When the executive team at Russell Morin Fine Catering began signing exclusive agreements and management contracts with clients, they were looking for a way to survive the recession.
But the innovative strategy has far exceeded those expectations. Since last year, the Attleboro company has seen profitability double.
“So far this year, sales are up a million dollars,” said Russell Morin, CEO of the business his grandfather founded 101 years ago. “By year’’s end, that figure could be a million and a half. We’ve hired 10 new full-time people and 40 part-timers.”
Morin and his managers developed their new approach after discussions with top caterers from around the country. “In the past we focused on weddings, which are still a big part of our business. But when the recession hit a few years ago, well, there were fewer.”
The CEO says he also studied “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don’t” by James C. Collins. The book advises companies to focus on their field of competence.
As a result, the company began looking toward new markets in Greater Providence, the Worcester, Mass., area, and eastern Connecticut – and began offering new services. In addition to working with established function halls, the company approached museums and historic properties, which are not familiar with how the business works.
The Morin company formed exclusive management partnerships with eight venues. Among them: the Worcester Art Museum, Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton, and Jonathan Edwards Winery in Stonington, Conn. Starting early next year, the list will include the Providence Public Library.
“As the exclusive caterer, we can do a better job,” Morin said. “We can provide a more consistent product.”
The company also signed management contracts for institutions that already hosted events.
One such property is Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston, an historic ballroom owned by the Rhode Island Shriners. Since Morin Catering took over management in 2008, it is once again profitable.
As a third part of the strategy, the company has signed contracts to provide food and beverage services for a number of major events, including the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, the Newport Flower Show, and tournaments at Newport’s International Tennis Hall of Fame.
“We do all the work,” Morin says. “We run their restaurants and concession stands. We feed the performers and the press. We set up tents for sponsors. We’ve geared our business to that by hiring a beverage manager and creating a beverage management department.”
According to Morin, the company’s latest growth spurt is expected to continue for several more years.
“I’ve been through four recessions, he said. “I’ve learned that you can’t stand still. We also have the best employees in the business, and we take care of them.” •