After two months of neck-to-neck voting, Added Touch Catering & Events emerged as the winner of the AJT’s 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. As selected by our readers, Added Touch has been a staple in Atlanta’s upscale catering scene for nearly three decades and includes divisions A Kosher Touch and A Healthy Touch.
The term “entrepreneur,” stolen from French “to undertake,” carries gravitas in managing, organizing, and assuming a business risk.
Owners Sandra and Clive Bank have certainly done that. They met in Johannesburg when Sandra was 15. She said, “We dated for four years, and I just knew he was the one.”
The couple arrived in Atlanta from Columbus, Ohio, nearly 30 years ago. As our winners, they are recognized as key influencers of charitable and lifecycle events. Added Touch operates out of a 9,500-square-foot facility in Sandy Springs, which includes a full commercial kitchen, pastry kitchen, cold rooms, warehouse, and offices. The full-service kosher catering branch is certified under the Atlanta Kosher Commission and is located in the Marcus JCC with separate dairy and meat kitchens. They also operate the kosher café within the MJCCA.
Sandra, who is company president, said, “As difficult as it is, it’s extremely rewarding. I’ve made fantastic friends, and I don’t feel like an immigrant from South Africa. I love the variety from event to event with a different set of colors and situations. We go from celebrations that make people happy to delivering a shiva meal and comforting the family.”
Emphasizing the “added,” in the company name, Sandra is known for her artisanship and attention to detail. Client Viki Freeman notes “Bank is dependable and calm, when you most need someone to be calm. She is not only a great caterer, but she also continues to mesmerize by her creativity in making events so memorable that she never duplicates ideas.”
Erin Lis, director of marketing and communications, said, “This all seems glamorous being in upscale houses and eating good food; but the Banks work harder than anyone. They can perform anyone’s job. The bottom line is this is very hard work.”
Sandra got her cooking start at an early age. “In South Africa we loved to entertain. The weather was pleasant, California-style, and we had a large labor staff. I was never afraid to entertain and set a beautiful table.” After many years as a chef for other people’s companies, she started her own.
“I started in my garage and took risks along the way. We funded this business ourselves. Every event is a risk. Sometimes the ovens don’t work, or I am running to Publix because the host forgot the flowers. I’ve cleaned bathrooms and windows too.” A not-so-funny emergency involved a kosher AIPAC dinner for 500 at the Atlanta History Center, where Sandra suspected that the chicken was spoiled. During the cocktail hour she sent cars to get new chicken to reconstruct the Wellington dish. She laughed looking back, “A senator stood up and said, ‘This is the best kosher meal I’ve ever had.’ They should only know what went on before.”
Hosts go to Sandra for all sorts of details — what kind of tent to rent, music, lighting, what to wear. “Every event is like setting up a restaurant from start to end. Every event has to be special. You know, we eat with our eyes!”
Vice president Clive heads finances and accounting, and is the engine keeping 14 full- and 60 part-time employees on task. Noting the demands of catering, Clive said that everyone works seven days a week during busy seasons. Chefs are up “chopping” at 6 a.m. and sometimes 4 a.m. He estimates that they did 50 parties in November alone.
Here’s what Clive told the AJT:
Marcia: Since you took a leap in starting a new business, at what point did you realize that you were a success?
Clive: I’m not sure we have reached it. We are only as successful as the last party. Catering is a strange business. You never know what’s coming from one week to the next.
Marcia: What are the challenges of being in the fresh food industry?
Clive: Getting the quantities right. Not buying too much or too little. G-d forbid at a Jewish event, you run out of food!
Marcia: What do you see trending in cuisine?
Clive: Healthy, healthy, healthy! We attend conventions to keep current. Catersource in Vegas and Kosherfest in Hoboken, N.J.
Marcia: What’s the key to you and Sandra working together so harmoniously? Hard to mix marriage and business?
Clive: We both run different parts of the business and stay in our own lanes not stepping on toes. I cover the financial end, food ordering and such; and she does client relations, menu development, the creative parts. Plus, our offices are at different ends of the building (haha).
Marcia: What happens in five to 10 years?
Clive: “I’m in my late 60s and cannot envision running around like this for another decade. We’ve selected our current employees, Erin and Moshe Lis to take over. She’s in charge of marketing and communications and is an attorney and he’s head of operations. Very capable people. … We will not go away. We will stay on as consultants.
Marcia: What other company do you most admire?
Clive: On a personal level, since I am a Type 2 diabetic, Abbott pharmaceuticals because they developed a sensor (versus sticking oneself with a needle), which can change the world or at least make life easier for a lot of people.
Marcia: If you drew a pie chart, how would your revenue fall?
Clive: 60 percent Added Touch, 35 percent kosher, 5 percent school catering.
Marcia: Do you have any statistics on the growth of the kosher food industry?
Clive: Kosher growth is phenomenal. We started from almost nothing. The demand is there for avant-garde and tasty kosher food.
Marcia: Are Atlantans spending more on entertaining? What does the average wedding cost?
Clive: I am only commenting here on the food portion: $125 per person Added Touch, $150 per person A Kosher Touch. Does not include tax, liquor, gratuity, but it’s a guideline.
Marcia: What are some of your most interesting events?
Clive: For the Super Bowl NFL Tailgate we were selected as a minority (female) business and served 2,000 sliders in four hours.
Then the Maccabi Games we served 4,000 meals, breaking down to 600 a meal, two meals a day (kosher). Plus, a huge a variety of special diets. The logistics were challenging over six venues.
Marcia: What is your formula for charitable contributions?
Clive: We do well more than our share by putting aside 8 to 10 percent. And not just Jewish ones. We want to give back.
Marcia: As the Jewish entrepreneur for 2019, for what are you most thankful?
Clive: This community which has embraced us. Plus “Sa;” without her there would be no business.
Marcia: Last word.
Sandra: Nothing like this happens without a terrific group. This is a team effort!