Ottawa catering company grew despite COVID-19, set to surpass its pre-pandemic earnings

Editor's Note

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Without a doubt, My Catering Group (MCG) is one of Ottawa’s favourite catering services, boasting clients like the Ottawa International Airport, the Museum of Nature, Ottawa Art Gallery, and even the Speaker of the House of Commons. 

Founded in 2014 by Derick Cotnam, the business caters everything from corporate events and high-end weddings, to smaller get-togethers, even offering an at-home delivery option. While Cotnam has spent much of his career in the food industry — he was just 14 years old when he first started working at a pizzeria — his journey to MCG had some twists and turns. 

In his early 20s, Cotnam became a sous-chef at a large restaurant in Ottawa. “It was kind of like a sink or swim scenario — I took that and ran with it,” he says. By 24, he had moved to Bermuda to work at a high-end resort. Despite the luxurious venue, staff were working 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week. 

Seeing how hard it was to find a work-life balance, Cotnam decided to completely switch industries, moving to the financial sector. Within one and a half years, however, Cotnam found that he was “not at all passionate about selling life insurance and investments,” he says. 

A New Chapter 

Cotnam realized his true passion was for “cooking, hospitality and entertaining people,” he says. “I just wanted to figure out a way to be able to do it for myself and with people that I really enjoy working with” — which is where MCG came in. 

By 2012, Cotnam had his business up and running. For two years, he worked various restaurant gigs part-time while running MCG. “For a very long time, I didn't really take any income from the company,” he says — but come 2014, leading MCG was Cotnam’s full-time job.

Within a handful of years, MCG was landing catering contracts like a 1200-person party for HEXO, an 800-person event for the closing of parliament’s Center Block, and a Deloitte holiday party for 500 people.

For Hexo, MCG provided a chicken-and-ribs-style buffet barbecue, while at Deloitte, they offered a cheese charcuterie station, and “a raw bar where our chefs (were) shucking oysters, putting tuna crudo together in front of people,” Cotnam says.  


The Party’s Over — Or Is It?

Since COVID-19, parties with hundreds of people can feel like a distant daydream. Just before the pandemic hit, MCG had picked up a contract with the Ottawa International Airport to supply their grab-and-go-foods, creating on average $100,000 of revenue per month. 

It was those numbers that made MCG eligible for the government subsidies that kept them in operation for the first part of the pandemic. “Had we not had that job, the business might not be in existence,” Cotnam explains. 

To stay afloat, Cotnam and his team launched ‘MCG At Home’, a meal-delivery platform with a rotating four-course menu. Before the pandemic, Cotnam says his business was on-track to triple its 2019 revenue. As it currently stands, MCG’s forecasts already surpass what they were set to make in January 2020 — three months before COVID-19 hit. 

However, with the pandemic’s current third wave, Cotnam says he’s unsure what lies ahead. “I get pretty friggin anxious about what the future is going to be,” he says. “If everything turns around with the pandemic, there's going to be lots of opportunities — we're going to be operating at full capacity.”

The Bright Side of Business is an editorial feature focused on sharing positive stories of business success.

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