The word ‘no’ isn’t in Heather Lang’s vocabulary.
As head of marketing and sales at The Grand Gardens in Sault Ste. Marie, Lang takes her cue from owners Ken Goodship and Lee Gauthier, who, since launching the banquet and catering business in 2010, have made customer service a priority.
“We always say, ‘The answer is yes — now what’s the question?’” Lang said. “What can we do for you? What can we do to make this the best event you’ve been to?”
Hailing from Sault Ste. Marie, Gauthier and Goodship, who had worked in the hospitality industry for years, opened their first location on Dennis Street in the city’s downtown.
In 2012, the pair secured the exclusive contract for catering at the adjacent Elks Hall, and just last autumn, the two took over the lease at the former Riuniti Banquet Hall in the north end of the city, undertaking extensive renovations to give the building a more modern, contemporary look.
“It was completely gutted and redone,” Lang said.
In addition to new floors, washrooms and a roof, the outside of the building has been refaced, complete with landscaping and a canopy to shelter guests from inclement weather.
The main space at the Dennis Street location holds up to 200 people, while a second, smaller room can host 50. The ballroom at the second location seats approximately 400, while a smaller room seats between 80 and 100, depending on the event. The Elks Hall seats 200.
The Grand Gardens offers off-site catering as well. The Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre is a popular spot for hosting events, as are the downtown Holiday Inn Express and Days Inn.
“We do almost exclusively the catering for meetings they have in their small meeting rooms, as well as to homes, to businesses, to whoever requires their catering, whether it’s just a dropoff with paper plates, or if they require servers with china and tablecloths,” Lang said. “We can do either or.”
To juggle it all, The Grand Gardens employs a staff of between 30 to 40 employees at any given time, with a separate set of cooks for each location. But to preserve a high level of customer service, Goodship and Gauthier remain very hands-on owners.
“In order for Ken to maintain control, which is important to him, he’s on site for the preparation of all the meals,” Lang said. “So he knows the recipes are being followed and everything is correct, and then he is typically at one location and Lee at another (during events).”
The Grand Gardens has catered a range of events, from weddings to charity benefits, Lang said, but the company is eager to gain more of a foothold serving corporate clients for business functions, conferences and conventions. Past corporate clients include the Sault Area Hospital, Essar Steel Algoma and the City of Sault Ste. Marie.
All meals for continental breakfast, lunch, and coffee breaks can be provided, as well as any tables, projectors, screens, or additional AV equipment for presentations; menus can be tailored to clients’ needs.
“We have a standard menu that people can choose from, and it’s pretty extensive, or we work with everybody on what it is they require and would like to serve,” Lang said. “Nothing is ever cookie cutter; it’s whatever it is the client requires.”
At their downtown location, in particular, Lang said, they have been offering event-hosting services in collaboration with local hotels. The hotels offer beds, but can’t always host bigger events, and that’s when The Grand Gardens can provide larger venues.
“I think our locations are beautiful, but our food is amazing,” she said. “And I feel like our customer service is exceptional and it’s, in a way, forcing every other banquet hall to come up to our standard. It’s just a level of service that sets us apart from everybody else.”