A popular catering company based in Victoria that went silent on customers in the midst of planning their weddings has declared bankruptcy after nearly a decade of operation, citing the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an email to customers, suppliers and former employees obtained by CHEK News, Toque Catering executive chef and director Nicholas Waters expressed his regret at the sudden closure of the “small but mighty” business.
“Despite our best efforts to adapt to the challenging circumstances brought on by the pandemic, the prolonged lockdowns and restrictions placed on events and gatherings have severely impacted our operations, leading to insurmountable financial losses,” Waters wrote.
“We have explored every possible option to keep the business afloat, but unfortunately, we have been left with no choice but to cease operations.”
Waters went on to express his gratitude for the support of the community and his regret that Toque Catering could not continue to serve its customers in the future.
He also assured clients that the company was doing everything possible to meet its obligations as it follows the established processes outlined in the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, though he made no mention of the several couples who came forward to publicly share their stories of being left in the lurch after putting down thousands of dollars in deposits.
The closure of Toque Catering has left many of its clients, including several couples planning weddings, in the lurch. At least five couples told CHEK News they were out thousands of dollars in deposits with no communication or information from the company until Thursday’s letter.
Some previously said they had even resorted to filing police reports to recoup their losses.
“It’s another thing to completely vanish. We’re in Canada, one can file for bankruptcy, sell their assets, and give what they can to their customers. To completely vanish feels a bit criminal in my mind,” said Christine Gallinger, a bride-to-be who gave Toque Catering a $5,000 deposit for her wedding this summer, on Wednesday.
Court documents show that Toque Catering’s financial or business issues may have started years prior, with the company having defaulted on their payment of Provincial Sales Tax and Employer’s Health Tax, amounting to more than $5,000 dollars owed.
Replying to a follow-up email from CHEK News, Waters explained one of the big reasons the company went under is because it was forced to reschedule weddings for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, losing three years of business.
“And then all the reliefs from the government were counted as income so we had to pay the taxes 2 years later on those. Then our industry has had catastrophic staffing shortages and because of that wages went up 60% just to retain staff nevermind the inflation in food prices,” he wrote. “All this while honoring our contracts that were booked in 2018-2019 for 2020 with these rising costs.”
Waters said in his email that the company would communicate with clients further about the bankruptcy process and “steps we are taking to mitigate any impact on you as soon as possible.”
CHEK News asked a representative from Toque Catering if the company would commit to returning all the outstanding deposits to clients who are not receiving any services, but did not get an answer back.
With files from CHEK’s Kori Sidaway.