The Butler Did It Catering Company: Cooking Up Successful Events

Darryl Ray, Jamie Avantini and Erin Avantini founded The Butler Did It Catering Company (the Butler) in 1994. Young, enthusiastic, and experienced in various aspects of the food, beverage and hospitality sectors, the trio quickly established their company as a premier catering service in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the company continues to offer affordable elegance.

Jamie has a long history in the food business, having worked as a sous chef in several high-end restaurants before the Butler. He now serves as head chef, leading the Butler’s kitchen crew to produce amazing new features each day. His wife, Erin, first worked with Darryl as catering manager of the Brock House Restaurant, where he was maître d'. In her position as the Butler’s controller, she works behind the scenes in sales and marketing, and helps out in every other aspect of the business. Darryl is the CEO and front man of the operation, specializing in event management and maintaining service standards. “I’ve been in the food service industry since I was 15 years old,” says Darryl. “I was 23 when we started the company.”

The company started small, when Jamie’s rugby team needed catering for an event, and the three worked together to provide a quality meal for his teammates. “We did very well, so we decided to offer more,” says Darryl. While the company began as a freelance, off-premises caterer, within a year Darryl, Jamie and Erin purchased a small food product business, establishing a minimally equipped 450-square foot kitchen. Over the past 19 years the company has grown into one of the most successful mid-priced catering companies in the region, earning a reputation among customers, venues, suppliers and the industry for providing healthy, delicious food and consistent, reliable service.

The constantly expanding company currently operates out of a 12,000-square foot facility it opened in February 2012, a building in which the kitchen alone takes up 7,000 square feet. Along with the main kitchen, the Butler operates three cafés. The Butler Bistro is located at the company’s headquarters, offering breakfast, gourmet sandwiches and special entrées from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Two other locations serve hungry people at Emily Carr University and Richmond City Hall. The City Hall location operates during the same hours as the headquarters bistro, while the campus café is open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. to feed students and personnel with varying schedules.

Style and Flair for a Reasonable Fare

The Butler offers a broad menu to fit any event and price point. Corporate meetings can take advantage of an early morning breakfast spread with fresh baked goods, fruits, breakfast wraps, waffles and fresh juice. For lunch, the company offers up baskets of sandwiches and wraps like those served in its three cafés. Salads, soups, chips and fresh veggies make great add-on side dishes. Customers can also choose from gourmet entrées that take inspiration from ethnic cuisine. From hearty beef stroganoff to a light vegetarian curry, the Butler offers meals to satisfy any palate. Buffet options are also available with classic hot lunches or globally inspired dishes like sushi, pastas and Mediterranean edibles like spanakopita.

For more formal events, the Butler offers buffet and sit-down catering. The staff works with customers to customize event menus and set the right atmosphere for weddings, fundraisers, birthday parties, anniversary gatherings and holiday parties. The company has established partnerships with several regional event-planning businesses offering reciprocal support through event design. Testimonials on the company’s website laud Darryl and the team for their outstanding professionalism, fair pricing and tasty food. “That’s what really sets us apart,” says Darryl. “With customer service, we go above and beyond on a regular basis. As far as value goes, we offer quality and quantity.”

Hearty Services = Healthy Customer Base

According to Darryl, the team does upward of 30 luncheons per day through the company’s café operations, and almost 1,000 events per year. Many of the company’s clients are well-known corporations, and the team often finds itself serving thousands of people at a time. “We did a Costco grand opening with 3,500 people in two hours,” explains Darryl. “We’ve worked with Disney-Pixar, Sysco, Mercedes-Benz and Apple, too.”

At the heart of the Butler are 60 full-time and up to 80 part-time, on-call employees, all of whom provide clients with the best experience and are treated with the utmost respect and dignity in return. The team’s dedication and professionalism drive successful event coordination under pressure. “The most interesting project we’ve had was a contract with the Olympic Broadcasting Services,” says Darryl. “We catered over 27,000 meals for the [2010 Winter] Olympics. That was a two-year project.”

The company has built a reputation in the industry for service and value, two components that have been integral to the Butler’s ongoing growth. Through a network of relationships, the company team continues to pick up contracts with repeat and new customers. All of the prep and service work is performed in house, and the company is taking advantage of its new location and technology to help internal communication and operations run as smoothly as possible.

“We’re making some technological investments,” says Darryl, referring to the company’s new online ordering system that allows more efficient event design while keeping track of previous business (the system tracks events, and repeat customers can log on to see ordering details from previous contracts). On top of a fresh system, Darryl is looking at vertical expansion into more café and corporate opportunities. “We’re also talking about getting into wholesale,” he says.

The Butler is a growing success in the mid-priced events market in and around Vancouver. Darryl, Jamie and Erin continue to build relationships with partners, suppliers and clients, opening doors for future growth. As it nears its 20th anniversary, The Butler Did It Catering Company continues to bring heart to the hearth and never takes quality off the table.