Reminiscing the beginnings of his career, the Founder of Raffles Consolidated Private Limited, Mr. Tony Bohoran, vividly recalls when he first felt the allure of the hospitality industry. During hotel visits, as a young student, he would watch in fascination the finesse with which the front desk staff carried themselves and the neat attires of the chefs, hustling to create magic for their guests’ taste palates.
After completing his Advanced Levels, he aspired to join the industry too. To fulfil this goal, he began to acquire knowledge and underwent hotel training. While graduating with a degree in professional cookery, Bohoran shone as a star student for his exemplary culinary skills and his passion for cooking became the catalyst for his rising as a celebrated chef over the years.
In 1987, migrating his talents overseas, Bohoran joined Hilton International and gained valuable exposure to world-class training. Whilst there, he also pursued a degree in food and beverage management with stellar results that can only manifest through sincere love for one’s art and sheer dedication.
A few years later upon his return to Sri Lanka, Bohoran teamed up with one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent restaurateurs – the late Athula Senanayake – and became an integral part of Colombo’s first fine dining restaurant, Don Stanley’s. It was here that Bohoran introduced his fruitful food experiments, including fusion food, which plays with a blend of flavors.
Furthermore, he played a vital role in the success of other restaurants by bringing his expertise to the table.
Meanwhile, he had valuable insights to share regarding leadership. Since school, Bohoran displayed exemplary leadership qualities, be it on the cricket team or drama club, or even during his stint as a cadet. He reiterated that to be a leader, one should lead by example and be looked upon as a leader. Furthermore, he believes that showing people love and treating them with respect is of utmost importance.
“I treat everyone equally,” he said, “My driver eats alongside me.” He elaborated on how he brings this philosophy to the workplace. “I employ over 600 people in my organisation but even today, I’d walk into the kitchen and start cooking,” he added, stating that he was immensely proud to even do some cleaning when the need arises. According to him, designations are to identify what you are, not who you are. His humbling attitude towards work reflects his hands-on nature, which inspires his staff to go beyond their call of duty too.
Similarly, his staff has shown their loyalty towards the company in several ways too. Out of his 600 employees, nearly 20% have been with the company for over 20 years, solidifying the fact that they’re content with their jobs. He observed that people care not merely about the money but also about the positive workplace culture he has inculcated.
Raffles Consolidated was launched when Bohoran decided to bridge the gap between clients and his culinary skills by becoming a direct provider of his specialty – food! As the only multifaceted catering company in the hospitality industry today, Raffles serves several sectors. This includes outdoor catering, industrial catering as well as supplying to cafes and restaurants. And finally, its services have expanded to banquets too.
“Not many very catering companies have the ability to match our capacity in the industrial sector. We serve almost 50,000 meals a day, especially offering our services to the corporate sector,” he remarked. Having secured contracts with some of the leading corporates in Colombo, Raffles Consolidated has built a firm reputation as one of the leading caterers. With an illustrious clientele, which comprises HSBC, NDB, Standard Chartered Bank, MIT, Orion City and so on, Raffles has secured an unwavering position in the market.
“We ensure our clients are happy with our services,” stated Bohoran. Demonstrating this factor, he picked a few instances when the company went through trying times during the COVID-19 pandemic and how their long-standing philosophy toward clients came to the company’s aid. “I’m grateful that we were able to survive the COVID-19 period and managed
to avoid any redundancies. However, paying the salary during the first wave was a massive challenge and one of our clients helped us mitigate the crisis.”
In an unbelievable sign of comradeship, one of Raffles’ key clients – Omega Line, manufacturer and exporter of some of Europe’s renowned lingerie – offered substantial financial assistance to help Raffles meet their salary obligations. Likewise, HSBC continued to pay a subsidy even though their offices were closed during the lockdown. In a nutshell, these examples serve as a reminder that treating clients well and building strong relationships go beyond a mere transaction or profit motive.
Furthermore, Raffles proved its resilience by weathering the storms of the last three years well. Despite the pandemic and the economic crisis, the company continued to go from strength to strength, even launching a new product, the ‘Teaser’ – which is a sparkling tea mocktail and happens to be Bohoran’s own creation. Despite the unfavorable market conditions, the product commanded a massive response among consumers.
Next, discussing the company’s vision for 2025, Bohoran unveiled some of his goals for the organization in the next couple of years. Raffles Consolidated plans to go public and at the same time, establish a hotel. With his faithful business network and supportive clients, he is convinced these endeavors will be met with victory.
However, keeping a vigilant eye on the market is a crucial approach to counter the ramifications of the ongoing economic crisis, according to Bohoran. With stringent cost control methods and monitoring of market rates, Raffles stays ahead of the numbers game. This also applies to a robust financial structure and effective strategies in place at the firm, which is backed by an efficient and dynamic team.
In addition to this, Raffles’ growth in line with the expansion of their clients’ companies ensures that even during hard times, customer support and continual business keep the organization afloat. To this, Bohoran mentioned that “I don’t let the economic crisis distract me. You don’t have to ignore it but proactively prepare to avoid adverse effects that may occur as a result of it.”
Finally, he illustrated the costly mistake organizations do: Judging a customer by appearances. He encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs not to make the same error too. Demonstrating the value of treating all customers well and its snowballing effect, Bohoran concluded that winning client loyalty is the cornerstone of business success.