Scanway of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada was originally primarily a bakery, especially known for its cakes, before evolving into a full catering outfit. Today, the Scanway brand is recognizable across the company’s home province thanks to its quality.
The business was founded by the Simensen family, led by Unni Simensen, in 1981. In 1997, she passed the business to her son Geir who went on to sell the company to current owners Raj and Anju Gupta in 2017.
The Guptas were friendly with the Simensen family before the sale and used the opportunity to purchase the business when it was available for sale. Nearly six years after the purchase, Head of Marketing and Human Relations Anju Gupta reports that the experience has been very positive, as the business has seen considerable growth since the purchase with even more in store for its future.
One of the biggest areas of focus for the company is in its approach to customer service. From the time clients make an initial inquiry about an upcoming event, a Scanway sales engagement manager will connect with them about the logistics of what is needed and will then offer different menus in consultation with Operations Partner and Executive Chef Raj Gupta.
Scanway has a diverse array of food and wine menus and is more than happy to customize its offerings according to the desires or needs of the client, including taking into account any food allergies. This ensures that clients are not only happy with the service, but that they also receive the best dining experience possible.
Halifax is something of a smaller market in comparison to some of Canada’s other capital cities, so creating a unique identity for a business in the Atlantic region is important if one wants to enjoy Scanway’s success. The business markets itself as ‘an East Coast hospitality group,’ but Anju feels that it stands out in the catering space through both its presentation and the superior quality of the food it makes.
“We get a lot of private events, VIP events, and weddings,” she remarks, recounting recent events at local landmarks like the Seton Spirituality Centre and the Halifax Convention Centre in the heart of the downtown area.
Beyond its customer-facing activities, it is a family-oriented company, as evidenced by its transfer from one family of entrepreneurs to another. Anju describes how employees are also treated as closely as family members. She stresses the importance of an open internal culture, where employees can bring ideas and opinions about event planning and more. By embracing this transparent internal structure, the company has been counted as a top employer in the city, even through hard times.
In the turbulent opening months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Scanway managed to pivot its operations to stay ahead of any difficulties and be one of the more viable businesses in the area. Before this, the company was primarily concerned with private catering opportunities and business contracts like the ones it still holds with several hotels in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
These hotel contracts came in handy since, during the pandemic. Many people, including local hospital employees and visitors to the area, had to quarantine in the hotels it served, as per quarantine regulations at the time. Scanway provided food to these people in quarantine, which helped it stay afloat and be able to pay its employees.
Anju cites another contract with the Halifax Airport’s Alt Hotel, for which the business began to supply pre-packaged meals, as a key partnership during this time. This regular opportunity also helped to keep the company busy, as did the launch of an online wing of its business, Pantry by Scanway, a packaged food delivery service.
This newer aspect of the business allows restaurant-quality food to be taken directly to customers, who then reheat it. The venture proved extremely successful right away amidst the global boom of food delivery resulting from lockdown measures. Anju is happy to say that Scanway kept running throughout the entirety of the pandemic without a single shut-down day and is quick to thank the workers who put so much effort into helping the business not just survive, but thrive in a difficult time. The contracts with several local hotels, such as Best Western, are still very much active, but overall, the future of the business is taken on a day-to-day basis and with heavy market consideration.
Although pandemic measures have lessened, there are still many troublesome areas that businesses are bumping up against in 2023, both in Canada and globally. The company is feeling the crunch from industry staffing shortages, as well as food price inflation. These pressures are causing widespread employment crises and food insecurity that is affecting people at all levels of industry.
Being in a smaller market has its advantages. Anju feels it is easier to get more regular business in and around Halifax, with brand recognition also being easier to spread than in a larger market like Toronto. The Scanway name has helped it to stay active in its home province for over forty years.
Anju reveals that the company has big plans for 2023 and is also on the lookout for any other kind of opportunity that may be in the market. The current path for the year involves the opening of a food hall in the Purdy’s Wharf building near the Halifax waterfront—a high-traffic location in proximity to nearby bustling hubs like Scotia Square. The opening has been slightly delayed to March or April, she reports, but is otherwise on track and will be momentous for the company.
Minimum wage in the province will be increasing to fifteen dollars an hour in 2023 which will be yet another challenge for the business. “I cannot raise prices accordingly, despite these factors, so to stay competitive, prices will remain low,” she says. The company is determined to keep moving forward in the face of these troubles.
It is also still looking to hire new people who are interested in working in the catering industry. Although the hiring market is amid considerable strain, Scanway is eager to welcome new faces into its family atmosphere. Anju and the team remain confident that the storms affecting all local businesses will be weathered, as the business moves ahead well into its fourth decade with a sense of pride in both its work and identity.