Consumers say they are assured of quality and hygiene when they buy from caterers

The aroma of ghee and sugar that wafts through the house as sweets are prepared is a reminder of festive season round the corner. Deepavali, the festival of lights, is one such occasion when people share their happiness by distributing sweets among family members and friends.

While some follow the tradition of making sweets at home, some buy them from sweet shops, and some prefer to purchase from caterers who undertake special orders.

The USP of caterers is that they offer sweets prepared with dedication and at cheaper price than the sweet shops.

“Our family always prefers to place orders with the caterer every year. This saves us time and we are assured of quality and hygiene of the sweets,” says G. Saroja who works in a private company.

Caterers get busy during the Deepavali season, work in 12-hour shifts, and all for a profit margin of 10 per cent.

N. Suresh of Karumandapam, who has been in the catering business for three decades, has stopped taking orders for sweets, unless they are really persuasive customers such as those who had given orders for a marriage this year. He bemoans that the lack of skilled workers coupled with rising input costs poses several problems to his trade. “The workers are not as sincere and dedicated as they once used to be. They are demanding higher wages, owing to the price rise. But their quality of work is poor and not worth the money we shelled out,” he says.

“Rising costs especially on transportation and procuring essential ingredients prove to be a bane for us,” says Gurumoorthy of Andar Street who runs Adi Vinayagar catering with 25 years of experience.

The sweet makers add that changing mindsets of customers and a rise in their expectations is a cause for concern.

“Over the past five years, the trends have changed. They want lesser quantity of sugar to be used as they are health conscious,” says Mr. Suresh.

“There is more demand for milk sweets and north Indian varieties, rather than traditional sweets such as laddoos. This poses problems because while traditional sweets last more than a week or up to 10 days, the life of a milk sweet is three or four days,” says Mr. Gurumoorthy.

Sweets shops make savouries in large quantities and offer gift packs of assorted varieties to attract customers. “We cannot do the same as it will not be viable for us. We can only make in small quantities, and that too one sweet at a time,” Mr. Gurumoorthy added.

Over the past three years, the business had declined mainly because of high expectation of customers and due to lack of skilled workers. “We cannot compromise on quality and don’t want to lose more customers, so we have stopped taking orders,” Mr. Gurumoorthy.