El Greco was first established as a small takeaway by Stefanos and Lucia in 2001. The family has been serving the Castlederg community for over 20 years. With their efforts, El Greco grew and developed into a larger takeaway with a small restaurant in 2005. Brothers Niko and Kosta worked in the business from young ages and have developed their craft and built valuable experience in hospitality and catering. They have since taken over management of the business and aim to expand it by bringing to fruition a range of ready to eat products built from the foundations of their popular sauces and dishes. Their brand ‘El Greco’ does not reflect that they solely cook Greek food. They are passionate about food from around the world and take influence from all cuisines.
El Greco previously worked with NWRC Foodovation Centre in the initial development of a range of ready meal products through recipe development and standardisation, labelling support including nutritional and allergens and production processes and methods for consistency. This saw the introduction of the companies ‘El Greco’ sauces. Following completion of the project the company then worked on stockists and spoke with a number of potential businesses. On reflection of this exercise, El Greco realised that in order to have optimum quality and a practical shelf life they would need to look at alternative shelf-life options.
El Greco approached NWRC Foodovation Centre for support in developing the range using alternative packaging methods to extend the shelf life particularly modified atmosphere. They wanted to understand the impact on their product type which included a number of categories such as cooked meat, vegetables, and sauce within the 1 pack. Whilst doing this they also wanted to look at the food waste in the restaurant and to ensure that the menu offered alongside the retail dishes were streamlined and ingredients particularly fresh herbs and vegetables were utilised effectively to minimize waste.
To assist and make their idea a reality, the company contacted North West Regional College (NWRC) Business Support Centre (BSC) who supported them through the InnovateUs programme which is funded by the Department for the Economy.
NWRC Product Development Technical Consultant, Rita O’Kane, provided upskilling in recipe reformulation to aid shelf-life extension via Modified Atmosphere packaging (MAP), equipment sourcing and developing standard operating procedures for specialised equipment, packaging sourcing for MAP including environmentally friendly options, production processes when introducing MAP including HACCP and Food safety processes for retail products.
The company was able to successfully use a range of alternative packing methods to extend the shelf life of their products.
Kosta Svanias of El Greco described the benefits of working with NWRC’s Business Support Centre via the InnovateUs programmes:
‘‘We both had a great experience working with the team at NWRC’s Foodovation Centre. The results we achieved wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Rita O’Kane supporting us through each step of the process. The skills we learned from the college has helped us greatly and will allow us to further expand our business as we grow in this new and exciting market. The journey was great, and I’d highly recommend.’’