On January 15, 2018, we closed Corner Kitchen Catering. This was a big step for us, but one we believe will be a decision that will be for the better. By way of explanation…
Anyone that has owned a restaurant has gotten the request to cater an event. At Corner Kitchen, from the moment we opened the doors, we were getting requests to cook at someone’s home, do a wedding reception or to bring a dozen lunches to a nearby office.
Joe had made a reputation for himself doing small events, and it seemed logical to continue that once we opened the restaurant. For the first few years, we just did these things out of the back kitchen at Corner Kitchen. It made life a little tough at times, but we said “Yes” to the things that made sense and didn’t do the things that didn’t. Joe referred to it as, “pulling an elephant through a knot-hole”.
In 2012, we saw the building at 48 Biltmore, and there was a huge area in the basement that seemed perfect for a catering kitchen. So, with Joe Scully’s guidance (and a huge amount of energy) we formed Corner Kitchen Catering as a separate company, and built out that kitchen so that we could prep and cater almost any size event. We had an easy alley access, lots of storage, and we worked our way up to three delivery vehicles, a mobile kitchen and almost 50 employees.
Since then we have done everything from ten lunches at the VA Hospice to a 750-person event. We have helped our clients celebrate their most special occasions. We loved making our catering special and it has has been enormously satisfying. Along the way, we got to work with great partners and outstanding staff. I feel confident that we delivered – no pun intended – restaurant quality food to places as unique as a barn in the middle of Fairview and the US Cellular Center, from Breweries to back porches.
Our goal was to fill a niche that few other caterers do. We strived to do everything from barbecue buffets to multi-course dinners that were cooked from scratch on-site. Each event, no matter the budget, was treated as special.
Suffice it to say, catering is a tough business. Every event is different. Every event is done outside our building. Each venue has its own idiosyncrasies. Heck, some places don’t even have running water. (Yes, they make a portable hand-washing station that provides hot water. We have one of those.)
Here’s where it gets tough. Corner Kitchen Catering accounted for less than 10 percent of our revenue for our three companies, but it required far more than that in psychic energy and physical effort each week. Running restaurants is hard work, but catering takes the level of difficulty to another place entirely. There is little margin for error when you are working an hour from your main kitchen.
Making the decision to close Catering took us some time. Joe and I don’t like to stop doing things that we feel are important to our guests and staff. Over time we came to realize that our focus needs to be fully on our restaurants and the things that help make them successful. Closing Corner Kitchen Catering, and not working with the great staff in that company, was, and is, bittersweet. But it was also the right thing for the other hundred people that work for us and the guests that come to see us every day.
With that said, we have plans for the kitchen under Chestnut. Initially, we will work to develop more hand-crafted foods for use in our restaurants. We will continue to produce our own demi-glace, chips and ice cream. We will continue to house-make all of our desserts. The bartending staff will continue making the various concoctions that make the Cocktail program so successful.
Look for more great ideas coming out of the basement at 48 Biltmore. We are excited to extend the foundation of our culinary offerings, both literally and figuratively.