Life for Bec and Ray Fraser couldn’t be better—named Caterer of the Year and expecting their first baby in a few weeks, this couple is flying high. By Stephanie Sword
It’s been said good things come in threes. This is certainly true for Bec and Ray Fraser, who received this year’s Restaurant & Catering Award for Excellence as Caterer of the Year. In total, they were nominees in three categories—Best Italian Restaurant (Onda Ristorante Italiano), Best Wedding Caterer (The Cowrie Exclusive & Corporate Catering, which they won) and, of course, Caterer of the Year.
And just when you think things couldn’t get any better for the Frasers, Bec also celebrated her birthday the day after taking home the catering industry’s highest honour. Best of all, however, is the fact that the couple is expecting their first child in December.
Life is certainly sweet for these hard-working individuals. Their three Central Coast businesses—Onda Ristorante Italiano, The Cowrie Exclusive & Corporate Catering and The Cowrie Restaurant, an iconic establishment for nearly 30 years—have all been award winners. But the winning streak hasn’t jaded the couple, and they continue to find the accolades both surprising and validating. “We know that as a finalist anything can happen. We had good vibes about it (the Caterer of the Year award), but it was still a wonderful surprise,” states Bec. “The competition on the Central Coast is very good, so even winning on the regional level was very rewarding to us.”
The couple was unable to attend R&CA’s big night (“I was disappointed we couldn’t be there, but I’m also too enormous to go to an awards show right now,” she says, referring to her pregnancy), so The Cowrie was instead represented by Joel Yates, their catering chef, Heather DeVille, restaurant manager of The Cowrie, and the Frasers’ partners in Onda, Quest Keogh, head chef, and Alison Walters. “They had us on the phone as the presenter was making the announcement. It was very exciting to hear it at that moment,” she says.
The Frasers have always relied on their staff. In fact, Bec acknowledges their success is due in large part to their dedicated staff members. “We have a really great group of staff. Everyone knows what their role is to ensure the customers’ satisfaction. We all work very hard at it,” says Bec. As further encouragement, the Frasers also offer their managers motivating incentives, such as yearly trips, to help staff reach their targets.
Achieving goals for their Terrigal catering business has been the focus of the Frasers from the beginning. “We have been very focused on building our business. We’ve spent a lot of energy and time on it. It looks like it’s paid off, don’t you think?”
Yes, indeed. But the Frasers have had a long history of working hard in the industry. They both have strong track records that undoubtedly helped them obtain the national recognition they now enjoy.
Ray, who was inducted into the Restaurant & Catering Association’s Roy Adam Hall of Fame in 2004, began his career working in his family’s fish and chips restaurant in Umina. The family started The Cowrie in Pearl Beach with Ray as chef. The restaurant was moved to its current location in Terrigal in 1985, with Ray taking over after his parents retired. Over the years Ray broadened his experience by buying, selling and running several restaurants in the local area.
Bec also made her own mark. She initially owned a successful restaurant in Orange, and then went into business with her brother running a café on the Central Coast.
Bec and Ray merged their talents—and their lives—after meeting at an R&CA meeting several years ago. (Both have been chairs of Restaurant & Catering Association, Central Coast branch.)
Bec says their partnership, both professionally and personally, has been a complete success. “It’s absolutely fantastic. We have separate roles with our businesses, but we compliment each other extremely well. We have enormous respect for one another. He’s the best husband in the world,” she acknowledges.
In addition to being the ‘best husband,’ Ray also acts as general manager and accountant for their three businesses, as well as coordinating all catering functions. Bec handles marketing and human resources.
As owners, they both take a hands-on approach. “Ray and I work in the businesses every day, running them from The Cowrie head office,” she explains. “Each business has its own manager, and we work very closely with them.”
The Frasers believe it’s the details that set apart an average business from a highly successful one. “You must pay attention to the details. It’s the little things that make a big difference.
“We aim for consistency every single time. You have to go that extra mile for your customers. We make it very easy for our catering customers; we take the hassle out for them. Our clients constantly tell us how the experience was completely stress-free. They know that with us everything will be taken care of quickly and professionally,” Bec says.
That dedication has clearly paid off, with the Frasers winning their first national award. The recognition has already had a positive influence on their catering business. “We’ve won lots of awards before but never a national title. I’m sure we’ll be very busy after this! When we won at the state level it increased our exposure and the number of customers, but this is obviously something much more.”
Being acknowledged by their peers and other industry leaders has an added benefit—customers quickly realise just what their businesses have to offer. “When customers hear we’ve been judged the best, they know they’ve made the right choice by selecting us as their caterer.”
After word spread that Cowrie Exclusive & Corporate Catering—which handles a variety of assignments, including wedding receptions, corporate affairs and large-scale public functions (such as a recent BMW launch)—was named Caterer of the Year, many of the Frasers’ clients called to congratulate them. “In addition to the recognition we receive from the awards, our clients also give us the confidence to know that we’re doing a good job. It’s always nice to hear our customers say, “Well done!”
The Frasers know that satisfied customers are the lifeblood of any business, and should be treated as such. “Each client is absolutely special to us. When working together, that customer is the most important person in our lives. Their reality—whether it’s the perfect wedding or a successful business function—must be our reality. We take it that seriously,” says Bec.
The commitment to customers, staff and each other has paid off in a big way. And when baby makes three, the Frasers will once again hear “Well done!”