by Bill More
I was lucky enough to reconnect with Jim Barrack of Barrack’s Hospitality Group.
Like so many others in a ‘family’ business Jim has been at it ---- really --- his whole life.
Jim is now 51, and has been at the business, officially, since 1982, or about age 18.
Between you and me, however, he admitted that he did his first solo catering event at age
13, at Klaus Radio, with one other mentor who really kind of got out of his way but offered guidance as needed.
Barrack’s Catering began in 1933, at the corner of Knoxville and Ravine, at a small commercial kitchen. All catering was done offsite at that time. With Jim’s help and guidance they bought the property that is now the corporate office at 1224 Pioneer Parkway in Peoria and added their banquet facility to offer a venue for special events, parties, celebrations, and more. When they left their prior location annual sales totaled about $220,000. At their new location, and with explosive growth, annual sales now top $2 Million, and they have been recognized as one of the 5,000 top growing private businesses in the nation. Most of their work (80%) is done offsite with 20% of the business at their banquet location.
When asked Jim said that some traditions never change. When he started in the business it was meat and potatoes. It still is today. Over the years they have offered a mashed potato station, and while the trend faded 15 years ago or so, the trend is back there again.
What is old is new again. Barrack’s also offers a New York Style Cheesecake station, and finds that ‘station’ catering is more popular than ever. They have even introduced an Asian Noodle station for weddings and parties with great success. Chocolate Fountains and Ice Sculptures are not nearly as popular as they had been in the past. He also admits that with new LED lighting ideas they can quickly use up-lighting and really change the feel of a banquet facility. He finds that creative and fun.
Jim further said that he sees a trend in catering toward small dish options, like tapas, but he really does not expect that trend to really catch on in the Peoria market. He finds the catering market to continue to grow, offering box lunches for events, and finds his clients offering Customer Appreciation days or weekends where they can introduce their products to customers and prospects and feed them at the same time. That is the definition of win (for the sponsor of the event), win (for the provider of the catering), and win (the customers and prospects). He admits that he loves those events, maybe for those same reasons.
His one surprise over the years has been the use of technology and email. Where before a great deal of work was done by phone and personal visit, he now finds that he can fulfill requests, offer menu ideas and pricing, contracts and agreements, and 90% of it is all done electronically. They are up to the task admitting they pride themselves in their responsiveness to requests and pricing in 24 hours or so of the request. That is service!
He is a bit disappointed that so many companies are less responsive and has to breathe deeply while awaiting estimates and call backs from others. Such is life.
Unlike many, many other small businesses, Barrack’s has found a solid, stable, reliable, and trustworthy staff, many of whom have been with him for years and years. He has only great things to say about them and to thank his long, loyal, and repeat customer base for their continued success.