Dining » Vol. 1

Struck Catering

Catering To A Crowd: Struck Catering’s Barbara Cotter
By Leeanne Griffin

If you think you’re busy during the holidays, just try owning one of Central Massachusetts’s most successful and in-demand catering companies.

Struck Catering, a full-service catering business located on Hamilton Street in Worcester, has seamlessly handled everything from small home parties to corporate galas for 1,200 guests since its inception in 1998. Renowned in the area, Struck Catering took home “Best of Worcester” awards in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Barbera Cotter - Photo by Al Weems

Barbara Cotter - Photo by Al Weems

Owner Barbara Cotter has been in the food and restaurant industry since 1979, first as the owner of Worcester’s Struck Café. She later transitioned into the catering industry with her son and co-owner, Derek Grillo. Their catering business employs 8 to 10 full-time staff members ~ including six chefs and two event coordinators ~ depending on the season. A crew of part-time servers ~ several of whom have been with Struck for years ~ fills in at events.

“We do everything ~ dishes, rentals, linens and china, decorations if needed and most importantly, all the cleanup,” Cotter says.

Struck plans and caters everything from tiki parties to large weddings, with culinary selections to accommodate any event a client can conceive. The company’s website, struckcatering.com, lists a series of dazzling menu options for every possible palate. Whether it’s chicken involtini with Bel Paese cheese and marsala sauce for a lunch buffet, a Maine lobster mango napoleon for a passed appetizer during a summertime party, or a Pacific Rim-themed station, Struck can do it all.

And with diners’ tastes growing more sophisticated, exotic and worldly menu choices are becoming more common, a trend Cotter says she more than welcomes.

“We’ve actually done sushi for years,” she says. “We’ll set up stir-fry stations at events, serve the food in small white take-out containers. We’ve done crepe stations, things like that. It’s a challenge, but people tend to love that kind of option.”
Catering is a daunting job, but her employees stay focused and organized, Cotter said.
“Everything in catering is about logistics,” she said. “We have a checklist for every event ~ we have to remember everything from plastic wrap to sauté pans to spatulas.”

Holiday catering begins to book up quickly in late summer and early fall, Cotter said. At that time each year, she and her staff typically check in with the previous season’s clients to offer their services again. Several companies book their holiday parties for the following year at the end of their event, she said, and others have used Struck for several consecutive years running.

“We won’t do parties on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, though,” Cotter said. “It’s important that our staff has those days off.”

And does Cotter herself get to relax on those days?
“Absolutely,” she said. “My sister and I will switch off [who hosts] the holiday.”

Looking ahead, Cotter said her dream is for Struck to have its own venue in which to host events. For now though, she said, she’s happy and comfortable with the business’s performance ~ and still, after all these years, with her choice of occupations.

“I love catering because every single party is different,” she said. “Everyone has their own vision. We’re always meeting new and interesting people.”

130 Hamilton Street
Worcester, Ma

For those looking to plan their own holiday soirees at home, Cotter offers sage advice from her years of experience.

“Just make things as easy as possible on yourself,” Cotter suggests to would-be hosts. “Serve stationary food that doesn’t need to be reheated. Do as many things as possible in the days before, like setting the table. If guests offer to bring dishes, take them up on it—but make sure it’s not something that needs extra work. And most of all, don’t make yourself crazy over it.”

Struck Catering is a preferred caterer at these and other venues in Central MA:

American Antiquarian Society
Arrowhead Acres
Asa Waters Mansion
Donahue Rowing Center
Fitchburg Art Mus­­eum
Higgins Armory
Hoagland Pincus Conference Center
Mechanics Hall
Tower Hill Botanical Gardens
Tuckerman Hall
Worcester Art Museum
Worcester Historical Museum

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