The Loveland Center for Business Development (LCBD) was delighted to begin working with Tracie Reeves Hartman in July 2013. Tracie was full of marvelous ideas. Her original idea was for a breakfast and lunch restaurant that would revolve around building community that would include a room for children, and, of course, offer excellent food. After analyzing all the costs associated with developing such a business, Tracie decided to go a different route – catering. Tracie started Fresh Plate Catering on September 18, 2013. Fresh Plate Catering, a Loveland, Colorado business, provides farm fresh food with a healthy slant.
A highlight in 2014 for Fresh Plate Catering was an invitation from Verboten Brewing to create a special menu for July 1, 2014. The Travel Channel was coming to Verboten to film their brewing process and discuss food and beer pairings. Tracie set up a large grill outside Verboten and went to town with a menu of garlic pork sliders, Angry Boots and agave BBQ, mango jicama slaw, and sirloin shish kabobs marinated in Five Second Frencher with smoked Gouda and ale pimento cheese. To complete the meal, Tracie made a coffee ice cream float made with Killer Boots caramel porter for dessert. I was at this event and ended up getting a second helping – the food was that good.
MAH: Tracie, what do you see in the future for Fresh Plate Catering?
Tracie: In addition to growing as a catering business we will expand into additional food avenues. Those that are being researched and considered are managing a green commercial/incubator kitchen, retail areas for those working out of the commercial kitchen, deli, ready-made-dinners, and/or a food hub that brings several Northern Colorado entities together.
MAH: You were the only person doing all the jobs when you first started. Have you added employees?
Tracie: I have added part-time employees: two chefs who assist in the cooking and food prep, and 5-6 servers.
MAH: What were your biggest obstacles in the first year of business?
- Staying ahead of the game and time management. A question I often ponder, “Is this the best investment of my time at the moment?” If the answer to that question is probably no….I need to turn that answer into a resounding “YES”!
- Being smart in terms of time management and eliminating food waste, and scheduling and menu creation to avoid this.
- Taking recipes and multiplying them by large quantities and still preserving the quality and taste can be challenging and timing of multiple events on the same day.
- Finding the products I desire and at a reasonable price. Knowing what is available since I can design menus around unique foods that are available.
MAH: What are your top selling menu items?
Tracie: Bacon wrapped dates! Seasonal items that include fresh fruits and vegetables that are unique and healthier than what many caterers provide.
MAH: You offered pies at Thanksgiving the first year you were open. How did that go and how many pies did you end up baking?
Tracie: That went well and is a service we do hope to again provide. Because our 2014 October and December were very busy, I did not feel we could provide the quality and service I wanted; we only made pumpkin pies. We baked and sold about 125 in 2013 and 80 in 2014.
MAH: How would you describe the assistance that you received from the LCBD to develop your business?
Tracie: This service has been a huge part of Fresh Plate being successful:
- The one-on-one consultations and direction has been extremely helpful. I have implemented many of the ideas and those that I have not implemented have been because of a lack of time.
- All meetings with volunteer advisers have been extremely beneficial. I have met with at least six volunteers.
- Many of my best partnerships have been based on my relationship with the LCBD.
- I have taken 2-3 of the classes and they have been extremely informative and helpful. I would really like to attend more but, again, I don’t because of lack of time.