January 8, 2018
WBJ 2018 Best of Business

Best of Business: Peppers plans for precision

Peppers Artful Events
John and Susan Lawrence

Peppers Artful Events' ambition was too large, even from the beginning, to stay confined to a prepared-foods operation based in a Victorian home on Main Street in the center of Northborough.

When the caterer began 30 years ago, it took less than a year to do its first wedding. Even as Peppers has grown to 25 full-time workers and another 125 part-timers, it still doesn't shy away from taking on an event of any size.

"We've never turned down an event because it was too large for us," co-owner John Lawrence said.

Lawrence, a chef, has been around since nearly the beginning. Founder Susan Lawrence – the woman who would become his wife – invited him for an interview a few years after starting the business.

The little Victorian home wasn't impressive at first, Lawrence recalled, but he was taken by the creativity of what was done inside.

Now, Peppers is among the area's largest caterers, handling events as far as the Berkshires, Connecticut and New Hampshire. It has added in-house floral, bartending and bakery services in addition to its full-scale catering.

Peppers handles events regularly at places like the Hanover Theatre and Mechanics Hall in Worcester, and it signed a deal to become the exclusive caterer for Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston.

The Worcester Art Museum includes Peppers on a short list of caterers it regularly uses for events, said Janice Potter, the museum's events sales manager.

"It's important that we have the same quality each and every time for our clients," said Potter, who helps oversee about 60 private events a year at the museum.

"We've certainly found that with Peppers," Potters said. "Their attention to detail, it's just phenomenal."

As much as Peppers helps prepare and serve food at such events, half or more of its events take place in spaces not designed for such functions, places like homes or businesses. That adds another wrinkle for Peppers.

Peppers planners have to make sure there are enough power outlets and in places where they're needed. The company prides itself on serving food fast and on time, so the Peppers planners time how long it should take for a server to walk from the kitchen to the farthest-away table to make sure they can serve each guest an entree within an allotted window of time.

"The old adage, 'Proper planning prevents poor performance,' works well for us," Lawrence said.

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