#Toronto#Small business#Catering

Turning a successful family business into a giving back opportunity to the community

Célia Berlemont
|Apr 5|magazine13 min read

Far from the general accepted ideas that imply only large corporations have the financial assets to make a $250,000 donation to a charity, Chefs Catering is a small, family-owned catering company that figured out a way to give back in a big way by simply being creative.

Donating 50,000 meals over a year is not something a lot of small business can afford. Yet for Justin Siklis, President of Chefs Catering, a well-thought initiative is all it takes to help Red Door Family Shelter provide food to their residents. With a simple yet impactful endeavour, corporations that already require catering services can now automatically gift meals to the women and children seeking refuge at Red Door by simply ordering meals from a special menu.

A family affair

Over four decades ago in Greece, chef Peter Siklis developed a love for the restaurant industry. A passion that he quickly passed on to all of those with whom he worked, in particular his son Justin Siklis... “As far as I can remember, the kitchen has been home. I’ve always been working alongside my dad.” shared Justin.

In 1974, now living in Canada Peter founded Chefs Catering – a catering company that reflected his hard work, his ability to adapt to his client’s needs and his understanding of the catering industry. Servicing a number of social gatherings such as weddings and special celebrations at first, the business experienced a strong success over the years, growing beyond his expectations. Driven primarily by subsidized cafeterias, the local family business quickly went from a single office cafeteria to more than 60 locations around the GTA. “My family comes from humble beginnings. My grandparents and parents started their own companies from nothing and turned them into successful businesses,” explained Justin.

By maintaining a steady focus on delicious and nutritious foods and high-quality service, chef Peter Siklis built a thriving catering business during his 27-year career at the helm of the company. In 2001, the time came to hand over the reins to the next generation. “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.

By that time, the operating environment his father knew had changed dramatically. With the arrival of large, international companies in the industry, local businesses had no other choice than to adapt. To overcome this challenge, Justin opened the door to what would be the next gigantic step in Chefs Catering’s history: corporate catering. 

His unbridled attention to quality soon led the company to pursue expansion plans and to continually reach new heights, with locations all across the GTA (Toronto, Burlington, Oshawa and Richmond Hill) and with corporate catering as the majority of the business. “There are a lot of local caterers in the city, but it’s our flexibility, partnership and commitment to deliver the best experience regardless of the corporation’s size that set us apart,” explained Justin. Today, the company’s is in full swing and boasts an impressive roster of corporate clients, including Staples Canada, Coca Cola Canada, CGI and Apple Canada to only name a few.

A call to give back

With a deep sense of gratitude for the company’s success, Justin felt the need to incorporate an initiative to give back to his community, sharing his family’s passion with others.

For the past 35 years, Red Door Family Shelter has been delivering support services to homeless families, refugees, and women escaping intimate partner abuse with their children. A charitable organization that provides safe and supportive emergency shelter to over 500 families in the Greater Toronto Area every year, Red Door develops programs to help families heal, rebuild their lives and integrate back into the community.

 “We are humbled and extremely thankful for our partnership with Chefs Catering,” explains Carol Latchford, Executive Director at Red Door Family Shelter. “This opportunity will have a huge impact on our organization’s bottom-line and the families we serve.”

“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,” explains Justin. “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.”

Small company, big impact

When creativity and a desire to help are aligned, you don’t need to write a big cheque to make a big difference. That’s how 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. The program has a goal of donating 50,000 meals in 2019, which represents a savings of $250,000 that Red Door will be able to reallocate from buying meals into other much-needed services.

It can be very challenging for local companies to survive in a global industry, find an opportunity for growth and make an impact in their community. Yet, inspirational initiatives such as this demonstrate that it is possible to create the perfect balance between community involvement and business development. 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 more job opportunities and a viable business plan.