Carlo Cecchetto is owner of Roma Catering in Calgary.
How and why did Roma Catering start?
Cecchetto: Roma Catering started in 1969. It’s our 50th anniversary this year. We have some festivities that we’re going to do.
It was my parents. My father was a chef in Italy. He came in 1955 to Calgary to work at the Palliser Hotel. But the Palliser paid 60 cents an hour for a cook. And he had to pay back his brother-in-law for bringing him here from Italy. His brother-in-law found him a job with the city for $1.20 an hour. Double. My father stayed with the city from 1955 to 1967 or ’68.
My mother at the same time worked in restaurants. She worked at the Palliser. She worked at City Hall. She worked at Phil’s for years. So they both had a background in restaurants.
I remember growing up, every Sunday my father loved to cook so much that he would invite people to our house. We always had people at our house.
What does the Roma business encompass now?
Cecchetto: We have three locations. Three major locations. There’s the deli with a restaurant. We call it the deli but it’s more of our commissary kitchen. It’s a 6,000-square-foot commercial kitchen. It’s my baby. It’s off Barlow. It has a small restaurant – we call it Romanos. Same as my dad.
Of course, the Italian Club. We’re in partnership with the Italian Club to cook for La Cantina and to do banquets and everything else. To preserve Italian culture really.
And then downtown at the Metropolitan Centre, where it’s mostly corporate catering, a lot of banquets, a lot of weddings.
And we have some smaller venues that are cafeterias.
What’s your best advice for entrepreneurs to cope with the current economy?
Cecchetto: I think in any economy don’t lose sight of what you’re doing. Don’t be discouraged. Analyze your own business plan but then have other people analyze it.
And if nine people out of 10 are going to cut you down but you still believe in that, go for it. Because you’re the one who’s going to make the final decision and in your gut you know it.
But you never know, those nine people might sway you because of a certain reason. You might be able to adjust what you’re doing. But don’t lose sight of your dream.
What does it take to be an entrepreneur?
Cecchetto: I think you have to be driven. An entrepreneur or a business person has to be driven. He has to want to succeed. It’s not good enough just to succeed for money. Although that’s a very good motivating factor. But I think if you only go after the money it gets pretty old really quickly.
So for an entrepreneur you have to do something you love. It’s not work. If you’re driven, hard drive, something you love, it makes it worth getting up in the morning. And you are going to succeed. If you have those two ingredients, I don’t care what you do, you will succeed.
What are your plans for the company? Any other expansion?
Cecchetto: Our five-year plan is really to streamline our operations and we’re really on a holding pattern to see what’s happening with the economy.
I would like to build another kitchen because I see dropoff catering, Skip the Dishes, and all these delivery-type services are really taking off. Going to a restaurant is a great experience but a lot of people don’t want to go to a restaurant.
With the restaurant goes the whole idea that you have to spend more. If you’re sitting down and a really good waiter is serving you, and the food is really good, you don’t mind paying. But because of the economy, again if I can stay home and get that same experience, the quality of food, maybe I’ll be the waiter.
– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business