“Being an entrepreneur means constantly adapting. Adapting to consumers, to new ways of doing things, but also being ahead of the curve, identifying tomorrow’s trends and taking actions before others,” Joseph Mantagaris, founder and CEO of 21st Century Food.
Seeing what tomorrow will bring… Joseph has often been a visionary. In 2005, he launched the first prepared meal delivery service in Canada. Soon after, the company moved into the Corporate Cafeteria industry, signing new contracts and positioning themselves as a local alternative to the options available. Yet COVID-19 caught him off guard, and the Corporate Cafeteria industry was forced to reduce in volume. However, thanks to his extraordinary ability to adapt, Joseph was able to react.
An innate ability to adapt
At the young age of 18, Joseph decided he wanted to travel. Over the next seven years , Joseph discovered a wide variety of exotic places and recipes. He adapted to each country, each region, and discovered a different universe.
Upon his return to Montreal, he decided that it was time to create his own company, based on his experiences. His exceptional capacity to adapt made becoming an entrepreneur the next feasible step in his career.
21st Century Food or the early days of home delivery
21st Century Food was started with his then girlfriend (today wife), Kelly Pliakas. Joseph prepared each meal in his own apartment kitchen and delivered it personally to his customers. Home delivery was an unknown concept at the time. So unknown in fact that Joseph and Kelly spent the first years of the business educating people as well as their competitors, who were slowly starting to emerge.
From home delivery to corporate
In 2009, Joseph and Kelly decided to pivot to the Corporate sector, which had long been neglected. Once dominated by large companies, 21st Century Food quickly made a place for itself by customizing its offer and adapting its menus to the preferences of each client. In 2016, 21st Century Food set up “Le Bistro par 21st Century Food” in the Technoparc de Montréal. At this point, Joseph and Kelly operated several cafeterias and business was going well; 21st Century Food was growing and it had over 50 employees before the pandemic.
COVID-19: adapting to survive
The Food and Beverage industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and Joseph and Kelly have not been spared.
To survive the crisis, the couple decided to pivot – once again – back to their roots of a Prepared Meal Home Delivery service. With the support of the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) from the Government of Canada, and the Emergency Assistance for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses from the Government of Quebec, through PME MTL Centre-Ouest, one of the six areas of service of PME MTL, the City of Montreal’s business support network, they made their pivot!
Thanks to this support, 21st Century Food, Joseph and Kelly were able to create a new division named Beurre et Baguette. Beurre et Baguette delivers fresh, prepared meals to homes using local products. Today, this new division has grown incredibly due to the experience and know-how of the industry pioneers, and has been supporting the entire business. However, in recent weeks, 21st Century Food has begun to re-initiate contact with its corporate clients, including many requests from new ones.
With an uncertain future, Joseph and Kelly will have to continue adapting in the coming weeks and months, but there is no doubt that they will succeed.