The Dennis Street Sophia Catering Service known as Dionne’s Delight is the product of more than eighteen years of single-minded attention to business growth and raising service standards on the parts of Dionne and Brian Peters. Theirs is a not uncommon story of a thriving business built painstakingly from ‘ground up,’ its contemporary success reflective of the collective effort of a diligent and determined wife and a supportive husband.
Their signature offering, Brian says, is their pastries that sell like ‘hot cakes’ on the Robb Street pavement outside the General Post Office. That, however, is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There is a great deal more to Dionne’s Delight.
For Dionne it is a rise from undergoing a pastry course at the YWCA and selling her pastries from a container around Georgetown to building a business that employs twenty-three persons, boasts three existing outlets and is in the process of expansion. Brian, a mechanic by trade, who has worked both in the Caribbean and North America but who now co-manages the enterprise with his wife, is an amiable man who articulates the entrepreneurial accomplishments of himself and Dionne without ever blowing them out of proportion. He has learnt to be mindful of the challenges and uncertainties that inhere in the twists and turns, ebbs and flows of the food service industry.
Over time, it has been a question of experimenting with various approaches to marketing their product. From Dionne’s ‘walking and selling’ from a bin the Peterses graduated to a distribution system that employed carts and pressed others into self-employed service, buying the entity’s popular cakes and pastries at special prices then applying their own mark-ups in the process of vending on the streets. It was this, perhaps, that laid the foundation for the urban popularization of Dionne’s pastries which are sold to throngs of ‘regulars’ outside the Post Office.
At Sophia, the operations centre for Dionne’s Delight, Brain talks with Stabroek Business about the ‘graduation’ of the entity to what it is today. He shows off the establishment’s modest but well-equipped kitchen, overseen by a cook who prepares the morning snacks and a chef who does the midday meal.
Brian was keen to show off the establishment’s kitchen. He had become aware that one of our primary concerns had to do with food safety standards. By the standards of food establishments the size of Dionne’s Delight the kitchen was decidedly well-appointed. It is modest without being cramped, the work surfaces are clean and the floor is tiled and near spotless. All of this while half a dozen or so capped and aproned workers busy themselves as the hour for the completion of the midday meal approaches.
Before we had gone to the kitchen Brian had told us just how sensitive the establishment had become to food safety standards. He explained that concern with standards became an increasingly intense preoccupation as the demand for the food increased. It is a preoccupation, Brian says, that pushes himself and Dionne not only to follow the standards set by the local Food & Drugs Department and the Municipality but also to insist that every employee satisfies the food handling and health requirements.
Managing the growing business, too, has its challenges. The Sophia operation aside and the Robb Street (Post Office pavement) pastry service aside, Dionne’s Delight is in the process of consolidating their business by preparing a newly acquired D’Urban Street Lodge building to replace a close-by building as a new outlet. The daily routine of preparing and delivering food to the two outside locations can be demanding. Delivery to locations is done by van while modest orders are delivered by bicycle. Growth has meant transformation and Brian says he has become more sensitive to management issues like administering stocks (of raw materials) and staff recruitment. In recent times he has been painstaking in his search for a cook, pointing out that the length of time it has taken him to recruit one has everything to do with the high standards to which the business continues to aspire.
In our Friday May 19 issue, the Stabroek Business inadvertently published a picture of a Dionne’s Delight service stall accompanying a story titled Street-vended Foods and Food Safety Requirements: Part 11. There is no connection between the photograph and the story and we sincerely apologize for the error.