With her focus on giving back, building relationships and nurturing connections, it’s no surprise the owner of Impressions Catering in Perth, WA, Lukarla McCready, is the winner of a swag of industry awards. By Kerry Faulkner
What was it, do you think, that gave you the edge to clinch that win as Small Caterer and Consumer Choice Award at the 2019 Restaurant and Catering Hostplus Awards for Excellence?
We’ve also won the 2019 Rockingham Kwinana Chamber of Commerce Small to Medium Enterprise Award and I won Business Person of the Year. The year before we won overall Business of the Year and a Hospitality and Tourism Excellence Award.
This year, everyone was really jolted by COVID-19 with everything just having to shut down. We lost every single booking for six months in a matter of days, and everyone else was in the same boat. We had to think really fast about how to stay viable. I’ve always believed everyone deserves a catered experience regardless of their budget or whatever other limitations they have. We have always been versatile and flexible, and we love feeding people; food brings people together and we love being part of that. So, when COVID hit, we were determined to keep going.
So what exactly did you do?
I revamped an old menu from the cafe I owned and because we have a lot of older people in the area who were self-isolating, we started doing home meals—good wholesome, homestyle meals—not frozen but made that same day. I put the menu on Facebook, and it reached 10,000 people. The response was amazing. We had people living in Melbourne with elderly relatives nearby ringing and asking what else they could do to help them from a distance, so we teamed up with different companies to add fruit and veg and then bread and rice and delivered them with the meals. Really, we just did what we could to accommodate what people needed and it felt really good to be able to help in such mad times while staying viable.
That’s a really good response business wise. Was that your decision or do you work with a business manager?
Yes, it was my decision. I’m the managing director and founder of Impressions Catering. Although I could not do it all alone; I’m lucky to have a great team around me that have been excellent through these challenging times. I also have close connections with the local business community and service clubs along with family and friends that have been very supportive. We are fortunate to be back on track now with restrictions lifted. We used the downtime to systemise our home meal service and online ordering and that’s enabled us to launch Impressions Wholesome Home Meals service as another arm to the business, so we can continue to serve our clients in need.
Where does this love of food and entertaining come from?
I have a large extended family and grew up with lots of people around me and just love bringing family and friends together and hosting. I think to be honest, in the beginning, I just fell into hospitality. I got a job at a cafe while I was still at school, waitressing, then started cooking and had a knack for it. I became the weekend cook pumping out busy breakfasts service and it just all came naturally. I stayed in hospitality in various roles over the years and my love for food has been growing ever since. I’ve seen so much of the industry and wanted to start my own business … an original, a tapas bar where I could create my own legacy.
“I spend a lot of time building relationships. It’s all about giving back and helping others. Only by giving, are you able to receive more that you already have.”Lukarla McCready, Impressions Catering
How did you realise this through Impressions Catering?
Impressions Catering started from my first cafe in 2009 and was set up to scale up from the beginning. We have a mission and vision statements and I employ people who fit with the culture of the company. I have staff who’ve been here 10 years, nine years, seven years. We really try and keep that family-friendly culture and pass it on to our customers too. For me, to achieve happiness and success, it is all about giving back, making real connections and building relationships so I dedicate a lot of my time to this.
I’m president of the Baldivis Rotary Club, director consultant for Business Network International and involved with my local chambers of commerce so I spend a lot of time building relationships. It’s all about giving back and helping others. Only by giving, are you able to receive more that you already have.
What do you do when you’re not working?
To be honest I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies, but I enjoy yoga and meditation, and spending time with my family and friends. I entertain a lot at home. I like to be around the people I love and if there is a party or a gathering and there’s entertaining to be done, it’s a usually at my house and food is always involved in the celebrations.