Two Caterers Celebrates 20 Years
Two Caterers founder, owner and CEO Angela Petro is an example of an adaptive business leader. As a result, her company’s modest start 20 years ago today, as a small, inexpensive catering option, has flourished into a high-end service for events and weddings, large and small. In recent years, Petro established a permanent home for Two Caterers, a combined office, kitchen and event space at 550 S. High St. And, in 2015 she created restaurant and comfort food catering service Sweet Carrot.
At the beginning, though, Petro bartended at Barrister Hall, a former neighbor of the building Two Caterers now inhabits. She and her initial business partner, whose part in the company Petro later bought, managed to weasel their way into the bar’s kitchen during closed hours and commence the cooking part of their new catering business.
Those early days were a learning experience. Their first event, a funeral serving 30 or 40 mourners, was supplied with “enough pasta salad to feed the entire mammal part of the zoo.” Knowing planning and portioning, as well as recognizing the diverse needs of different clients, were the next natural steps.
A couple years in, Petro’s partner moved to California. To find the money for the second half of the business, Petro went in search of loans, but faced rejection from every bank. The last to refuse her directed her to an entrepreneurial class where she learned what to focus on to keep her business going.
“‘You don’t really want to be a chef, so don’t put all your focus there. Hire people that are better at it,’” she’d tell herself. “‘You don’t really want to be a sales person. You want to be a business owner. You want to hire good people and empower them and grow.’”
Her purpose in Two Caterers found, Petro now had to disappoint someone. Longtime clients who expected catering for five people, or for a sudden 30-person box lunch on a Sunday, had to learn the words “we can’t do that.”
While it seemed unfair to loyal customers, it was an act of balancing fairness for her team, who she credits with both the growth of Two Caterers and herself as a leader. No matter what stage of the business employees entered, Petro wholly believes in the everlasting impact every person has had on the business.
“There’s no way on earth we’d be here 20 years later if it wasn’t for all of those people contributing everything they contributed,” she said.
One of her earliest contributors provided a family recipe for corn salsa, a staple item on both Two Caterers’ and Sweet Carrot’s menus. Their chef of 14 years, Dave Loik, supplies the fun and creativity. While Betty Crocker and Martha Stewart cookbooks once guided the menu (and still live in Petro’s possession), Loik’s recipes are innovative.
“I could describe to him what I was thinking about, and he’d be able to create it on the spot, and he’d be able to create it in the right way,” Petro said.
If she were starting Two Caterers today, she’d only bring her team in sooner. Fostering leadership among them, her employees began filling roles she initially occupied. Finally allowed to step back, Petro was able to open Sweet Carrot two years ago.
Though she’s certainly moved away from the jobs she used occupy, like cooking, portioning and serving, Petro gets a hands on experience every now and then. She enjoys the occasional night of bartending and has no qualms about packing a van for an event. A true business type, though, she’s all about big ideas and end products.
“I don’t like the details in the middle. That’s not what I’m good at,” she admits.
Finding out just what she is good at was its own journey. Tuning into her passion, which turned out to be leading, not catering, and sharpening the skills to fulfill it has been a constant process over the company’s two-decade existence. As with any successful company, that process can only continue and evolve in the years to come.
For more information on their celebration of 20 years, visit www.20yearsfresh.com/