What started as a corner butcher shop in 1979 is today a thriving wholesale and retail business which is known for its wide variety of range-fed and ethically produced meat products. Mondo Di Carne was established 36 years ago by Vince Garreffa who had done his butchering apprenticeship and worked in the industry for a while before setting up his shop.
Vince nurtured the retail business and slowly expanded into wholesale operations. In 2004, Robert Garreffa, Vince’s son, joined the family business after completing his Chartered Accountancy and working in PricewaterCoopers for four years. Over the last decade, business volumes have grown by 220%, mostly on the wholesale side which is a separate business now.
This part of the business operates from a large factory and supplies meat products to the top 300 hotels and restaurants in Western Australia. Mondo Di Carne’s products enjoy a reputation across the country and the company also regularly flies its products to the eastern coast of Australia.
The company is known for its natural, organic and grass fed products and has been certified by Demeter for retail and wholesale of Certified Biodynamic Organic Meat products. Mondo Di Carne is the only meat wholesaler in Western Australia that is currently registered to sell wholesale certified organic meat.
Mondo Di Carne’s wholesale operations have seen rapid growth over the last 10 years as the company has been investing in its staff and implementing automation of many of its processes. This has enabled it to take on large clients. The company focuses on meat that has been ethically produced and on the free range end of the market. It operates on the principle that healthy and happy animals result in premium meat products and is therefore very particular about its sources of meat.
The company works closely with its hotel and restaurant clients who interact directly with Mondo Di Carne’s key operational staff. This enables clear and direct communication between customers and the company, making it possible to understand the client’s requirements and fulfil them in an appropriate manner.
In its effort to maintain direct communication with its clients, Mondo Di Carne does not employ sales representatives. This system has been working very well and customers appreciate that company staff is available to understand and fulfil their requirements.
Robert Garreffa, who is a director of Mondo Di Carne and has a one-third ownership stake in the company, describes the approach taken to address the needs of wholesale and retail customers, “We provide a level of service that customers will not find elsewhere and we also endeavour to educate our clients on what our capabilities are and how best to utilise those capabilities for themselves as well.
“We try and educate our clients on how we operate and how they can best help themselves with the way they order and with the way they approach us and the information they give us when they are ordering to ensure that we get it right for them first time and every time. And I think that is reflected in our error rates which are below 1% now on our order fulfilment side.
“In the retail side of the business we implemented a lot of IT infrastructure and automated our till system, which enables us to serve our clients faster. Christmas is a big part of our retail store and we service about 3,000 customers at that time. We have automated that process and implemented online ordering. This is integrated with the back-end of the business so that it all goes into one system.
“We have also introduced payment gateway processing to minimise the impact on our office staff. The system enables customers to actually process their own orders so that they can see that they have got it right. At the end of the ordering process the customer receives an email notification of their order.”
Mondo Di Carne’s wholesale operation is very efficiently run by a team of highly skilled and trained staff. The company has put in great effort develop the skills of its employees and enhance their capabilities. Employees are allocated to various teams which are responsible for the production of different product sets in the fastest possible time.
One of the key offerings of the company in the wholesale side of the business is that it does not have a cut-off time for placing orders. Customers can place orders all night up to 5 o’clock in the morning and still get delivery on the same day. In comparison, Mondo Di Carne’s competitors stop taking orders between 12 and 2 o’clock a day before delivery.
This policy helps customers tremendously as many of them do not know the quantity of the order they need to place till very late. In other cases they are not organised enough to place their order earlier. The facility to place orders at any time is an important feature and is greatly appreciated by wholesale customers.
The company is in the process of implementing a number of initiatives to provide an enhanced level of service to its customers. On the wholesale side of the business it proposes to move out of the existing premises to a new facility where it will have more space to carry out processing activities. The new factory will also give the company more space to carry out dry ageing, as there is a need for this service from wholesale customers. Currently many customers conduct this activity at their own premises.
Mondo Di Carne’s wholesale division is also looking at other lines such as pre-cooked items. Certain items like short ribs or lamb shanks can be pre-cooked to minimise preparation and cooking time at the customer’s location. In addition to the convenience this product offers it also gives the hotel or restaurant the ability to reduce its staff cost.
On the retail front the company is looking at delivering products to regional areas that are at a distance from its store. It is exploring the idea of having orders delivered by courier. Another area the company is exploring is a pre-cooked range where clients can buy pre-cooked items or a long slow cooked roast or a similar product that can be taken home and heated.
In the company’s experience a lot of people still want to eat old-style, old-fashioned long slow-cooked products but they do not have the time or feel that do not have the skills to do that for themselves at home. Mondo Di Carne is planning to cater to this requirement.
Mondo Di Carne has a policy of dealing directly with producers and farmers especially for its organic line of products. The company works closely with farmers to develop new products. One of the most successful initiatives has been the development of White Rock Veal. This is premium milk fed veal which is produced from unwanted bobby calves from the milk industry.
In developing this product, these calves were turned into a premium product by milk feeding them for four to six months and growing them into full size calves to produce the best veal in the country. Delicious, a premier Australian food magazine, has awarded this product for its high quality. White Rock Veal is one of the three products to feature in the Delicious Produce Hall of Fame.
The company has also developed relationships with Cargill and Rangers Valley which produces the famous Black Angus and Wagyu beef. High quality and ethically raised products are sourced from around Australia for Mondo Di Carne’s restaurant, hotel and retail customers. It is ensured that each of the products sold is high quality, consistent, and has good ethical farming principles and handling principles behind it.
A great deal of stress is laid on training of employees within the organisation. Staff members who wish to upgrade their skills or opt for jobs requiring specialised knowledge are given the support to meet their goals. Currently, 10% of the workforce consists of apprentices training to become qualified butchers. Recently, a cleaner who had been working in the factory for the last two years, wanted to become a butcher and was actively supported to take up the required training.
Staff retention is high and the average tenure is six to seven years as compared to an industry average of two to three years. Employees who require flexible working hours are accommodated and timings are suitably adjusted to help them.
Robert Garreffa says, “Basically I lead by example, there is nothing that I am afraid to do so we expect that of our staff as well. I am happy to jump in there and get my hands dirty and get into all the jobs within the facility and we expect the same of the staff. I think that reflects in my staff and their willingness to do whatever is required to get the job done and make sure that the clients are happy.”
It is proposed to introduce a bulk store format for the convenience of hotel, restaurant and even retail customers who wish to make large purchases. There is already a smaller version of such a store in the existing factory where the customer can buy whole cuts of meat or larger pieces of meat if they want to take advantage of the lower prices and are willing to go to the trouble of cutting their own steaks at home.
In the proposed bulk store, which will be much bigger, all the different brands of meat will be on offer. This facility will even cater to those retail customers who have eaten a certain brand of steak in a restaurant and want to replicate that meal at home. These customers will be able to visit the store and buy their chosen brand.
In another effort to enhance customer facilities, it is proposed to introduce an online portal for ordering products. This is intended for those clients who live at a distance from the retail outlet and find it inconvenient to drive there every week for their requirements of meat. Ordering online will give them the ability to access high quality products for their daily consumption rather than just on special occasions.
Mondo Di Carne has become synonymous with high quality meat products in Perth and the surrounding areas. Through its wholesale division it has captured the hotel and restaurant market in Western Australia and is now making its presence felt across the country. The company’s strict adherence to quality standards and its customer orientation will ensure that its reputation and business volumes continue to grow.