Local catering company really cooking with several museum contracts around the city

My catering group
Ottawa-based company My Catering Group has become the preferred service provider for federally operated museums and galleries across the city. (Supplied)

In 2012, Derick Cotnam started My Catering Group out of his mother’s kitchen. This week, his company landed yet another large contract in Ottawa, and Cotnam believes he is on the way to achieving $15 million in annual revenue in the next three years.

On Monday, Cotnam signed a three-year contract with the Canadian Museum of Nature, with options to renew for up to seven years. 

“We see this as a massive opportunity,” said Cotnam, the company’s founder and CEO. “This is what we want. We want to be that partner that all these museums are like, we wouldn’t even think of going with someone else.”

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Cotnam said the company has grown rapidly, especially since the pandemic.

“We did virtual galas for a couple of years and then weekly meal kits (during the pandemic),” he said. “Then, when COVID was ending, we had some really great opportunities to bid on some pretty prestigious contracts.”

In fact, over the past few years, Cotnam has signed multiple contracts with several museums and galleries in the National Capital Region, including a joint contract with the Canadian War Museum and Canadian Museum of History, another with the National Gallery of Canada, and one with the Ottawa Art Gallery. 

According to Cotnam, many of these facilities worked primarily with multinational catering companies in the past, many of which aren’t Canadian firms. 

“The first contract we signed was with the Canadian Museum of History, which is the most-attended museum in the country and has never had a private or locally-owned catering business operating the food services there since its inception,” said Cotnam. “It’s always been corporate giants like Aramark, Sodexo, Compass Group.” 

Unlike their corporate competitors, he said, local companies like My Catering Group have the flexibility to experiment and make changes without all the red tape. 

He plans on capitalizing on that advantage. 

“We’re trying to elevate it and offer some unique items and we’re doing different items at different properties to fit their demographics,” said Cotnam, a 2023 Forty Under 40 recipient. “We’re really listening to the clientele coming through there to make adjustments to better suit them.” 

The company doesn’t have exclusive rights to provide food services for any of the properties, except for the Ottawa Art Gallery, where it shares the kitchen with a non-profit group. Cotnam said that can be attributed to the amount of work each client needs, which he said can’t be met by a single company. 

But, he added, it’s part of the company’s long-term goal to continue expanding and proving its capabilities. 

“We’re working towards exclusivity,” he said. “They want us to get the majority of the business, because it’s easier on all the staff at the museum and we can provide a much better quality service that way. That means when any of these properties ask us to jump, we ask how high.”

The new contract with the Museum of Nature also brings the company closer to its long-term revenue goals, which were hit hard during the pandemic. 

“My goal is to bring this company to a $15-million company in the next three years,” said Cotnam, who employs 60 full-time staff and more than 400 contract workers. “The stuff we’re doing, the bending over backwards, working as partners, the compromises we’re making, and the hospitality and professionalism the whole team brings to the table, we’re so happy with it. Those are the things we want these properties saying about us.”

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