The Secret Ingredient To Business Success

April 17, 2023

When I launched Savoury City Catering back in 2003, as an entrepreneur I knew I was in for the ride of my life. But if someone told me I’d experience even half the incredible moments I have, a younger-me wouldn’t believe it. For indulging minds considering a career in catering and events, or those starting their own business, allow me to share a small taste of the last 20 years in the hopes it will inspire you to new heights. Especially at a time when businesses and event planners alike need an extra infusion of creativity to stay on top of their hosting game! —Donna Wadsworth

don’t be afraid to experiment. As a catering professional, people often ask: What’s the most outrageous client request you’ve received? One memory that comes to mind was from a wedding client in 2014. The couple, after seeing a film about shark finning, requested a 5-course, plated, all-Vegan menu. Now this may sound like a common request, but this was 2014, and nobody was talking about the vegan lifestyle the way we do today. To top it off, this was a destination wedding for the majority of the guests coming to Vancouver from Israel and Mexico. They were expecting meat. Where do you even start? We were in cookbooks, figuring out how to replace eggs and butter. This taught us about experimentation, and encouraged us to be creative at a time when the Internet wasn’t exactly crawling with all this information yet. By the end of the evening, several guests approached me to confirm what they’d just scarfed down. They kept checking in with, “We didn’t have any meat? Wow, so delicious – and we feel so good!”

embrace challenges. As a business owner, you never know what will get thrown at you. Back in 2011, I was hired for a wedding on Gambier Island, at a location entirely off the grid, and solar-powered to boot. First of all, back then I had a morbid fear of open water, but we had to get all our supplies and equipment to Lion’s Bay in West Vancouver on private boats. It took eight boats because there was no other option, not even a barge. To add to the challenge, the client wanted a roast suckling pig. So what do you do? You strap it to the roof of a boat, beg the marine operator not to speed, or else risk losing dinner altogether, and secure ATV’s island side to get that pig safely to its destination. It was the most challenging event I’ve ever catered and taught me to be resourceful.

adapt to the needs of your audience. One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in the industry is how caterers have had to adapt to ever-changing needs and dietary requirements. Serving people from one common menu is a luxury from a bygone era. Now we’ve got Vegan, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Keto, Paleo, “I can’t eat quinoa”, and Spectrum Sensitivity. All of this is now part of our dietary lexicon. Some people can’t be near squash. Today a plated dinner event might include 23 different dietary requests, so our role is to satisfy all these needs. We have to remain on top of our game since all these other food delivery services have changed things. People want readily-accessible food with lots of flavours from around the globe, but they also expect dietary needs to be met. These are some of the emerging trends which my team is tasked to find creative and tasty solutions for.

find ways to stay inspired. Like every business, revitalization is core to improving our offerings. For me, this takes shape when I travel. I’ve been to India, Thailand, Laos, Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, France, Italy, and most recently, Germany and Denmark. I’ve even spent three years in the Arctic (if that counts!). Keeping it fresh for me, means getting to travel the world, go to restaurants, sample food, read magazines and search online, all to be in a constant state of “search” for new inspiration. I look for the fun things and try to see the excitement in the search, thinking, “How can this be adapted for the catering world?”.

cherish your longtime clients. The best part of this job year-over-year, I have to say, is the warm fuzzies you get from doing work that goes above and beyond client expectations. And if I’m honest, feeling part of the family when clients have invited Savoury City back into their offices and the circle of life of their families: from baby showers to weddings to memorials. This career has given me many opportunities to impress clients with my passion for bringing people together over great food and I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding 20 years.

Savoury City Catering owner Donna Wadsworth has seen it all in her decades of experience running catering companies and working as a chef across Canada and internationally. To create perfectly orchestrated events, Donna lives by the motto “fail to prepare then prepare to fail,” paired with a meticulous attention to detail and the ability to perfectly envision the flow of an event from beginning to end.


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