By Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel
11:03 AM EDT, June 3, 2013
When crew aboard private mega-yachts are in need of provisions to prepare special and lavish meals at sea for yacht owners or their guests, many turn to specialty food suppliers such as The Grateful Palate Yacht Provisions.
Since 2009, the Fort Lauderdale-based outfit has catered to the needs of discerning customers in the marine industry.
Today, from a 10,000-square-foot distribution center in Dania Beach, the provisioning company sources and ships food items, toiletries and other premium goods to chefs and crew on yachts sailing mostly in the Caribbean and Bahamas.
The company is accustomed to working with clients seeking custom orders of the highest-quality products who expect them to be delivered fresh and on time to a specific destination.
Being able to meet customers' demands and deliver the goods has resulted in a strong repeat clientele that have helped the company grow its operations, owner Meghan Leckey said Friday.
"It's a growing business that has picked up substantially over the years," noted Leckey, who also operates sister company The Grateful Palate restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
For Passover this year, the yacht provisioner supplied a 200-foot yacht in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands with kosher meats, sodas, dry goods and ceremonial supplies for the religious holiday. It also sent specialty kosher caviar flown in from Paris. In another job, it sourced 400 pounds of stone crab claws for a customer who shipped it on a private jet to Saudi Arabia for a dinner party.
"The secrets of our success are, first of all, really understanding the amazing level of quality demanded by the wealthiest yacht owners in the world and, secondly, anticipating everything the crew will need for the trip," said Leckey. "There is no other industry in the world that demands this level of attention to quality, from Beluga caviar to toilet paper, and few other companies in the world that can meet those expectations."
Being able to tap the operational skills and expertise of its sister restaurant is an asset.
For example, the company can offer small custom orders of meat and other supplies typically sold in cases to its yacht customers, something competitors seldom are able to do.
"We can break the case and sell in smaller quantities," said Hector Lopez, director of yacht provisioning, who's also the restaurant's executive chef.
That translates to cost savings for customers as the leftovers can be utilized in the restaurant, he said.
"As a working chef, I understand what other chefs want and need," added Lopez. "I don't replace anything on their order list without talking with them first."
Lopez is able to juggle his dual roles better in the yachting offseason, May through October, when most of the vessels they're likely to supply are sailing the Mediterranean during the summer.
"[Yacht-provisioning] starts cranking up again in November and runs through March, sometimes until May," said Lopez of the winter sailing season when boats head to the Caribbean.
Besides shipping provisions to yachts, The Grateful Palate is now sending specialty items to well-heeled estate owners in select U.S. locales and is looking to grow this portion of business, Leckey said.
It recently shipped a supply of specialty meats, fish and dry goods to a Kentucky estate for a Kentucky Derby party.
The company is relying on customer referrals to spread the word.
"We thrive on good remarks, and repeat business is key in this specialized industry," Leckey said.
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