It’s been thirty years since Vancouver catering company The Lazy Gourmet started. People would bring in their own dishes, they’d get filled with food and you’d pass it off as your own.
Since then the Lazy Gourmet team has done it all, even cooked for members of the British government during the Olympic Games.
They’re the exception. According to David Martin, 50 per cent of new food ventures fail within the first year. Martin is the director of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Ryerson University in Toronto and he knows this all too well.
“There’s a mystique about it, a lot of people think it’s great, they love people and they love to cook. People come to us for advice and the first thing I say is, ‘Do you have a business plan? How are you going to get your customers?’ Few think about that.”
Martin says there are certain elements that prospective caterers must consider before taking the plunge.
“‘What do you want it to become? Work with that and say, ‘what are the milestones to success? What’s my strength and what are the opportunities in the marketplace?’ If you take a look at the total package, you need to identify what you need to overcome and figure out what you need to do overcome that.”
You’ll learn a lot speaking to the caterers themselves. Brenda Dutton has been running Absolutely Edibles in Edmonton for 11 years. She’s stuck to her philosophy of hard work and quality control. “We only take so many event per day and we turn down business because being greedy, you compromise your values, you stop paying attention to what’s going out the door.”
General manager of The Lazy Gourmet Kevin Mazzone says ultimately it’s about the reputation you build for yourself. “The food business is very difficult. Really having that trust in our name … people just keep coming back.”
- We Cater To You, wecatertoyou.ca: Cindy and Kevin MacDougall run this growing corporate and event catering company alongside their restaurant operation, Merci Mon Ami, in Liberty Village.
- Cindy’s passion for food and Kevin’s brain for business make them a perfect catering couple. Cindy’s advice for aspiring caterers: “The truth is, it takes a lot of hard work. You have to be completely married to it. I would tell them 100 per cent this will take 100 per cent of your time.”