they are always the leading company in the industry which is portrayed in everything they do!
“Catering HQ is committed to providing the highest quality food in a safe and hygienic manner. We ensure that our high standards of customer service are established early and maintained and improved upon… all the time.”
Steve’s advice to his clients in the current environment
“It really is all about meeting customer expectations and exceeding them,” Steve tells me. “Too many people in hospitality today have forgotten this important point. Great service, beautiful food, exciting menus, and customer loyalty programs are essential to building customer loyalty and creating a positive experience that will have customers talk about you, share you on social media channels, and keep returning.”
“People want an ‘experience’ these days, they don’t accept a mediocre experience, and we need to respect that. It’s so easy for them to stay at home and cook something delicious, so we need to create an environment and an atmosphere that they can’t emulate at home. The quality of the food has to be really good because people know what they like. That’s what my business always comes down to – getting out good quality food. Nowadays, customers are watching TV shows about food, they’re engaged, they know about healthy eating and you have to cater for all of that,” he explains.
Steve believes wholeheartedly that quality food has to be part of the package and is all about providing a high-standard product on the plate – every time. Everything is made from fresh high-quality products and sourced as locally as possible. It does require a lot of labour, but the results speak for themself.
What excites Steve about his work
“I love innovating in an industry that has largely underpromised and underdelivered! It’s a privilege and so exciting to work with some of the most innovative boards in Australia on delivering exceptional dining experiences to their members, and we take this responsibility and opportunity very seriously”, Steve tells me. “We like to think we are turning the family dining experience on its head!”
Steve’s venue at Moorebank Sports Club achieved ‘Best Family Dining Restaurant’ in the Restaurant and Catering Awards for Excellence in both state and national awards, and this is where his passion and focus lies. In providing exceptional quality and service to the growing club’s industry, where in the past, the quality of the dining spaces was not taken as seriously. The club industry has really expanded in the past decade with innovative and forward-thinking boards and management, and Steve is passionate about this direction and specialises in this area of hospitality as it creates an excellent opportunity for growth and development.
Steve’s passion and his mission is to improve and support the hospitality industry in Australia and to ensure that the industry is seen as a career of choice across the nation.
On his favourite food
Being of Greek-Egyptian background, slow-cooked meats, lamb and meze/grazing foods have always been some of Steve’s favourite foods to enjoy. However, over 3 ½ years ago, he decided to go through a massive life transformation – he stopped eating all meat and carbohydrate products and switched to a clean pescatarian diet. His health is very important to him, and he is committed to only eating the very best, cleanest & freshest produce along with high-intensive training six days a week. Steve tells me that he used to be a very large man but managed to lose 40 kilograms thanks to this change, feeling better than he has ever felt! He now happily (and proudly) shares this story and journey with his children, friends, family, work colleagues and business associates.
Steve and his partner Albie Aldahawi ‘s dream for 2021 was to get to 10 venues and set up their own logistics & production kitchen. As of today, they are on their 9th venue which will open in August, with number 10 expected in October 2021. The logistics and production kitchen is currently under construction and is due to also open in August. Over the next 3 to 5 years, Steve and Albie would like to expand by an additional 2 or 3 venues every year, however, remaining a boutique company is very important to them. They don’t dream of becoming the biggest company in their sector, but they do aim to be the best at what they do!
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