With the pandemic changing the game for many retailers, a restaurateur from Saint-Georges in Beauce decided to take the food industry by storm based on her restaurant’s recipes. And his decision paid off.
“I don’t like to say I took advantage of the pandemic, but I kind of did it. We should open and close shortly after. I don’t like to sit around and we are an entrepreneurial family. So off we went,” explains Amélie Saint-Hilaire, 37.
Her adventure began with the Chez Gérard restaurant, which she took over in 2017 from her parents, who bought it in the 1970s. Her goal was to open several other restaurants, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed her plans.
“We started selling our products in our restaurant and in a metro station in Saint-Georges de Beauce in November 2020. We know each other pretty well on business in our area. That helped us,” says the entrepreneur and mother.
As of December 2020, four more local grocery stores ordered his products.
Success came immediately for the businesswoman. His family recipes, improved over time by his chefs, were all the rage.
“We did everything in the restaurant. We were limited in terms of production. We had to find a manufacturing facility to turn it into a food processing industry. From March 2021 to November 2021 we could not accommodate more than eight clients. After the renovation of the premises, we were able to grow,” explains Amélie St-Hilaire.
“In addition to the training, I also learned on the job. If you are a restaurateur, do not have products delivered to you by pallet. I was naive,” she laughs. She doesn’t have too many problems with the labor shortage as she can count on a good network of friends.
She is tired but proud of her team’s work and has no intention of letting go. In her opinion, being well surrounded is her greatest strength. It plans to have 70 outlets in Quebec by the end of the year.
Ms. St-Hilaire has launched new products including frozen hamburgers for BBQ enthusiasts. To do this, it has teamed up with the sauce company Firebarns in Lévis. It offers three types of dumplings: Jamaican, Bourbon Bacon, and Classic.
She currently ships over 200 cases for all of her products, a number she plans to double in the near future.
“We bought a refrigerated truck to supply our current customers. But we need to do business with a carrier to deliver across Quebec,” she said. The company also provides meals for canteens, other restaurants and senior residences. It also has a catering service and then a café-sandwich shop at the Carrefour Saint-Georges. The restaurant is always open, seven days a week.
“It’s a great project and my husband also has his stores, one of which is under construction and the other retail. We’re going through the same thing,” she concludes.