Looking for the complete solution for all food service needs, Complete Food Services has just what any restaurateur, chef, and grocery store could ask for, just like the name promises. Complete Food Services has been supplying high quality food products to Melbourne businesses for more than 20 years, and they have made a name for themselves by going that extra mile, sometimes literally, for their customer. Tony Osky, founder and director of Complete Food Services thinks that their independence and his experience of over 25 years are some of the advantages that Complete Food Services brings to the proverbial table.
The company is listed as being founded in 1991, but Osky says that the real history goes back to 1987. “Back then it wasn’t CFS, I started the company as Australian Pizza distributors. We used to supply pizza shops and restaurants in the late 1980s,” he says. Even to this day they continue to provide those same restaurants with their food ingredients and imported specialty items. “I had a pizza restaurant back then, and in those days there weren’t the big suppliers you now have in Melbourne, and one of my suppliers, who was just one guy with a truck, asked me to help him out one day. I did, I found that I really enjoyed doing it. I got to see many different restaurants and pizza shops while we were supplying them,” says Osky. He bought the delivery run off his supplier and his small list of ten or so customers. The business that he inherited did not have an official name, but it was a starting point. Osky then invested into a small warehouse and cool room, expanded the trucking fleet, and hired a new driver. It was from this that Complete Food Services was born. “I started with the ten customers I had bought off him and I expanded that to 1000 customers today. We have those, and about 400 independent grocery stores as well,” he says.
Adding the right ingredients
“We started off with importing a little flour and tomato base products from Italy, now we source high quality pasta, rices and olive oil, – so we do import a lot from Italy for restaurants.” To make authentic Italian dishes, says Osky, you need authentic Italian ingredients. “If you are looking for food- and I travel a lot, at least four times a year just to find and source products – you have to import the best,” he says. Osky also says that there are dietary restrictions about what exactly you can and cannot import, and this makes selection all the more important to their catalogue. “There is very good pasta there, but it has 35 per cent egg content, so we can’t import that. We do, however, import two of the topdried pastas in Italy, they are considered the number two and number three in their categories. We can’t bring in the number one because of its high egg content.” This achievement is nothing to be scoffed at, it means that Complete Food Services offers Australian businesses the best imported products that are legally allowed. “They both were able to change their recipe in order to reduce the egg content to 19.9 per cent of egg content,” says Osky. The laws in Australia, says Osky, were established a long time ago, and do limit their ability to import direct products. They do find ways of getting the best they can, but it is a constant challenge. “We are very proud to associate ourselves with many of the chefs that we supply in Melbourne. We supply some of Melbourne’s finest hotels such as the Langham Hotel, Grand Hyatt and even the Westin as well as Melbourne’s award winning 1 and 2 chef hatted restaurants with our exclusive products, like whole porcini mushrooms, truffle products, San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. It’s about getting them all those up market products that really make the dishes they serve.” It is not just international products that Complete Food Services has focused on; they look to Australia to supply a large quantity of their premium offerings too. Osky points to their role in bringing Maggie Beer products to the market, as well as Carman’s Muesli range, and Huron Salmon, just to name a few. “We have more than a dozen exclusive brands,” he says, and in each of their categories you can be guaranteed that they have a leading award winning product represented.
Looking to the future
“Three years ago, we acquired a retail company called Bellco Marketing, and that has gone very well for us. We had never gone into the retail business before, but now we do at least 8 million dollars’ worth of retail a year into the independent supermarkets,” says Osky. Bellco is widely known for supplying customers with products from some of thebest gourmet producers across Australia and the world. By adding them to the Complete Food family, they have expanded this specialty food wholesaler’s product range and becoming their direct supplier which has also cut some of the cost for their clients. “We are looking forward to some huge growth, as we are planning on going national very soon,” says Osky. “We will be moving into Victoria with the retail and we have also signed a deal with Metcash in Melbourne, which will let us go national with some of our products.” Osky truly believes in the quality of their offerings, and that belief has carried them a very long way since their humble beginnings. “I think we have been so successful because we started small and still think small,” says Osky. “If a chef needs a single product delivered in an emergency, we will make sure they get it,” says Osky. He says that their ability to interface directly with their clients and meet their needs at any stage has helped cement them as a preferred distributor, and now retailers, in the local and national market.