Embedded in the Community
Count On Us Catering is a third-generation food family in Nevada, Mo.
Starting with Bennie’s BBQ in the 1980s, when owner Sandy (Pritchett) Norcross worked with her mom and dad, Bennie and Jeannie Pritchett, at their restaurant and assisted in catering. She eventually opened the small, but busy Wagon Wheel restaurant in Nevada, Mo., serving only home-style lunches with three bar stools and a drive through window.
Sandy started catering by the request of her customers and eventually began catering large events, such as conferences and weddings. She and her husband David owned and operated Count On Us Catering and Restaurant until the business sold in 2009 and they began catering exclusively. Sandy’s son, Jesse Meyers, and his wife, Aimee, have joined Sandy and David in the business.
“We were a barbeque family, but we like to say we’re more than just great barbeque,” Aimee said. “We are 100 percent apprentice. My mother-in-law was an apprentice with her father and his barbeque. My husband and I have learned from her, and by doing a lot of playing and practicing in the kitchen.”
In 2010, Count On Us Catering was asked to bid for the contract to operate the cafeteria at the 3M manufacturing facility in Nevada. Count On Us Catering is open at the facility around the clock, five days a week. There are about 600 employees at the facility and three meals per day are offered.
“We get to make a variety of things, and the people there appreciate the variety,” Aimee said. “We also get to try new things at 3M before we use it for catering.”
In addition to the cafeterias, the company also services vending machines at the facility, and serves the Missouri National Guard Unit in Nevada.
“We are really seeing some growth with the military side,” Aimee said. “We have really seen an expansion of that over the last three to five years.”
They have catered for several organization and companies, such as the Vernon County (Mo.) Cattleman’s Association, Missouri Corn Growers, FCS Financial and Smithfield. Events catered include events such as board meetings, educational seminars, and golf tournaments.
“We are really well embedded in our community,” Aimee said. “We get a lot of repeat clients, and then we get a lot of new clients with weddings and things that may just happen one time, or one time a year. We do a pretty significant lunch delivery business for meetings and those sort of things, and that is where we really start feeling good because those are the people who call us back each time they have any kind of special event.”
Aimee explained that Count On Us Catering can serve lunches for groups of 10, as well as provide enough food to literally feed an army.
“We have fed up to 900 military members at one time,” she said. “We can handle it all.”
The popularity of the business continues to grow, thanks to the ever-evolving menu, and the ability to cater to a wide variety of tastes and events.
“People often ask what type of food we serve,” Aimee said. “We just laugh and say, everything. When you serve so many diverse types of clients-from private, elegant parties to weddings and institutional food – you must be good at everything. We refer to ourselves as ‘custom caterers,’ which means that we can tailor a menu to most any taste or budget. We do have a menu if people need ideas, but we serve such a variety of clients that it provides us with endless menu options.
“I love barbecue, but I love it when people order something besides barbecue. I think because the area where we are, because it’s affordable and delicious, and ours is exceptional, people tend to want that more. I love to get to do very elegant, small groups where I have a lot of fun, really getting to use my culinary skills. We do a lot of catering with Cottey College (an independent, liberal arts and sciences women’s college in Nevada), and I might cater at the president’s house for 10 people and I really get to put my culinary skills to work there.”
What is Aimee’s favorite dish to prepare?
“We do a baked brie with cello and with fruit preserves that is my favorite thing in the world to make,” she said. “We make it with peach and cheery preserves. It is really, really good.”
In April, the family made a trip to a national food convention held in Las Vegas.
“The food convention was numerous food trucks who do a very wide variety of eclectic options,” Aimee told of the convention. “We saw everything from a truck that serves only colorful roasted corn to Hawaiian poke. We taste tested lobster from a truck that is sponsored by the TV show shark tank. We tasted ahi tuna and pork belly tacos, and a Thai hotdog that was out of this world. Also, we learned you can use fresh herbs in almost any recipe and completely change the flavor and add a touch of gourmet very easily.”
Count On Us has become a necessary business, which only keeps growing because everyone likes to eat – especially when the food is delicious.