Raising the bar


Grant Greeff is giving the hospitality industry a well-needed shake-up, with a cocktail of one-part innovation, one-part sound business practice, and two-parts genuine and attentive service, writes Jane Steinacker-Keys

At a party on New Year’s Eve in 2010, Grant Greeff was dancing with close friend Annalize Buchanan, a caterer in Cape Town, who had just arrived from a function and was complaining about the poor service of the waiters serving her fine cuisine.

“Grant,” she said, “I think you should start a staffing business!” On January 1, 2011, STAFFicient Services was born.

Greeff’s philosophy, in every aspect of his life, is to gain knowledge, then experience, and then to use this combination to achieve his goals.

“I don’t just want to climb the corporate ladder,” he says. “I want to own it.”

Currently, Greeff is in the first year of his articles to become a chartered accountant. He has completed a BCom in Accounts, and a post-graduate diploma in Accounting at the University of Cape Town.

He believes his studies give him an in-depth knowledge of business dynamics. He is able to use his knowledge of accounting, tax law, corporate governance and finance, and apply that to his business venture.

As for the hard yards, Greeff started as a runner in a pub in Constantia, began waitering at the age of 18 when it was legal for him to serve alcohol, and then refined his experience in fine dining at the award-winning restaurant Constantia Uitsig. He started STAFFicient Services with eight of his friends, whom he trained up for their first function at the Italian Embassy in Cape Town.

His business focuses on clientele in the middle to upper end of the Cape Town community, which provides potential opportunities to gain access into the corporate world. “A case in point: after we served at a function for Mandy and Gareth Ackerman, we now serve at functions held at the Pick n Pay head office,” he says.

It would be unwise to place Greeff’s company in the same category as the myriad traditional suppliers in the hospitality industry. For his business, Greeff has chosen to take a new approach to providing service staff at functions.

“Our company’s mission is to make every occasion an experience worth remembering,” he says. “Our aim is to enhance the client’s image,” and this would include that of the caterer and the hosts of the event.

To achieve these goals, Greeff pays particular attention to detail. All of his staff are trained, assessed and given specific instruction on dress code. “Our staff arrive wearing a black shirt, black pants, black socks and polished shoes, as well as a long white or black French apron.” If a client wishes an alternative uniform, this can be provided.

Most important is the philosophy of genuine and attentive service that is instilled in the waiters, barmen and stewards he provides. “Our staff are trained to be proactive, but not intrusive,” he says. “It’s all about our waiters thinking about what they can do, before the guest thinks of it – such as offering to bring another glass of wine, before the first one is empty.”

Greeff also provides interactive training opportunities for those who wish to increase their skills set and move up in their rankings from waiter to steward.

But, these are not the only dynamics of his business that set his business apart from traditional providers.

“Transparency is key,” says Greeff. A client can gain access to the rates of the three levels of staff – waiters, barmen and stewards – on his website. “There is no lag between requesting a quote and then receiving the quote. All of the information is provided at the beginning. We don’t want to waste the client’s time.”

In addition, Greeff has pioneered an online platform that, to the best of his knowledge, is the first of its kind in the world of hospitality staffing.

“Potential staff can apply online; existing clients have their own online profile too, and can request staff for a function; and existing staff can apply to work at that function,” says Greeff. Once a function is finalised, the client can then access their profile and see who will be serving them, which includes both the names and pictures of the staff allocated to the function. Staff can also view their working schedules online.

From eight in 2011, STAFFicient Services currently has 130 service staff on its books. The staff pool is made up roughly of 50% waiters, 30% barmen and 20% stewards. Stewards are the highest-ranking, with the technical skills that a fine-dining dinner for 20 to 30 guests requires.

Since 2011, Greeff’s business has grown by 500%, with a positive growth projection of 10 times his first year’s results for the year ahead. He believes sound and considered business practices are essential for success.

His payment policy requires a 50% deposit on confirmation of the booking, with the balance to be paid three days prior to the function. Payment for any additional hours worked above the quoted hours is due three days after the function.

“In business, every rand is as valuable as the next. Whether you are owed R5 or R50 000, a business owner must never overlook the value of every rand earned,” he says. “This is particularly important when you are a start-up business.”

Greeff has two distinct short-term goals: to expand his business into Johannesburg in 2015, and to create an application through which his staff and clients can access information about the event on their smartphones.

Long-term, he has plans to take STAFFicient Services into the international market.