Take 5 with Olive Chase: Owner, The Casual Gourmet

August 10, 2021

What is the name of your business? What services and/or goods does it provide?

The Casual Gourmet is a full-service catering company. We provide catering, event planning and catering equipment rentals throughout Cape Cod. While weddings comprise much of the catering aspect of our business, we cater private social events and corporate events, as well. In addition, we also operate a café at our Centerville location, and contract cafés at Falmouth Hospital and Cape Cod Hospital, and at Heritage Museums & Gardens.

When did you start your business? How has it changed since then?

The Casual Gourmet started as a small gourmet shop in Centerville in 1986. Thirty-five-plus years later, off-premises catering comprises much of our business. Since I founded the company, everything has changed. There was no internet in 1986, and personal computers were a rarity. Someone inquiring about our service, typically from a relatively nearby location, would call us. I might take a few days to create a proposal and have it typed up, and then mail it out. With the internet we are now able to reach potential clients nationally and internationally. Proposals are emailed out within 24 hours. Software allows us to create proposals accurately and efficiently and manage the accounting needs of the business.

Do you have any suggestions for people considering starting a business?

Know that it will take you more money and more time than you ever thought. Understanding the market is also a crucial part of finding success when starting a business. You may have a great idea, but if the market you intend to capture doesn’t actually need what you hope to sell, no one will buy your great idea. Starting a business is risky. Assessing your ability and willingness to handle risk are hugely important. Most important of all is managing cash flow. More small businesses fail because of a lack of cash than for any other reason. If you start a business and it grows, know that expanding will, once again, eat more money than you anticipate.

What makes your business stand out? What has allowed you to grow?

The Casual Gourmet is, first and foremost, a service business. Food is our main product, but it is our service and attention to detail that have allowed us to grow. Exceptional cuisine is an important part of any event, but if isn’t served by polished and professional staff with smiles on their faces, the overall event misses the mark. So much of what we do is based on the most important event in people’s lives. As an off-premises caterer, we work without a net. Failure is not an option. We need to meticulously plan every aspect of each event well in advance and arrive at our clients’ location completely prepared. Understanding that we absolutely must do what we promise to do without fail is the foundation for much of our growth and longevity. Our ability to manage our finances, to not borrow what we can’t pay back, to make sure our vendors are paid, is another critical facet.

Why do you use a payroll service, and why a local one?

We use a payroll service for the same reasons I mentioned above. It helps greatly with cash management. Using a professional payroll company ensures that I know the exact cost of each payroll period, that payroll taxes and disbursements are up to date, and that our 941s are filed, so we don’t inadvertently get in trouble with the government. With payroll reports at my fingertips, I am able to understand our total payroll costs and keep expenses in line. We use a local payroll service because I want to have a personal approach. This has never been more important than in the past 16 months. BizChecks Payroll has been invaluable in helping us navigate all of the government programs associated with COVID-19: applying for PPP and PPP forgiveness, and understanding the Employee Retention Credit. Anytime I pick up the phone and call BizChecks, I know that Larry and Laurie will speak with me personally, and that I can trust their information.

Also important is BizChecks Payroll’s commitment to our community. They support countless area nonprofit organizations, something we also believe in at The Casual Gourmet because we care deeply about this great place in which we live.