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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The End

I started Graze Catering in September 2006.  We, the wife and boy and I, had just moved to Walla Walla from Sacramento.  We had no family or friends here.  It looked like a nice place to live and grow a family.  I had spent the last eight years teaching junior high and high school science.  The wife cut and colored women's hair.

Business was slow at first.  It is hard to build a business in a foreign place (especially when the owner is unsure of himself, isn't great at networking, and refused to spend money on advertising, but I digress.)  Nine months in I contacted our landlord and put in notice to end our month to month lease.  He told me to hang in there, adjusted our monthly lease downward, and we decided to give it another year.

Little by little I gained confidence and started landing winery jobs and weddings.  The former event manager from the shuttered Homestead joined on, which mainlined us into big community events, and we were able to band-aid together a barely profitable business. 

Years two through six were fairly insane.  Looking back I still don't know how I/we/us made it.  The first 40 hour a week employee didn't show up until year three.  A weekend would look like: lunch for 40 Thursday, five course wine dinner for 12 Friday, paninis at the Farmers Market (which one high school student and two Whitman students would run) for 110, a wedding in a field for 100 and a second wedding at a winery for 150.  Sunday was dedicated to washing dishes.  (by hand for the first two years.)

In 2013 I stepped out of chef role and our current chef, Brian Mahan, started to run the catering.  He has done a great job.  I spent more time figuring out sandwich world, which has become the tail that wags the dog.  This September, 2015 we will open our fourth GRAZE - 'a place to eat' location in Richland. 

For every catering $1 we sell, we sell $7 sandwich dollars.  And let me be clear, that catering $1 is a lot... I mean a very hard $1 to produce.  The business that used to be catering with some sandwiching, is now very much a sandwich business that has a catering operation that gets in the way. 

So Graze Catering is closing its doors.  (we will keep doing a few of our long term jobs for a couple of wineries and community events, so you may see us out and about occasionally.)  Thank you for hiring us!  This has been a crazy crazy ride.  Wouldn't change a single thing along the way. 

Cheers - John and Becca Lastoskie

Thursday, January 8, 2015


It is time for our one lonely blog post per year.  Sad I think.  I loved writing about our catering business and our exploits.  As the business has grown, and the email list has grown, and the facebook pages have developed, and Lord knows we won't jump into twitter... well the blog feels a bit like a Packard in the garage with the new Mazda 3 sitting right next to it.  Nowadays it gets taken out for one Sunday Drive a year.

In honor of 2013, I present you with the Graze Catering Index (with apologies to Harper's Index). All totals are Graze Catering only, and do not reflect numbers from Graze 'a place to eat', our sandwich shop, or Graze - 'a drive thru' our drive thru only sandwich shop.

Guests served in 2006 --- 604
Guests served in 2007 --- 3,319
Guests served in 2008 --- 8,053
Guests served in 2009 --- 12,166
Guests served in 2010 --- 15,468
Guests served in 2011 --- 18,771
Guests served in 2012 --- 20,875
Guests served in 2013 --- 23,269
Guests served in 2014 --- 20,142

Number of events 2006 --- 17
Number of events 2007 --- 66
Number of events 2008 --- 83
Number of events 2009 --- 176
Number of events 2010 --- 194
Number of events 2011 --- 216
Number of events 2012 --- 224
Number of events 2013 --- 276
Number of events 2014 --- 246

Number of events 150+ guests 2006 --- 0
Number of events 150+ guests 2007 --- 2
Number of events 150+ guests 2008 --- 11
Number of events 150+ guests 2009 --- 16
Number of events 150+ guests 2010 --- 26
Number of events 150+ guests 2011 --- 39
Number of events 150+ guests 2012 --- 42
Number of events 150+ guests 2013 --- 49
Number of events 150+ guests 2014 --- 34

Number of weddings/rehearsals 2006 --- 0
Number of weddings/rehearsals 2007 --- 6
Number of weddings/rehearsals 2008 --- 18
Number of weddings/rehearsals 2009 --- 22
Number of weddings/rehearsals 2010 --- 22
Number of weddings/rehearsals 2011 --- 31
Number of weddings/rehearsals 2012 --- 27
Number of weddings/rehearsals 2013 --- 35
Number of weddings/rehearsals 2014 --- 24

 2010: Sandwiches/Full Salads served by Graze - 'a place to eat'
(dine in, delivery, and pick up) --- 29,619.
2011; Sandwiches/Full Salads served by Graze - 'a place to eat'
(dine in, delivery, and pick up) --- 43,609
2012: Sandwiches/Full Salads served by Graze - 'a place to eat'
AND Graze - 'a drive thru' (dine in, delivery, and pick up)
--- 66,197
2013: Sandwiches/Full Salads served by Graze - 'a place to eat' AND Graze - 'a drive thru' (dine in, delivery, and pick up) ---90,409
2014: Sandwiches/Full Salads served by Graze - 'a place to eat' AND Graze - 'a drive thru' AND Graze - 'a place to eat' (Kennewick) (dine in, delivery, and pick up)
--- 161,244

**** Look out McDonalds!!!

We love what we do, we like serving people, we like making events better because we are there, we like cooking different things every event, we like seeing guests smile. We are pretty good at what we do. We hope you hire us.  ("we" really really do)

Thanks to all our past and future clients and guests. We look forward to serving you again.