The Dish...B&E Caterers

Thursday, March 21, 2019

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What do The Best Dressed Chicken, Hi Pro, Petrojam, HEART Trust/NTA, Tank-Weld, Edna Manley College of the Visual Arts, Red Stripe, and J Wray & Nephew all have in common? Lunch. Well, not the same meal, of course; rather, they all share the same lunch concessionaire: B&E Caterers.

What started 30 years ago from Elaine Sadler's love of baking has blossomed today into one of the leading corporate canteen concessionaires on the island. And while it's no easy feat to go from baking a couple of loaves of banana bread to cooking a couple of thousand meals each day, Sadler and her husband Bertram have been up to the challenge every bite of the way.

“Catering was always my first love,” explains Sadler. “I did it in high school, but you know, at some point, you divert, and I ended up in administrative management.”

It was while working as an administrative assistant at the Jamaica Broilers Group office that Sadler got that all-powerful first nudge to transform her passion into a purpose. She would bake banana bread and bread puddings on the weekend and take them to work on Mondays. One weekend, Dr Claudette Cooke, now group vice-president, Human Resource Development & Public Relations The Jamaica Broilers Group, ordered two loaves of banana bread. It was the first time that Sadler got paid for doing what she loved to do. “I said to myself, 'But I can do this'.”

That year Sadler joined the planning committee for the annual office party and was asked to make the Christmas cakes. “At the end of the party when [then CEO] Robert Levy — and I will never forget this — when he was giving the vote of thanks, he said, 'Did you guys taste the Christmas cake?!' I swear, my head got big; I was so happy! Honestly, that was the beginning of Elaine Sadler and B&E Caterers!”

They say opportunity favours the bold, and so when Bertram lost his job as a sales representative, the couple took a leap of faith into the food business. Elaine by then was working at the Hi Pro Feeds in Old Harbour, and what to eat proved to be a daily struggle. “We had problems getting lunch, and we didn't like the available food. I told the managers that my husband would make the lunches,” and so the first meals were served.

“The Best Dressed Chicken has always been a big part of my life and my business,” says Sadler, and we can see why. Today, Jamaica Broilers is a publicly listed company, but like B&E, it started as a family business. “I admire the Levys because, like them, the family is at the core of it all for me.” Her son Omar has been instrumental in digitising the company and making it more efficient,' daughter Vanessa is now her right hand, while youngest son, Brendon, will start university in September.

From working out of their kitchen at home, she and Bertram now run a thriving business that employs 200 people. B&E also operates two restaurants; one in Kingston, the other on Old Harbour Road in St Catherine. “We cater for thousands of people every day,” Sadler says. How does she do it? “I think it's just the love of what I'm doing,” she muses, “and satisfaction at the end of the day to know that people are happy — and to know that I have come this far.”

Once Sadler committed to business she also went back to school at the University of Technology to hone her skills in General Catering. B&E catering is also HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points)-certified.

For young people wanting to get into the business, she advises, “You have to love it. It's a lot of hard work. The food industry is tough and you have to give it your very best shot.” She also offers that one critical key to success is smart purchasing management and the best business partners. “You have to grow in the business. We can buy in large volumes now because of the size of our operation. You need suppliers who are on your side and have confidence in you, and you have to maintain a good name. So once you start with a good name, you pay your bills on time, and you don't run into problems, then people will begin to trust you.”

And while Sadler thinks that dreams should be big enough for one to reach for, she also advises that young restaurateurs and caterers should temper their ambitions and not take on too much too soon. “You have these dreams, and you see them playing out in your head. I have been there. When I was starting, I bought every gadget you can think of: a patty machine; a hot dog machine, a burger grill. We didn't understand the market; we didn't know what was needed.” Take your time, she says. “Don't jump too quickly. Young people want to get rich quickly. It does not work like that. In the food industry, you have to prove yourself as being capable and consistent, clean and honest. Take one step at a time and make sure what you put out is the best quality.”

After 30 years, we reckon she knows what she's talking about.


B& E Caterers and Restaurant

375 Willowdene Parkway

Old Harbour Road

St Catherine



96C Molynes Road

Kingston 10


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