February 17, 2022

From a steady simmer to a rapid boil

In Adelaide’s east, the flourishing food manufacturing industry adds to the area’s reputation for delicious dining. With both industries recognised in the Eastside Business Awards, three previous winners talk about growing in uncertain times.

Paul Baker is well known in Adelaide, having been at the helm of Botanic Gardens Restaurant (now Restaurant Botanic) for six years. Today, he’s a driving force behind an awarded, restaurant-quality food delivery service.

“I feed a lot more people now than I ever have in my life,” laughs Paul.

Chefs on Wheels started in 2020 during the nationwide lockdown, helping to support restaurants and producers before JobKeeper kicked in.

“We threw the idea together in about three or four days and we turned restaurants into a ready-made meal business.

“Once the restaurants started up again, that’s when the model changed. That’s when we went from, say, a COVID business to becoming a business in our own right.”

The company has grown from having 7000 Adelaide customers in those first few months to delivering across metropolitan Melbourne and Sydney and into regional Victoria and South Australia.

Last year it won Best Food/Beverage Manufacturer in the Eastside Business Awards, which recognises businesses in the City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters.

“We were quite taken aback actually,” says Paul of their win. “We have click and collect customers, so we talk to customers a lot … but it was pretty amazing for us as we don’t do it for awards.”

Paul says the business benefitted from “having the perfect set of circumstances” when it began, using his co-founders’ wholesale food distribution premises at Glynde, the equipment and their refrigerated trucks.

“You’ve got to take a risk. Just make sure it’s calculated… your numbers never lie.”

Now Chefs on Wheels is really bubbling along, Paul has stopped working the 70 to 80-hour week that is typical of chefs.

“I enjoy it. We’ve got a great team, a great ethos. You know, it’s Monday to Friday.

“It’s kind of what the new normal should look like. Everyone has weekends off with the family.”

Goodies & Grains, who won the award in 2020, has a similar story of growth during the pandemic. General manager Emilia Pirone says the food manufacturer, a sister company to Rio Coffee, is going from strength to strength.

“We bought the wholesale brand in 2018 and that’s when we relocated to Stepney.

“We were already distributing for the old Goodies & Grains banner, so we took over the manufacturing as well.

“To be perfectly honest, COVID has helped us because supermarkets were booming.”

The Goodies & Grains range is sold in independent supermarkets across Australia and in health food stores interstate.

Her advice to other food manufacturers starting up is to “know your customer and work out what they need.”

In Kensington, Taste of Nepal was also a winner in last year’s Eastside Business Awards, taking home Best Restaurant for 2021.

Manager Kamal Poudel says the award was heartfelt for the family-owned restaurant, which was established by his father, Kashi Poudel, in 2004.

“It was incredible, especially for my dad… Just getting the recognition as an award, it was very humbling and very exciting for him.”

“In the early days, all of our family used to work there. And it was difficult, but then over the years, with my dad being the pillar and we as his family supporting him, it really helped grow the business and the name.”

Kamal says winning the award was also a proud moment for Adelaide’s Nepalese community, bringing widespread recognition for their food and culture.

It’s not the first time Taste of Nepal have been recognised in the Eastside Business Awards, although this time the award’s impact has been even more important.

“The first time we won [in 2018], there was no COVID and it was jam packed… we had to hire more people after that.

“But this time… we were able to attract more people because of winning that award.

“In some ways it has played a part in us remaining open in these difficult times.

“[The awards] give good recognition – you win amazing prizes and people do notice you.”

This is the fifth year of the Eastside Business Awards, which are now open for voting by the public.

Voters have the opportunity to enter a draw to win a $300 voucher to a local business of their choice.

There are over 7000 businesses in the City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters area, so if you don’t see your favourite one listed, just add it when you vote!

Visit eastsidebusinessawards.com.au

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