Four decades is a long time, and it is especially long in the competitive hospitality industry, which is cutthroat and not for the faint at heart.
But one constant has always been Vancouver’s pioneering catering company The Lazy Gourmet, which just kick-started its 40th year.
And, many current clients are still the same clients from 40 years ago.
Susan Mendelson started the Vancouver-based catering and event-planning company in 1979 with just one small shop – one of the first catering companies of its kind in the city.
At the time, clients would bring in their own dishes and take food home. Even then, it was enterprising and sustainable.
“The idea was, the client was actually the ‘lazy gourmet,’” explained Kevin Mazzone, general manager of The Lazy Gourmet.
That meant clients could take the food home in their own dish to pass it off as their own.
The business model caught fire and took off.
“It was at a time when people were not eating as well as they are now. This was a way to get really good, high-quality dishes for the family,” added Mazzone.
Growth and expansion
Over the decades, the scope of The Lazy Gourmet has evolved and expanded.
“It’s a little bit more advanced now. We provide full-scale catering and event-planning services,” said Mazzone.
The Lazy Gourmet does everything from mac-and-cheese kids’ parties to fully produced, $200,000-plus events.
“One time we produced a wedding for 250 people – we started on a Tuesday and executed it on Saturday,” Mazzone said. “If we can do it for our clients, we will.”
Local products and sustainability
While the scale of the company has grown – it now has about 140 employees – many of its initial, core values and beliefs remain.
For example, care for the environment is key.
“There has definitely always been a focus on sustainability and local foods – it’s part of the ethos of The Lazy Gourmet,” Mazzone said.
This means purchasing local products first, tailoring the menu for the season and being aware of waste.
“Catering can be a very wasteful industry, so we try wherever possible to limit our carbon footprint,” emphasized Mazzone.
“We don’t over-order; we ask the client a multitude of questions to ensure the menu is perfect for the type of party they want, to minimize any waste.”
Asking questions and listening to answers is a company policy across the board – and a big part of what makes The Lazy Gourmet able to successfully organize popular events.
“We definitely bring our clients’ vision to life, but we also know what works and what doesn’t work and offer alternatives.”
This means using four decades of experience and knowledge to plan the perfect party, based on what the client wants.
“With 40 years in the business, we are able to anticipate a lot of things people may not know they needed or wanted,” said Mazzone.
“When it comes to a party, we know what it takes to make it work and we’ll make it work.”
The next decade
Looking towards the future, Mazzone says culinary expertise will always be a key part of business interactions, whether as an on-boarding company lunch or a banquet to woo a partnership.
“People are coming from all over the world to visit Vancouver for business, and we are a part of it,” he said.
And this year, for The Lazy Gourmet’s 40th anniversary, there will be a lot of food and a lot of celebration.
“Susan, Shannon [Boudreau, director of sales and events,] and I are really looking forward to launching our 40th year with a bang and celebrating with loyal, current, past and new clients,” Mazzone said.
In a world of good food, everyone can eat like a gourmet.