Catering Stories: “We are no ‘nuts & potato chips’ caterers”

The event catering firm, dolce far niente, was founded by Daniel Kolbe in 2003 and is a partner of Zürich Tourism. Its slogan is “We do it – You enjoy it”, and this carefree idleness on the part of the client is symbolized by a deckchair in its logo. In this interview, Daniel Kolbe tells more about his company and its philosophy.

1. "dolce far niente" offers a wide portfolio of catering services. How do you manage to continually come up with new ideas?

In most cases, my staff tell me about something new that they have discovered. A current example of this is the fire ring designed by Andreas Reichlin. Then we sit down together and discuss how it could fit in with the way we work and with our clientele. Next we set about trying it out. In this particular case, we spent six months developing the idea, and then finally used the fire ring for the first time at a wedding at the end of April. Now, our fire ring catering is an integral part of our portfolio.

2. These days, everyone is talking about sustainability. On your website, you advertise with “green catering”. What role does this trend play within your company?

It does have a bit of an impact. It is not the case that we only receive requests for green catering. But we have thought carefully about what we could do to reduce our carbon footprint. We came to two conclusions. One is short transportation distances – so, for example, we only use suppliers from the Zurich region. The other is food waste, which we generally endeavor to keep to a minimum.

We are determined to reduce our carbon footprint.

3. So what happens with any leftovers and food waste?

We work together with partners who can utilize these products in a meaningful way. Just recently, a large amount of bread and cold meats were left over after a large Annual Meeting, which we then passed on to the charity organization, “Tischlein Deck Dich”. We also intend to support Pfarrer Sieber, a pastor who looks after the homeless, in future.

4. Are your clients prepared to spend more to support sustainability?

To a certain degree, yes. However, in the event industry, people think twice about every cent they spend. It is also necessary to talk to the suppliers, so that sustainability does not become a killer criterion from a financial point of view. You can see this with organic food: 20% more expensive is OK. But if prices are 50% higher, then most customers are no longer prepared to pay for it.

5. Do you use sustainable produce, for example, from the region?

Yes, at the planning stage we always take account of the season and hope that we can use fruit and vegetables from Switzerland. However, we have no control over Mother Nature – we saw this quite clearly this year with the frost damage that was caused. And if a client wants rhubarb for a catering event at the end of April, and there isn’t any to be had in the region, we tell them so – and if necessary unfortunately have to buy it somewhere else.

6. Is all the food produced on location – like here at the Museum Rietberg, for example?

We have set up a provisional kitchen on the other side of the museum today, especially for this event. We prepare the products in our production kitchen in Altstetten, and allow them to cool – which varies in time depending on the food. Then we finish off the dishes as gently and sparingly as possible on location. We never deliver food hot, to avoid impairing the quality.

7. How strong is the demand for your services in the sphere of meetings and seminars?

Taken over the year, this accounts for around a quarter of our catering assignments. With events of this kind, the most popular forms of catering are stand-up lunches, coffee breaks and cocktail receptions. In this field, we’ve been able to make a name for ourselves at certain venues by serving light food in a creative way and, for example, by offering smoothies or lukewarm dishes.

For meetings and seminars we serve light food in a creative way – like smoothies or lukewarm dishes.

8. Does it make sense to arrange daily all-in rates with your clients?

We do also offer all-inclusive prices for a whole day. That makes sense above all if the client has a fixed budget, or if we are in competition with a hotel. Personally, however, I find the costs more transparent if we charge for what we actually serve, particularly for beverages.

9. So how do you handle all-in rates for alcoholic beverages?

That doesn’t happen very often. After all, why would a client request an all-inclusive price for alcoholic beverages? We would then have to assume that a lot of alcohol would be consumed at this event and would charge a higher rate. In addition, we attach great importance to quality and like to offer good local wines. With all-in prices, the wine tends to be cheaper and not of the same high quality. That is not in keeping with our philosophy.

10. How many people do you actually cater for at an apéro riche, if 100 guests have officially registered? Do you also include no-shows in your calculations?

The client tells us how many people they are expecting, and we cater for that number. In fact, depending on the size of the event, we even reckon with 3–4% more. Of course there are some no-shows, but there are “go-shows” too – and there are always a few event organizers or technicians on location who have not been calculated for. For a caterer, it’s an absolute no-go to run out of food. It completely defeats the object to make savings in the wrong place.

Everything that brings variety is particularly fun.

11. What kind of events do you prefer?

Best of all, we like catering for stand-up cocktails and apéros riches, because there you can be at your most creative. Everything that brings variety is particularly fun. That is the great thing about catering – you always have a different location, different clients, different food. It’s the variety that makes our job so enjoyable.

12. Who are your favorite clients?

Those who know what they want. And who appreciate the importance and value of the food that is being served and are aware that quality has its price. We are not your ordinary “nuts & potato chips” caterers, but a full board event catering firm. If the client is prepared to share our philosophy, then we are the right partner for them.

13. What is your most impressive event to date?

The many positive comments that we have received over the past years have been very impressive, each in its own particular way. But one event that was particularly special was for just two persons. Our task was to provide food throughout the day for a married couple celebrating their wedding anniversary. They went hiking, enjoyed a cruise on the lake, explored the city – and everywhere they went, there was something for them to eat or drink. We set up everything in advance – in a basket or on a bench in the woods – and then disappeared again. They arrived, ate, and left everything where it was – and we came back afterwards and cleared everything away. We never found out who the couple were; everything had been organized by the marriage witnesses.

This interview was conducted by Ronnie Clauser from the Zürich Tourism Convention Bureau during a catering event at the Museum Rietberg catered by dolce far niente event-catering.

Facts & Figures About far niente event-catering

dolce far niente was founded in 2003 and is an owner-managed company. It has its own production kitchen and with its 10 permanent members of staff organizes approximately 150 events a year throughout German-speaking Switzerland.

Special features

  • Very broad portfolio and extensive experience in catering for all kinds of events
  • Creative stand-up cocktails and apéros riches
  • Various BBQ options, such as Asado Ojo de Agua, Churrascaria or fire ring
  • Green catering using local products

A suitable caterer for every event

Zürich Tourism’s other catering partners are listed here:

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