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Platterz

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Feel Like a Boss With These Top Tech Tips

READ TIME: 4 min

These days, there are so many gizmos and gadgets out there that we don’t know what tech tools actually help us get the job done. Save money, save time, and save your stress with these game-changing hacks that you might not have heard of, but undoubtedly will never be able to live without.

1) Copy, Paste and Don’t Copy Again.  

typing on laptop keyboard

Ever going through a document and need to copy and paste more than once, but don’t want to re-copy something each time? We have the solution! The Fly Cut app for computers using MacOS is a clipboard manager that saves your clipboard history so you don’t have to keep track of everything manually.

2) “There’s Nothing Like A Good Shortcut”

keyboard shortcut

...Said everyone on the Platterz Engineering team. Efficiency is key (pun intended), so when it comes to keyboard shortcuts you can never have too many. Use these lesser known shortcuts and you’ll never look back:

  • Command # switches between tabs in your internet browser
  • Command L highlights the website URL in the address bar
  • Command Shift Arrow highlights full line of text at once

3) Recycle Your Old Computer Hard Drive for Extra Storage

external hard drive

Just when you thought that your old computer was out of use… think again. Before you throw it away, take it to a repair shop, Microsoft or Apple store, and ask them to extract the hard drive. This hard drive will be your golden ticket to extra storage as it becomes your new ‘external’ hard drive that you didn’t have to purchase. All you have to buy is the case to make sure it doesn’t get damaged.

4) Password Hacks to Avoid Getting Hacked

password tips comic

What do you need to always remember when creating a password you need to remember?

1: Make It A Phrase
Contrary to popular belief, rather than mixing up a bunch of letters, numbers and characters, using a phrase as a password is actually safer. Think: blue_icecream_travel_mix_adorable_puppy_peanut_butter or other random, meaningless mixes.

2: Make It Long
Two words? No. Four words? Getting there. Six to eight words is the optimal amount to keeping your password protected.

3: Make It Memorable
Keep in mind that the words you choose have to easily come to mind. Avoid using facts or words that people would expect to know about you (yes, using your first pet’s name is too easy). Instead, jumble words together you never think of, but that sound catchy enough that you’ll be able to refer to it when logging into your accounts.

5) High-Res Photo Saving (from Instagram)

When your colleague posts a photo of the team on Instagram, but you want it saved in high resolution for your next photo album? Visit the app online and follow these 6 simple steps:

  • Click on the photo you like to enlarge the image
  • Right Click (Control + Click) > View Page Source
  • Command + F > search jpg
  • Based on the first jpg mention in the code, highlight the URL beginning from https:// and ending in jpg
  • Copy the URL + Paste in new tab
  • Right Click (Control + Click) > Save Image As

6) Screenshot the FULL Webpage

Don’t spend time cutting, pasting, cropping, zooming out… use the Awesome Screenshot Chrome Extension to screenshot the entire webpage you’re viewing, even if the full page isn’t visible all at once. It really is awesome!

7) Customize Slack Colours

slack custom colours

If you know, you know. The office messaging app Slack is a life saver when it comes to chatting with the team, but, did you know that not just your conversations can be custom? Change your slack page with a few simple steps:

  • Preferences
  • Sidebar
  • Scroll down to Theme
  • Feeling Adventurous? Customize your theme
  • Share it with your coworkers and start the office trend!

8) Fly Through The Charging Process  

phone charging out of battery

When you’re in a rush, but your phone battery is at an all-time low, switch it to airplane mode before plugging it in. When it’s in flight mode, the battery charges faster since it’s not using all of the apps in the background. Your phone will land at 100% in a flash!

Now that you’ve got your software set, be sure to check out our post on Desk Décor to learn about the easy, stylish upgrades you can make to your desktop hardware.

Can’t get enough of these inside tips? Follow along on social and subscribe to ‘Fresh at Platterz’ for more.

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Unicorn Sprinkle Cupcakes
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Unicorn Magic Awaits at Toronto’s CutiePie Cupcakes

READ TIME: 4 min

Sugar, spice, and everything nice. Cotton candy, cupcakes, sprinkles, happiness, and unicorns. CutiePie Cupcakes—a magical Toronto cupcake shop—is unlike any other cupcake shop we’ve seen before. CutiePie Cupcakes opened in 2009 and has infused unicorns and happiness into their menu, all the while playing rap music, in a bright pink bakery located in Toronto’s downtown core.

CutiePie Menu

CutiePies are “cute little cupcakes inspired by your favourite pies, treats, and desserts—that’s why they’re called CutiePies,” explains owner Melanie as she speaks to the store concept. “I thought of combining fun flavours, classic desserts, and items that really hit home with people, and turning them into mini cupcakes.” The idea began with CutiePies and the menu has since expanded into ChubbyPies and WhoopiePies, with gluten free and vegan-friendly options. Not-to-mention the Latte-Pie, which quickly became known as the “Unicorn Latte” by local customers.

“People have come in from all over the world to try it”.

The Unicorn Latte has received international attention—having come out before the Starbucks infamous Unicorn Frappuccino. “People have come in from all over the world to try it,” says Melanie. We’ll admit, it’s most definitely taste-test approved by the Platterz team!

“It’s all about connecting with people—a box of cupcakes is designed to be shared.”

World Famous Unicorn Latte
“I think dessert is something that makes people feel good and happy,” explains Melanie. “It’s all about connecting with people—a box of cupcakes is designed to be shared.” This point hit home with us at Platterz as our mantra is to connect people over shared food experiences (including cupcakes). “Dessert in general lightens the mood and brings people together,” says Melanie. We couldn’t agree more!

CutiePies

CutiePie Cupcakes exudes happiness and colour amidst their treats and in-store experience. From their “Happiness Wall” (where visitors write about what brings them happiness) to a magical unicorn wishing globe (where all your dreams come true) CutiePie Cupcakes is more than a cupcake shop; it provides an enchanting experience for customers.

“Music is number one.”

Happiness Wall

The magic begins early every morning, when the bakers arrive at the shop, and turn on rap music. “Music is number one,” says Melanie. As a proud Toronto bakeshop, CutiePie cupcakes often listens to Drake’s latest hits. “One of our hashtags is ‘#champagnecutie’, as a play on Drake’s social media persona ‘Champagne Papi’.” When asked if Drake has come into the store, Melanie remarks, “not yet”. So, Drake, if you’re reading this, it’s not too late—you can head over to CutiePie Cupcakes at 235 Spadina Road, Toronto. You will have the most magical cupcake experience yet (we promise)!

“It’s been awesome working with Platterz. It’s a great platform to connect us with the people [who] we want to see our menu and products. It extends our reach.”

CutiePie and ChubbyPie

“It’s been awesome working with Platterz. It’s a great platform to connect us with the people [who] we want to see our menu and products. It extends our reach,” Melanie says. The CutiePies and ChubbyPies are the most popular items on the Platterz platform, and you can seriously taste the happiness in each bite!

CutiePie Cupcakes Owner Melanie
Spread the happiness and bring people together over some unicorn magic in your office.

 

For behind the scenes footage from our shoot, check out our Instagram page highlights!

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Instagram: @cutiepiecupcakes_to

Website: http://www.cutiepiecupcakes.ca/

City: Toronto, Ontario

Veal Sandwich
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An Old School Favourite: California Sandwiches

Known for being one of the best sandwich restaurants in Toronto, California Sandwiches opened in 1967 and has been a local favourite ever since. Walking into their Dufferin and Castlefield location, we could feel the 51 years of restaurant service behind them—a busy team of kitchen staff cooking up sandwiches, meat lasagna, and salads. Regulars were coming in for their daily orders, and owner Joseph Papa happily greeted all his guests.

California Sandwiches Bag

We sat down with Joseph to hear about California Sandwiches’ long-standing (and not-to-mention very popular) history. Making us feel like a part of the family, Joseph brought us freshly made lattes, and offered us some sandwiches. We knew we were in good hands, good company, and surrounded by good food.

“The popularity [of the veal sandwich] was really demanding, and then we started selling sandwiches only.”

California Sandwiches Classic Sauce

“My family purchased a grocery store in the early 1960’s. All grocery stores at the time were also delis and sold sandwiches”, Joseph explains. “In the early 1960’s, my father hosted poker games in the basement of the grocery store, and the players asked for veal sandwiches. His mom said, ‘we can make those here’.” Soon after, the veal sandwich was added to the deli menu at the grocery store, and it quickly became a classic. “The popularity [of the veal sandwich] was really demanding, and then we started selling sandwiches only”, Joseph explains. The original location—244 Clairmont Street, closed as La Rinascente, and officially became the first California Sandwiches in 1967.  

“It definitely adds passion to the business.”

La Rinascente Original Menu 1967

Contrary to the popular saying, “don’t mix business with family”, the Papa family has shown great success over the last 51 years. All locations are family owned and run with all the key members of any family—yes, that means seeing and working with parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings, everyday. “It definitely adds passion to the business”, says Joseph, while explaining the pride in maintaining a family legacy.

“Everybody [here] is treated like family, customers and employees too.”

California Sandwiches Salads

The familial aspect of the business goes beyond the operations side of California Sandwiches. “Everybody [here] is treated like family, customers and employees too. We have lots of regulars.” The sense of family was definitely in the air; Joseph greeted customers by name, and guests made casual conversation with him. We can relate to this here at Platterz; we view our whole team as a family, and loved seeing that California Sandwiches has a similar mentality—no wonder we get along so well!

“Our business has increased since working with Platterz… the Platterz team is very detail oriented, just like we are.”

California Sandwiches Sandwich

“Our business has increased since working with Platterz. We’re more well known now and are serving many offices who didn’t know us before”, says Joseph on our working relationship. This was quite the compliment coming from such a restaurant institution! Joseph adds, “the Platterz team is very detail oriented, just like we are”.

“We would never serve anything we wouldn’t want to eat ourselves.”


The most popular items on the Platterz corporate catering platform are California Sandwiches classics: the veal sandwich (the sandwich that started it all), the meatball sandwich, antipasto platter, greek salad, and roasted potatoes.

“It’s very hard not to eat a sandwich everyday. We would never serve anything we wouldn’t want to eat ourselves”, says Joseph. We can only imagine what it’s like being surrounded by California Sandwiches, sandwiches daily! We would definitely be tempted…

Make history with California Sandwiches at your office.

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Instagram: @californiasandwiches
Website: http://eatcalifornia.ca/
City: Toronto, Ontario

 

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How To Host The Happiest of Office Happy Hours

Summer is commonly known as Post-Work Drink Season, Patio Season, Leave-The-Office-Early Season, but here at Platterz, we call it Happy Season. What happens during Happy Season you might ask? For starters, they key is narrowing it down to an hour. That peak hour between 4:00pm-5:00pm on a Friday in August: one of—if not the most—happiest hours of the week. The team is preparing to head out of the office for the weekend, and people are starting to wind down after a week of hard work. We can’t think of a better way to kick off the anticipated weekend than with an office happy hour! Here are a few tools to help you plan the joyous occasion—that is, a Friday afternoon.

First things first: mark your calendars.  

 

calendar

It goes without saying that no one wants to have meetings late on a Friday afternoon. Just incase, it’s important to have this hour booked in your team’s calendar well in advance. If you’re looking to get creative, try out Canva, the super easy, super FREE web program that allows you to customize invitations. The best way to entice coworkers to attend (aside from the beverages and great company) is to make the invite clear, concise and most importantly, catchy.

Get mixing.   

Coworkers drinking at cocktail party

Before you get to mixing the cocktails, it’s key that everyone in the office gets to mix and mingle with one another. This is, in fact, what Platterz preaches every single day. To ensure that all employees are chatting not just amongst their respective teams, but with all of their coworkers, introduce a few interactive games and/or activities. Have you ever heard of Two Truths and a Lie? Try these conversation starters to help break the ice, or liven things up with old-school Music Bingo. There are so many ways to bring everyone together to collaborate, compete and communicate.

When hunger strikes, opt for light bites.  

cheese platter

4pm hits and the late-afternoon cravings kick in. The problem? You don’t want to spoil yours or anyone’s appetite for dinner. The solution? Plan ahead with a few bite-sized snacks and appetizers for your whole office to enjoy. For the elevated audience, pair wine with a cheese platter and fresh fruit. If your team is more of the cocktail crowd, how about an assortment of dips and canapés? Don’t worry if your office prefers the casual classics like sliders, pizza and chips. There’s more than enough for them too.

Last, but most definitely not least: the beverages.  

glass of beer
A pop-up bar? Yes, it exists. The easiest way to host an in-office, out-of-the-box happy hour is to bring the bar (and bartenders) to you through a bar service, such as SIPBAR. This includes certified bartenders, selections of craft beers, quality wines, premium spirits and custom cocktails—so custom that you can bring in a mixing station for your team to participate! Or, if you’re on a tight budget and plan to keep it low-key, visit the nearest liquor store and pick up a few cases of locally brewed beer or ciders. You can even think up a themed mocktail, or spruce up sparkling water; there are endless alternatives to alcoholic beverages. Happy hours should appeal to everyone in the office, because after all, they’re synonymous with bringing people together during the best time of the week!  

By implementing these four core elements into your office happy hour, you’ll end up with the reputation of being the office host with the most. Now we’re talking.

Want to turn your happy hour into happy hours and interested in planning your next office party? Platterz is here to help, so contact one of our Event Specialists to chat next steps.

Keep an eye out on FEED and on our social channels for a deep dive into how SIPBAR quickly became the one-stop beverage-shop that your event can’t live without.

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Booyah Ice cream
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Booyah: A One of a Kind Ice Cream Experience

Growing up in a house that was known by family and friends as “The Carnival”, it comes as no surprise that 24-year-old Blair Mincer, started his own ice cream and catering business inspired by his childhood. When asked why he opened Booyah Inc., Blair explains, “who doesn’t love ice cream? Everyone always comes in a good mood for ice cream”. Having always been a big dessert fan, it was an easy decision for Blair to open Booyah when he was looking for something to do during his summers off of school. Booyah, a gourmet ice cream shop, opened four years ago and is already a Toronto favourite.

“Everyone always comes in a good mood for ice cream.”

ice-cream cones

Using bits and pieces of Blair’s youth to influence his shop, Booyah felt like a childhood dream. With the smell of freshly baked cookies, sprinkle-covered ice cream cones, a soft serve ice cream machine (which Blair’s family had in his house growing up), and a large neon sign that spells out “BOOYAH”, we were so excited to learn about Blair and his catering business (and eat some ice cream too)!

“I knew right there. It was a sign.”

homemade cookies

The shop’s name, Booyah originated from a family friend who always shouted “Booyah” when playing board games together. Searching for the perfect name for his ice cream shop, Blair spoke with a friend of his dad’s, who out-of-the-blue suggested “Booyah”—a word that had already come to mean something in the Mincer household. “I knew right there. It was a sign,” remarks Blair.

neon booyah sign

“Some of our ice cream is Kawartha Dairy, and some I make myself.”

Having gone to school for political science and accounting, Blair landed himself in an unexpected yet exciting career; he is both a business owner and a self-taught ice cream expert. “Some of our ice cream is Kawartha Dairy, and some I make myself.” And, if anyone knows Kawartha Dairy ice cream… you know we’re talking serious ice cream quality. “I read a lot of textbooks about ice cream,” says Blair about his 25 (and counting) original ice cream flavours (including vegan flavours). He experiments with different recipes to create the “not-so-typical ice cream flavours” such as Strawberry Balsamic, Corn on the Cob, and Earl Grey.

“My ice cream has only 8 ingredients in it…”

ice cream scoop

“My ice cream has only 8 ingredients in it, and is not a list of 50 ingredients. It was important to me that I can pronounce all the ingredients I use in my ice cream.” Blair gave us a bit of an ice cream chemistry lesson as well; “ice cream has different qualities, by percent of fat, and I knew I wanted to be at the top. Super premium product has more fat than sugar, and my ice cream is at around 18-19% fat with 7-8% sugar.” You taste fats. When you pick up a bucket of regular ice cream and my ice cream, mine is about double the weight,” he explains as he speaks to the delicious creamy quality of his ice cream.

“I’ve had a lot of business I wouldn’t have had without the platform.”

ice cream cookie sandwich

Booyah joined Platterz this past May. “I’ve had a lot of business I wouldn’t have had without the platform,” explains Blair. “I don’t have to worry about collecting money, or any outstanding balances. It’s all taken care of by Platterz.” His most popular items through our catering platform are the ice cream sandwich platters, and has accommodated corporate events anywhere from 20 to 350 people through our platform. Booyah is able to cater over one thousand ice cream sandwiches at once (we’re drooling at the thought of what over 1000+ ice cream sandwiches would look and taste like).

Booyah ice cream sandwich platter

With our minds full of joy after hearing Booyah’s story, and our stomachs full of ice cream, we left Booyah pretty happy. Blair is right—everyone is in a good mood when ice cream is involved.

Thinking of hosting an ice cream party at your office? Order Booyah and bring some whimsical, ice cream magic to your team!

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organized desk supplies
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6 Desk Décor Tips To Make You More Productive

Fact: We spend close to one third of our lives in the office, sitting at our desks. Fiction: We have to keep our desks dull to ensure we stay productive. At Platterz, we’re tackling the myth that life in the office is bleak, and that your desk has to be a reflection of that. Not a closeted DIY expert? Don’t want to spend money on your office supplies? No problem! We know time is a luxury, so here are six ways you can effortlessly update your desk décor to optimize your workspace and workflow.

1. Combine Colours

The Benefit: Induce Emotions

colourful desk

It goes without saying that a day in the office is never black and white, so why should your desk be? Yellow is commonly known for energy and optimism, while blue is affiliated with relaxation and focus, and green with tranquility and balance. A study conducted by the task management app, Taskworld, suggests that, contrary to popular belief, implementing colours into your day will actually stimulate greater creativity, rather than serve as a distraction. Try opting for coloured pens or notebooks, or even a bright coloured coffee mug. We’re not saying every colour of the rainbow per se, but it’s important to find which colours are best suited to you, your role, and your work environment.

2. Strategic Supplies

The Benefit: Improve Efficiency

calendar with post-its

Whether you work on a computer or prefer traditional methods such as writing everything by hand, it goes without question that your office supplies should be tailored to fit the way you work. Do you write to-do lists everyday? Then jot down your thoughts in a daily agenda. Are you high-tech and use multiple devices at once? Tame the cord chaos with cable organizers to avoid your desk becoming a storage facility. You learn your best practices when you have the tools to support you, so be sure to check out Business Insider’s list of affordable yet undeniably beneficial desk-hacks. Seriously, you’ll ask yourself how you ever worked without them.

3. Plant Life

The Benefit: Feel At Home

plants at desk

According to WeWork’s Senior Designer, Rachel Montana, people want to feel at home, and personalize their workspace while in the office. Work is seen as an expression of who you are, so being comfortable in your own space is essential, and will help ensure others feel the same. What’s a simple way to bring home life to the office? Plants! According to The Guardian, “considerable energy has gone into showing how plants and flowers brighten the work experience.” In fact, the term Biophilia was coined to demonstrate how green office spaces reduce stress hormones and increase brain functionality. So, pick up a succulent, cactus and/or small flower pot – just don’t forget to water it!

4. Healthy Snacking 

The Benefit: Boost Energy

snacking on fruit jar

3pm strikes and you’re craving a bag of chips, or perhaps you have a sweet tooth and the convenience store across the street has unlimited chocolate bars. The only problem is that you’re busy at work and don’t want to binge on unhealthy treats. The easiest way to avoid the mid-afternoon-hunger-strike is by keeping a jar of bite-sized munchies on your desk. Having fruits, veggies and nuts ordered to the office make for effortless snacking, without sacrificing time and the charming aesthetics of your revamped tabletop. And if you get thirsty post-snack, replace plastic bottles with a coloured water bottle or themed tumbler to add a touch of spunk, all while staying environmentally conscious!

 

5. Stick to a Scent

The Benefit: De-Stress

aromatic oils on desk

We all know that scents tend to be very personal. Some people might love the warm essence of vanilla bean, while others might prefer a fresh lemon-lime aroma. However, there are actually a few scents that are proposed to have a universal effect on people, especially in the workplace. Candles are likely a no-go in an office building (fire hazard and all), so try keeping these rollerballs or oils lined up on a decorative tray. Not only do they provide subtle scents, they don’t hurt the eye nor disrupt colleagues! Not sure which fragrance you fancy? Huffington Post Canada points out that citrus-infused scents such as lemon and orange aid in concentration, peppermint reduces headaches, lavender’s nourishing properties help with stress, and cinnamon can combat fatigue. We’ll take all four, please!

6. Personal Touches 

The Benefit: Generate Sociability

photo frame on desk

Do you spend your 9-5 daydreaming of the last time you lay on the beach, climbed a mountain or slept in a hotel bed? Us too. And, as it turns out, we’re not alone. WeWork polled over 4,000 of its members around the world, and discovered the extensive lack of work-life balance in traditional offices—a notion that Platterz is already on its way to combating. The solution? Personalizing your workspace is crucial in both putting a smile on your face as you reminisce, and to serve as an effortless conversation starter. If you have a framed photo of your new Dalmatian, or a landscape of your bucket list vacation, add it to your desk collection! Colleagues and visitors to the office are bound to want to know more. Trust us, there’s proof in the pudding.

Try these out and let us know how you designed your desk by tagging Platterz in your desk décor photos on Instagram. If you’re already a master at creating a pretty yet productive workspace and have a method to the madness, share your tips in the comments below!

Don’t just want to limit this tips to your desk and are hoping to improve your office’s space too? Check out our spotlight on Top Hat’s office and take a peek into their interactive, innovative workspace for inspiration (FYI, they have purple walls!).

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top hat daily lunches
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The Platterz Effect: How Daily Lunches Feed Top Hat’s Culture

Top Hat, an education technology company, uses Platterz to order daily lunches for their constantly growing team of 320. We went to Top Hat to learn about their team, their company, and their time with Platterz!

Arriving just before lunch, we were welcomed into their bright, wide-open space. Their office was designed to encourage collaboration; on the layout of their space, Lydia, a Top Hat Office Coordinator explains: “There are no closed doors.” It was clear from the get-go that office culture is a priority for Top Hat—something we can definitely relate to here at Platterz.

open collaborative space

As two Toronto-based startups in the tech industry, we have had a long-lasting collaborative relationship with Top Hat, who has used our office catering platform since we first launched. Top Hat is the provider of the leading cloud-based teaching platform for higher education. Top Hat’s mission is to make higher education more effective, affordable, and engaging. One of the ways they accomplish this is by making textbooks, test materials, and educational content right in the palm of students’ hands. “Students are on their phones anyway, so why don’t we just put the content right in front of them,” says Office Manager, Russ. He mentions that they designed their lunchroom to “make it more like school. Everyone comes down to eat together, no matter what department or floor. Everyone has room to eat together.”

daily lunches

“Hardly anyone ever leaves the office for lunch. Why would you ever need to go to a restaurant, if you know you’re getting delicious food at the office everyday?”

At Platterz, we are strong believers that when teams come together over shared meals, they’re happier, healthier, and more productive. Speaking to Top Hat’s lunch culture, Lydia emphasizes that “hardly anyone ever leaves the office for lunch. Why would you ever need to go to a restaurant, if you know you’re getting delicious food at the office everyday? Even if team members have lunch meetings they will ask if they can bring [external] people into the office for food.” Bringing lunch meetings in to the office to avoid missing out on delicious meals? We want in too!

“I think it’s those little things that make a big difference for employees.”

sharing meals

“I think it’s those little things that make a big difference for employees. They enjoy coming to work, and they feel provided for which incentivizes them to keep working really hard,” Lydia says. Platterz is here to make offices more human, so it was especially exciting for us to hear that this has been the case for Top Hat.

“We know how stressful it is to order food [just] one day for 300 people, whereas doing it every single day takes a lot—it takes a team, and it takes a platform.”

Lydia explains how hers and Russ’s positions are all encompassing, and that ordering food is made easy with our platform, taking a stressor off their plate; “We always joke that we do everything (we’re like plumbers, nurses, whatever it is, we do it), so if we also had to order food everyday and make sure that all allergies and tastes were catered to, we wouldn’t be able to pull it off as smoothly as Platterz does.” Russ adds, “We know how stressful it is to order food [just] one day for 300 people, whereas doing it for daily lunches takes a lot—it takes a team, and it takes a platform.”

top hat employees eating

We want to thank Top Hat so much for hosting us over their lunch hour. We loved getting to know their team better and seeing first-hand how Platterz has contributed to a positive work environment for their employees!

Interested in having Platterz cater to your office (daily lunches, food trucks, happy hours, etc.)? Be sure to create an event now! 

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Healthy Salads
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Café Neon’s Healthy Catering Infuses Greek Heritage Into Every Bite

“In Greece, every village has a cafeneon, where all the locals gather to eat. A day doesn’t go by without going there.”

Walking into Café Neon, we were transported to a Greek café right by the Mediterranean sea. With brightly patterned walls, music beating, and the fresh smell of coffee, we felt far away. It didn’t feel like a Tuesday, or the beginning of a work week. It felt like we were in a small town in Greece—a place full of life and culture. We sat down with Greek owner Niki Tsourounakis at Café Neon, to hear her story and learn about her restaurant-catering business.

Veggie Platter

Named after the Greek traditional meeting spot, “cafeneon”, Niki wanted to bring a piece of Mediterranean culture to Toronto. “In Greece, every village has a cafeneon, where all the locals gather to eat. A day doesn’t go by without going there”, mentions Niki. Cafeneons bring people together over food—which at Platterz, we know a little something about. “I loved the feeling that they exuded. It was a local spot, and you met your relatives and friends, and caught up on the day’s events” Niki explains. Upon opening her restaurants and catering business, Niki wanted to bring this exact feeling to Café Neon and its cocktail counterpart, Bar Neon.

Being born into three family restaurants, Niki always felt at home in the kitchen. “I just had it in me”, she says. “I learned so much being in the restaurants. I learned how to cook by watching the chefs in the kitchen. I still have visions of how they prepared things to this day.”

Freshly baked croissants

“This is what I should be doing. It’s my passion.”

Despite her family history in the restaurant industry, Niki wanted to do something different. “I thought I wanted to leave the restaurant industry to challenge myself more. I went to school for forensic psychology. I wanted to be a criminal profiler.” After going through schooling for forensic psychology, Niki purchased a property and rented it out to a budding chef. “Watching him cook re-inspired me, and brought it back out of me. I thought to myself, what am I doing? This is what I should be doing. It’s my passion.” Stemming from this realization, Niki started participating in catering events, cooking out of her small apartment.

“I just dreamt it. I thought, this is going to be the place, this is perfect.”

Keeping busy with small-scale catering events, Niki was approached to do an office launch party for 300 people. Seemingly an ambitious undertaking, Niki was ready for the challenge. “I was cooking out of my tiny loft, but I never say no to anything.” Inspired by the neighbourhood of the event, she ended up finding a vacant space online, which would become Café Neon. “I just dreamt it. I thought, this is going to be the place, this is perfect.” Café Neon opened shortly thereafter in 2011, and just six months later, Niki opened Bar Neon. She now operates the business with her partner Katy Chan, who is a Stratford trained chef. 

Oatmeal Cookies Behind Glass

“We like to stick to simple ingredients, and letting them shine. Less is more.”

With a healthy Mediterranean fusion menu, Café Neon’s food is made from scratch. “One of our biggest mantras is that we don’t use anything that’s processed and we use mostly organic ingredients. We make everything.” Niki is proud of the ingredients she and her team uses, and even imports her family’s olive oil from Greece. “It tastes like liquid-gold.” She mentions how eating healthy is important to her, and how this is incorporated into her catering. “We like to stick to simple ingredients and let them shine. Less is more.” 

Café Neon signed on with Platterz about a year ago. On working with Platterz, Niki says “it feels like having an extra team member.” We work with our vendors daily to make sure that they feel like they are a part of our family, so it was extra exciting to hear Niki say that she feels like we are a part of her team.

In terms of opportunity, Niki reflected on how her business has recently evolved. “We’re catering to people we would’ve never approached. We don’t really advertise that we cater, and we don’t really have to because of Platterz. They’ve opened a lot of avenues for us, and are allowing us to grow at a much faster pace.”

Cafe Neon

After hearing about Niki, her Greek heritage, and how the kitchen is Niki’s natural habitat, our admiration for Café Neon instantly grew. This is why we love meeting our vendors—their stories and the care they put into their food is truly inspiring. We felt very at home during our time at Café Neon, and love the way Niki’s passion for food comes through in her catering. If your team is in need of some healthy comfort food, Cafe Neon has got you covered!

Take a look at their menu on Platterz and be sure to let us know what you think!

Porta Via grilled vegetables, roasted chicken, grilled tofu, quinoa and brown rice
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Cooking as an Art: How Porta Via Chef-Owner Ali Found His Creativity

Cooking as an Art: How Porta Via Chef-Owner Ali Found His Creativity

We arrived at Porta Via bright and early on a Friday morning and were greeted by smells of fresh herbs, a kitchen in full-swing, and Ali’s unwavering hospitality. He led us straight into the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, sharing intricate details of his past while mixing spices, chopping veggies, and preparing his catering orders for the day.

Owner Ali With His Menu

From an aircraft maintenance engineer to a restaurateur, Ali’s quest for creativity was found through fresh ingredients, healthy food and recipe-building. Porta Via, the Italian phrase for “takeaway”, was opened in 2006 to fill the gap between fast-food restaurants and fine dining. On opening his restaurant and catering business, Ali mentions that there was “nothing fresh or of good quality,” if you needed something on-the-go. With this, Ali saw an opportunity.

seasonal salad

Initially an Italian-inspired menu, Porta Via opened to provide customers with something quick, without compromising quality of food or taste. Through listening to his customers, the Porta Via menu quickly became international fusion, focusing on high quality, healthy ingredients that were always fresh. “Everyone is going back to their roots, everyone is becoming health-conscious.” Ali mentions, which inspired the health-focused menu of Porta Via. 

“The ingredients we use are real ingredients; it’s the food we were meant to eat.”

Chalkboard restaurant sign: Porta Via Promise: real good using real ingredients from scratch. Bon Apetit!

Ali has worked in the restaurant and catering industry since 1998. He worked as a bartender, a server and a catering coordinator at restaurants, banquet halls and catering companies. “I picked up a lot of experience on how to service customers properly, and how to make them happy.” This is one of the main focuses of Porta Via – to always listen to their customers. “We change our recipes according to what our customers want. Our menu is almost entirely gluten-free, we use no preservatives, and make everything from scratch.”

While working for Air Canada as an aircraft maintenance engineer, the attacks of September 11th played a key role in Ali’s career. “A lot of people were laid off after September 11th, and I was one of them. My background was in engineering and the restaurant industry.” Upon arriving at this crossroad, Ali chose the restaurant industry. He explains how growing up, he always wanted to create, and through food he has found his creative niche. “Cooking is an art,” Ali remarks, “I wouldn’t have lasted as an engineer, I wouldn’t have been able to be as creative.”

Porta Via’s catering menu is inspired by many cuisines; every week, Ali and his family dine at different restaurants to look for new ideas for his menu. When inspired, Ali returns back to his kitchen after hours and experiments with different ingredients. “Our roasted eggplant in ginger coconut curry sauce was inspired by a fine Indian restaurant in Toronto.”

Build-Your-Own Hot Meal Bowls

Ali wears “many hats” at Porta Via; he is a business owner, a manager, ensures food is at top quality, and directs customer service. “Marketing gets left out” Ali mentions, and notes that Platterz has really helped his business in this way. As soon as he sat down with the Platterz team, he knew that he wanted to be a part of it. “Platterz understands the restaurant business very well, which is helpful for success.”

When asked what the most rewarding part of his job is, Ali explains without hesitation that “being able to create jobs and give opportunity is the most inspiring.” Ali has cultivated a positive working space for his employees – which also happens to be one of the key principles of Platterz (no wonder we work so well together)! Ali views his relationship with his employees very positively. “We are like family. If I focus on the employees, they focus on our customers, and everyone is happy.”

A humbling moment for us came when Ali spoke about how Platterz has played a defining role in his creative pursuit. “The Platterz team is so adaptable and great – they trust me, and are always willing to take on new recipes for the menu.” The Build-Your-Own Hot Meal is the best performing item on Platterz, and enables him to come up with new creative combinations and flavours for his corporate catering clientele. Ali adds that this feeds his creativity further – he’s always trying new things.

“Cooking is an art.”

Seasoning Brussel Sprouts

While being at Porta Via, Ali and his employees treated us like a part of the family. Talk about amazing workplace culture! We were welcomed into the family, and left well-fed (the food was extraordinarily fresh and abundant with flavour, FYI), which is why we love meeting our restaurant and catering partners. Sharing food brings people together, and after learning about what led to Porta Via’s delicious success, the food tastes even better! 

 

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How Platterz Caterer Mika Built Mika Fresh From The Ground Up

What do Computer Science and cooking have in common?

To most, not much – but for Mediterranean caterer Mika, whose passion has always been about making things, the disciplines turned into an unlikely pair of outlets for her creativity. We sat down with her to hear her take on the transition from typing code to kneading dough, and to learn how she built the successful catering company and storefront Mika Fresh while starting a family.

mika fresh

When Mika and her husband first immigrated to Canada, she planned to study Culinary Arts at George Brown – a unique complement to her degree in Computer Science, which she hoped would let her explore her love for baking. But between a career in engineering and growing her family, she put the goal on the back-burner, instead taking odd bakery jobs on the weekends and after hours to satisfy the baking itch.

Soon, that itch meant that working in the kitchen became a necessity rather than a hobby. “When I was working with computers, I realized that I needed to work with my hands – but not just typing,” she said. Baking and cooking gave her a creative space she felt was missing from her office jobs that she couldn’t pass up. Her time spent in kitchens grew, and after having her second child, Mika took up opportunities to work in restaurants, eventually making the switch to baking full-time.

Since moving to Toronto, she’d also noticed a gap in the market for fresh, casual food that tasted homemade: “It was hard to find a place where you could get something healthy…You have to look very hard, and sometimes you don’t feel like having the whole experience of the restaurant, but you want real food,” she said. So she decided to fill the gap herself.

mika-restaurant

When Mika Fresh was born, it was just Mika as the head chef and owner, her former coworker Naftali who’d head the baking efforts, and whatever kitchen space they could get their hands on. As a first-time business owner, she experimented with different approaches – like a focus on packaged grab-and-go meals, and private event catering – before nailing down the concept.

Finally, she decided to focus on catering out of a small, fast-casual dine-in space. Getting into a rhythm with only two people handling the administration, storefront, catering, and deliveries took time. “We had a rough start. Our customers were very patient with us,” she laughed. Today, it couldn’t be a more different story.

mika-team

In the two-and-a-half years since she and Naftali bounced from kitchen to kitchen, Mika joined Platterz, and settled into a space where her catering capacity, storefront business, and reputation as a staple Toronto caterer have skyrocketed. For Platterz customers and Toronto locals who’ve tried the food, Mika Fresh’s reputation is obvious: reliably delicious, healthful dishes that taste like they were made by Mom.

Mika’s independent approach has taught her a lot. Her advice for other burgeoning caterers is to have a solid business plan, and try to plan to offload responsibilities to hired staff. “If you have the finances from the beginning, you’ll have the resources to help you build more easily in the future,” she pointed out.

She’s frank when reflecting on her business, telling us, “on your own, it’s a lot.” At Mika Fresh, she’s solely responsible for all the administration in addition to working in the kitchen – plus, she and Naftali do the catering deliveries by themselves. The result is a business and food that people love – but it doesn’t leave much time for sleep or spending time with family, which she says is her biggest challenge.

“I don’t get to see my kids much, which for me as a mother is really difficult,” she said. Luckily, Mika’s kids are getting old enough to spend more time at the restaurant, helping out with odds and ends in the kitchen on weekends. “I think they’re getting tired of my cooking, though,” she laughed. 

mika-orders

Mika credits Platterz in part for alleviating the burden of marketing and expanding her customer base to major Toronto companies, like Twitter, Amazon, and LinkedIn. Feeling confident about her corporate catering business has allowed her to focus on growing Mika Fresh and delivering great meals, without having to worry about getting enough customers through the door.

Since moving to her current space, she’s hired additional staff members, and plans to expand her catering capacity. “Platterz really helped push the catering business forward,” she said, “And we want to focus on it.”

As a customer favourite, we know she’ll be met with open arms.