Better for the community and business – a family-owned catering company shows that giving back in a big way can start from a small initiative – and a whole lot of creativity.
When companies think of helping the community, they often associate it with making a large donation to a local charity. While there are many ways of contributing to your community’s well-being, when you’re a small business, implementing a meaningful initiative is no small challenge. But if it results in finding the perfect balance between community involvement and business development, it is a journey worth embarking on.
By means of creativity and dynamic efforts, even small interventions can have a large impact and that’s the challenge a Toronto-based catering business decided to take on at the end of 2018. With the goal of donating 50,000 meals to Red Door Family Shelter by the end of the year, Chefs Catering not only aims tot provide meals to the women and children seeking refuge at the shelter but to help the shelter save approximately $250,000, enabling them to reallocate those funds into other much-needed services.
From a modest beginning to a local force
With nothing except a bit of money and a passion for food, chef Peter Siklis – who had just left his beloved Greece for Canada – started his own catering business, Chefs Catering, in 1974. Endowed with an ability to adapt to his clients’ needs and an understanding of the catering business, Siklis and his company stood out in the industry. Predominantly driven by subsidized cafeterias, the local family business quickly went from supplying a single office cafeteria to more than 60 locations around the GTA.
Yet, after 27 years at the helm of the company, it was time for Siklis to hand over the reins to his son Justin, who had been working by his side from as far back as he could recall. “I never really questioned who would take care of the family business. It’s a family project we all contributed to and worked together for,” explained Justin.
But taking over a well-established business is not always as simple as it looks. Just as a business plan helps one reach short and long-term business goals and a succession plan helps facilitate a transition, overcoming new challenges can help open the door to new opportunities. In an environment which had become markedly more difficult and an industry that went from local to global, Justin had to adapt and broaden the company’s scope in a specific market that could help the company survive and generate a new wave of growth: corporate catering.
With a determination to take the family business to the next level, commitment to deliver the best experience regardless of the client’s sizes, and an unbridled attention to the quality of their services, the local company rapidly set itself apart from the competition. Over 40 years after its humble beginnings, the family business has grown throughout the GTA with locations in Toronto, Burlington, Oshawa and Richmond Hill, and boasts an impressive roster of corporate clients (now the majority of the business) including Staples Canada, Apple Canada, CGI and Coca Cola Canada, to only name a few.
Inspired to make an impact
Deeply grateful for the company’s success, Justin felt the need to incorporate a giving-back initiative to his community and share his family’s passion with others.
That’s when he met Red Door Family Shelter, a charitable organization that has been providing safe and supportive emergency shelter to over 500 families in the GTA every year. By partnering with Red Door, Chefs Catering would be helping them in their work of delivering support services to homeless families, refugees, and women escaping domestic violence with their children, as well as developing programs to help families heal and rebuild their lives.
“We are humbled and extremely thankful for our partnership with Chefs Catering,” explains executive director, Carol Latchford. “This opportunity will have a huge impact on our organization’s bottom-line and the families we serve.”
“When people feel safe, are cared for and well fed, it gives them a sense of dignity and it empowers them in other aspects of their life,” explains Justin. “We all know the cost of food and it doesn’t take much to do what we’re doing, it just requires a time commitment.”
One thoughtful idea – an impactful change
In order to help the charitable organization and make a big difference, Chefs Catering created the Red Door Menu, a “buy one give one” program where companies of all sizes can donate to the shelter by simply ordering from this special menu. While the team volunteers their time to prepare and serve meals to the shelter, the volume of orders received enables Chefs Catering to cover the food costs of the donated meals – so companies can give back effortlessly.
Merging business growth with a social perspective, the partnership launched by Justin not only helps him fulfill his commitment to give back, but also generates job opportunities and a viable business plan. Programs such as this show that with a little creativity and the right partners, companies of all sizes can create impactful programs and make a difference in their communities.
Célia Berlemont is a Belgium native and Toronto-bound PR practitioner and writer. With a BA in Public Relations from Brussels and a MA in Journalism obtained in Sweden, she is well-travelled, multilingual and in tune with both local and global industry trends.