According to Mustafa Kamal Wathooth, owner of Kuala Lumpur-based Muslim Kitchen, which owns the Thalia brand, changes in how hotel and restaurant kitchens operate necessitate an increasing number of specialist third-party supplies, which in turn often raise the standard of mass catering.
“There has been an ongoing situation in restaurants and cafes whereby they want cater for a wider range of products without having to hire different cooks and still maintaining their quality. That is where we come in,” said Mustafa.
When working with a new customer, Muslim Kitchen will be given an exact brief of the RTC and RTE meals they are to prepare. Ingredients and cooking methods are specified precisely, as are quality standards.
The company operates its own 10,000 sq-ft manufacturing plant in Subang Jaya, in the outskirts of the Malaysian capital, with R&D facilities for all categories of food, from cheesemaking to ready-meal production.
Muslim Kitchen also markets its own retail frozen food lines, including the Thalia lasagnas and spaghetti dishes it is best known for in Malaysia.
“It is just as if the meals our foodservice customers serve are prepared in-house by them. But by outsourcing to a supplier like us, we are able to help them take the pressure off their own kitchen resources,” Mustafa added.
“The emergence of RTE and RTC meals has been timely, with better-quality food products now available as a substitute for them having to prepare their own meals.”
Muslim Kitchen now supplies hotels along with local food franchises for Italian chain restaurants, coffee chains and poultry fast-food chains.
It also caters for smaller foodservice operations that do not have access to a central kitchen with its pasta and traditional Malaysian dishes such as rendang beef and nasi goreng fried rice.
Apart from the Malaysian market, it also exports RTC and RTE products to Singapore, Brunei, Hong Kong and most recently to the Middle East. Later this month it expects to add the Philippines to this list, while neighbouring Indonesia is another market full of potential, especially with its Jakim certification.
“We do realise the potential of the Indonesian market, and we are trying to find the right entry point,” said Mustafa.
“Indonesia is just like Malaysia, whereby entry into foodservice RTC is done initially through the retail market. Only after potential customers see your product sold in stores do they identify it as a food service product and make an inquiry.”
Having opened shortly after the turn of the millennium, Muslim Kitchen now manufactures over 50 of its own lines, along with its fast-growing foodservice supply business.
“For lasagna, I don’t think we have much in the way of competition,,” said Mustafa.
“We don’t compromise in quality, and we show that through our HACCP and Ministry of Health certification. We are halal-certified through Jakim and we are working towards implementing ISO 22000 next year and moving towards FSSC 22000 in the near future.”
FSSC 22000 would be the final step before the company becomes GFSI-recognised, taking it ahead of most other companies in its segment in terms of this recognition.