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Elizabethan Catering Services Ltd.: Specializing in Creative Culinary Events
Elizabeth and Steven Marsh have been in the catering business for over a quarter of a century, and the couple is still welcoming challenging events with open arms. The pair founded Elizabethan Catering Services Ltd. (ECS) in their basement in 1985, a few years after moving to Canada from the United Kingdom. Now ECS is the oldest surviving catering company in the Edmonton market. The company specializes in high-end, unique catering events, including weddings, corporate and private parties, and film shoots. Over the last few decades, the company has catered coordinated thousands of events – some as far away as Vancouver – from its headquarters in Spruce Grove, Alberta.
Steven trained as a chef in England at the Brighton Technical College. He graduated in 1978 and honed his craft at several establishments, including hospitals and restaurants, before leaving for Canada in 1980. Elizabeth, meanwhile, worked for a marketing company in England prior to her current occupation. “I knew nothing about catering, except that I had scrubbed pots for a few years,” she admits. Steven worked for a few years with Boatel Remote Site, quickly moving up to general manager before tiring of the constant travel. Thus, ECS was born on a philosophy of tailoring events that suit the needs of clients in every aspect, from the décor to the menu.
Unusual Requests Encouraged
ECS has served a wide range of clients and functions over the last few decades. Elizabeth and Steven work hard to guarantee client satisfaction. “We believe in our clients and we fully subscribe to what’s important to them,” explains Elizabeth. “We’re not a cookie-cutter business. We customize with everyone from day one.”
Elizabeth and Steven have honoured requests from the mundane to the highly memorable. “I think our most outrageous event was a launch for Rattlesnake Beer,” says Elizabeth. “The organizers required cooked rattlesnake at the event and we delivered.” Unsurprisingly, many of the most unique requests come from wedding clients. “We had a client a few years ago who wanted 500 pink doves released at a church,” says Elizabeth. “Another wedding was done completely in costume and was written as a play. They even had a train.”
Everyone gets the royal treatment from ECS, and every once in a while the team gets to practice on real royalty. “We’ve had some celebrity clients,” says Elizabeth. “We put on an event for Prince Edward.” High-end clients are attracted to ECS because, Elizabeth says, “Steven never says no to trying something new. He’s a chef and a genius.”
The company employs around 150 people, all working toward the common goal of creating a memorable event tailored to each customer. Between upgrading menu items and accommodating custom requests, Elizabeth and Steven are always looking for something new. “We’re constantly aware of what is available,” explains Elizabeth. To facilitate these endeavours, she and her husband have built a network of strong supplier relationships with loyal strategic partners that supply fine china, equipment, linen, organic ingredients and specialty requests. “That industry doesn’t change a lot and we have known many of them for years,” she says. Much of the food is farm fresh, including turkeys from a local organic farm.
All of Elizabethan’s tasty food items are prepared in house and from scratch. The current kitchen is 10,000 square feet, but Elizabeth says she and Steven are always thinking about growing. “We’ve moved several times, but for now we want to stay in Spruce Grove,” she explains. No matter the location of ECS’ facilities or staging grounds, the company’s staff members are ever mindful of how they portray and represent the company’s commitment to consistent professionalism.
ECS constantly fine-tunes more than just its in-person presentation, however. Technology is starting to play a larger role in the business, keeping Elizabeth and Steven in touch with their employees, suppliers and clients in a number of ways. “We’re using new resources to keep everyone connected,” says Elizabeth. “We want everyone on the same page so we can cater to the specific needs of these events.”
For example, Steven has been working on implementing a live-chat system for the website, offering online support to clients. The new system will help improve communication, a component Elizabeth says is vital to the business. “We listen to our customers and our employees,” she explains. “Every single person is helping to market the company.
Because of management’s attentive, proactive nature, ECS is thriving, and Elizabeth says she has been staying cautiously optimistic about the current state of the economy. “We try not to let it affect us,” she says. Admittedly, markets are shrinking, and the company has seen an increase in competition. However, Elizabeth says that can be positive. “We don’t worry about what our competition is doing,” she explains. “In fact, we appreciate competition because it keeps us sharp.”
Few catering companies will go as far as ECS to customize an event. Elizabeth and Steven work closely with clients to design not only an unforgettable meal, but also an unforgettable experience. Elizabethan Catering Services Ltd. stands apart from market competitors with creativity, communication and class.