• October 25, 2014

Killeen restaurateur shares expanding experience

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Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014 4:30 am

Let Us Do the Cooking started a home based business for Meredith Viguers, but in the past eight years it grew into in a large restaurant.

Starting her niche catering in 2006, Viguers cooked meals people could take to work or home for dinner. The service soon expanded to a full-time catering gig as Viguers began to offer her cuisines at events, weddings and other gatherings.

Viguers opened a cafe in September 2009 and expanded its operation to larger restaurant space in July 2012.

Since opening, Let Us Do the Cooking has won several local awards and honors to include five of the six awards offered at Flavors of Central Texas in 2013. Among them was the first Top Chef win.

Killeen Daily Herald Business Editor Mason W. Canales recently spoke to Viguers about expanding her business and her success as a restaurateur.

Why did you decide to start Let Us Do The Cooking?

I decided to start the company because I had been home with my kids while my husband was deployed.

I was pregnant with our third son and knew that I would need to go back to work when Jonathan came home.

I couldn’t quite gear myself up for managing a bank again (my previous job), and I really wanted to be able to stay with my boys.

So I had the idea to begin cooking meals for people out of my home by converting my garage into a commercial kitchen, it was a win/win.

Were you expecting the business to expand? How did you know when it was time to expand operations?

While I expected my company to expand, the method in which it has done so was never in the original plan.

I expected to pick up some catering, mostly office luncheons and small events. I had no idea that we’d become the largest catering company in Central Texas or that there would be a restaurant involved.

The decision on when to expand was dictated by the business. When we decided to open the cafe, it was because our customers from catering events really wanted their favorite dishes more often than at an event. When we decided to expand the cafe, it was because we literally were grocery shopping four times a day, because of a lack of space.

It was taking too much of a toll to keep up with the demand without having the space and capacity to have everything for a day on sight at one time, so we knew it was time for something bigger, but wanted to make sure we weren’t going have to move again a year or two later so we decided to expand large.

Were there any resources that helped you make the decision to expand?

I lean on a very select group of people for advice when it comes to my company, but ultimately it’s my decision based on what I feel is the best direction for the business and our ability to continue to grow and expand.

As a restaurateur, what are some concerns other business owners should consider when expanding to a new location and their operations?

Expansion is a huge risk.

Anytime you make changes to a company whether it be location, structure, hours, etc. ... you run the risk that it will not work out the way you anticipate.

I think if you go into expansion determined not to let anything keep you from accomplishing the goal ahead, willing to put in even more effort than you did before and know it’s going to cost twice as much as you think and take a lot longer than you want to make it happen, then you’ll be able to make it work.

To what do you attribute the success of Let Us Do The Cooking?

Our success has been in large part because of a commitment to be part of the community.

We get to be a part of people’s lives in a very unique way. We are with them on the most important days of their life, from their wedding day, the day they come from the hospital with a newborn, graduation, during deployments and even in a celebration of life when someone close to them has passed away.

Because of that, not only do they participate in our story, but we participate in theirs.

Many local groups and organizations have also been part of our growth.

You can go to any chamber function, school banquet, baseball game, community program, etc. ... and find people who will tell you about how they are part of our story.

They used to buy dinner from me in my garage, or they remember being at our first ribbon-cutting, or they used to get food from us in the concession stand at the baseball field in our first year of business. ... Inevitably they have a sense of pride that they’ve been able to be part of our growth.

We know that their support over the years is the only reason that we’ve been able to have success, and we look forward to continuing this story that we’ve begun writing together.

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