Louise Martin set up Just Good Food two decades ago by handing out finger food in Colmore Row to drum up business.Today, the business is booming in Brum and beyond
Louise Martin is a woman in demand. On the corporate entertaining scene her business, Just Good Food is fast becoming the name on everyone’s lips. Delivering slick experiences from corporate cocktail parties and soirees for the fashion set to private weddings, Just Good Food is thriving. Winning the corporate catering contract at the REP in September along with eight events per day in the run-up to Christmas means life is pretty busy. “Eight events per day aren’t unusual leading to Christmas, but we will definitely be having a welcome break over the festive period!” said Louise. This level of business hasn’t exploded overnight – far from it. Louise started Just Good Food two decades ago in a charming and determined way. Working in her father’s hotel as a teenager, she reached a point where she thought she’d like to do something more creative.
PRU LEITH’S SCHOOL
“I started making finger food and canapés and handing out samples to office workers around the Colmore Business District to drum up business and it worked.” With dad as the taxi driver, this gutsy beginning has seen her in good stead along the way with a stint at the celebrated Pru Leith’s cookery school which fuelled Louise’s passion. Word of mouth and repeat business provide the bulk of the business and Louise thinks she knows why. “We listen to our clients and treat each one differently. We have a basic menu, but it’s really only a guide – bespoke menus and unique packages are common.” From pulled pork and pig roasts to paella and cute canapés, Louise ensures the possibilities are limitless and the clients respond positively and more importantly with repeat bookings. “Also, we need to be ready to respond to trends so at the moment street food and pulled pork are very popular as are elegant small plates.” Business goes beyond the Midlands with a high profile client list that includes Louis Vuitton and Red Bull, but it’s Birmingham’s business community that provides most of the work. The contract with the REP is significant, winning the pitch against stiff competition. “Many of their corporate clients are my clients too, so it should work really well.” In the early days Louise accepted gigs that she wouldn’t necessarily take on now. For instance, as a newly-wed, she was asked to cater for a big family in Edgbaston on Christmas day and as the business was still fairly new she accepted the request. “I wasn’t offered a drink all day and the family wasn’t particularly nice to me. It’s the last Christmas day I have ever worked. Now we have an incredibly busy December then close on Christmas Eve and spend the big day with our own families.”
There have been many hurdles to overcome along the way such as working in less than ideal conditions at times, like venues with no kitchen and having to knock one up on site. From an organisational point of view the events need to run like clockwork, so building up a team of people with the same vision as her, Louise has stepped out of the kitchen to concentrate on the business side of things. The business employs five permanent chefs, waiting staff, freelance chefs when needed and Louise’s PA Maggie. Having achieved so much already what’s next? “I’d like to be the main caterer in the Midlands that people think of instantly when they’re having a party,” she said… and then added: “Actually I think we might be that already. I’ll have to think of another.”