An entrepreneur like Stephen Starr has come up with a plethora of business decisions the past few decades which have made him a very rich man. Not only have these ideas put money in his pocket, but they have strengthened the popularity of his brand.
Starr opened the catering division of the company in 2008. The group was successful over its seven year span.
“I used them once for a really small group meeting of about ten people held at University of Pennsylvania for my law class about two or three years ago,” said Jess Bassett, a Starr Catering client and Philadelphia resident. “They delivered. They knew exactly where to bring everything [at the school], and they set everything up in the room for me so that I didn’t have to do anything. Everything looked really nice on the table and everyone really enjoyed the food. It was just super easy to order because at that time, I didn’t even have to call anyone. You could just go online and order it the day before, and then they would call you up and take care of everything.”
Starr Catering Group earned a reputation by wooing their clients with menu items from several of the Starr restaurants like the Continental, Buddakan, Parc and others. They mainly worked events like corporate banquets, off-premise weddings and other large-scale events. No matter the size, Starr Catering would never turn down a client.
“I’ve also used them for an event that was 40-50 people at my house on a Sunday with a lot more hot food. They arrived at the time they said they would, they set up all of the food and all the burners before everyone showed up, and they were great.”
The group shared the same ideals as the restaurant side of the organization, which is “the relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction.” They had earned quite the reputation in a very short amount of time, and had the business dollars to show for it.
“We both believe our client partners and guests are at the core of everything we do. For our current clients, there will no change in the high level quality and entrepreneurial approach we bring to each of our unique relationships, and at the same time, we are looking forward to working with the TrustHouse companies to expand premium dining and service offerings,” said SRCG President and CEO Simon Powles in the company’s press release.
However, this didn’t stop Stephen Starr from deciding to sell the company to one of the top contract food service companies in North American in the summer of 2015.
The North Carolina-based conglomerate, TrustHouse Services Group, purchased Starr Catering in a multi-million dollar deal that’s exact details remain unrevealed. One part of the agreement is that the group will remain under the Starr banner for another three years. Also, though they are now under new ownership, the 1500 employees of the group will keep their jobs and continue their roles as if nothing has changed. The group will also keep its current office locations in Philadelphia, and look to expand for HR and IT and other departments.
“They’re allowed to keep the name for three years, and the reason they [TrustHouse] wanted to do that was because of the quality associated with the brand,” said one Starr Restaurant general manager Nicole Bell. “There’s people who have already booked that anticipate that they’ve booked with Starr Catering, and changing that name will not help with the company’s guest base. So, they wanted to keep some consistency over the next three years, and then (eventually) it’s going to be TrustHouse.”
According to general managers inside of Starr Restaurants, one reason that the company was sold is because of the cost of the insurance liability of owning a catering company. The liability risks are virtually endless for catering companies based on factors like types of food and drinks served, the location of the event (especially inside of someone’s home or backyard), equipment breaking down, food spoilage, and so on. Because of this, catering companies need to be insured for things like catering, general liability, product liability, liquor liability, and so on. At the same time, Starr gets to keep his name attached to the company and continue to stretch his brand.
“I knew about the sale when it happened from philly.com, and I actually was a little bummed out because I had such a good experience with them,” added Bassett. “Then I was told that it was going to be all the same staff, so I was happy. I thought it wasn’t going to be Stephen Starr anymore and that it would be completely different, but even thought it isn’t Stephen Starr, it’s not going to be different.
“That’s why I went to them in the first place,” she continued, “because I like Starr restaurants. The whole reason I used the catering group was because they were Starr Catering.”
The only reported front office change inside of Starr Catering Group is that the President and CEO Simon Powles and Chief Operation Officer Guy Kellner will both now report to Brian Poplin, president and CEO of Trusthouse. The group has locations in Philadelphia, Miami and New York City. Starr owns 19 restaurants in Philadelphia, four restaurants in the state of Florida, and six restaurants in New York City, but will maintain control over all of them.