RUTHIE BURD’S STORY
Ruthie Burd, founder of The Lunch Lady, never imagined that one day she would be delivering healthy hot lunches to thousands of children at school.
When Ruthie was young, her wonderful Mom died, leaving Ruthie and her Father to fend for themselves. They did whatever was easiest, so nutrition was often replaced with the convenience of tinned beef stew and other canned delights. Her Dad, a GM employee and part-time United Church lay minister gave her advice about life and lessons in ethics and philosophy while the daily ration of tinned something or other was heating on the stove.
As a result Ruthie grew up very interested in ideas but avoiding the kitchen altogether. This was an arena in which she had absolutely no confidence.
Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. And so it was when Ruthie Burd found herself contemplating her career options in the early 1990s. She needed to balance her own desire to work with the demands of her young family, including the special needs of her middle son, profoundly affected by autism.
When she learned that there were no cafeterias in most elementary schools, and that many parents found making school lunches a chore, she thought — “there’s an idea!”
Her goal was to work in the morning, taking her children to work if necessary and spend afternoons at therapies and appointments. After reading about a company that delivered sandwiches to office workers, Burd decided she could borrow from the concept to start a business delivering ready-made lunches to parents of school children.
There was a challenge…the “not cooking “ thing.
However, the “not cooking” was seen more as inconvenience than a deterrent to future success. After all, she had not known how to manufacture vertical and venetian blinds and had learned how to do that and built a successful business in Montego Bay Jamaica as a supplier to the local market.
What she was not prepared for was the reality no parent or school wanted her service. So in the interim to pay the rent, she started making lunches for auto shops, doctor offices, and seniors.
Finally, after nearly 2 years, one school offered to do a trial. When all the menus came back, there was only 1 order.
Once the idea caught on, it was obvious that hot lunch for school kids was a really, really good idea.
Ruthie’s Father always said, “money works best when everybody has some.” So she decided to share her business idea with other people and started franchising the Lunch Lady concept in 2001
Today there are hundreds of schools served by the award winning Lunch Lady through a growing network of community based kitchens across Canada.
Each kitchen is a member of the Lunch Lady Group and operates under the leadership of a strong and dedicated head office. This allows each Lunch Lady to focus all their energy on providing the best possible service to their own school community.
Ruthie has become passionate about building her Brand while contributing to the success of others, promoting a healthier attitude to food, encouraging parents to take back control of their cupboards and persuading food companies to produce healthier options for the Canadian public. She still works full time in her business.
Like all entrepreneurs, she has had her shares of ups and downs, but being a determined optimist, has always found the necessary reserves she needs to forge ahead.
Although the Lunch Lady began as a lunch service provider for elementary school children, many other food service opportunities are presenting themselves. The company is now in a period of transition, evolving from a school year based business to a year round operation serving an expanded client base. Ever curious, Ruthie is looking forward to seeing what will happen next for the Lunch Lady Brand.
When she is NOT the Lunch Lady, Ruthie is the proud Mom of 3 boys, Chris, Brendan and Dylan, and one daughter-in-law, Kara. She is also married to the world’s greatest husband David, who has been her rock through thick and thin.
Like most other busy working moms, she goes home to the laundry and has more tasks on her to do list, than time to do them. Although she had a slow start in the kitchen, today she is an accomplished and creative cooking embracing a gluten and dairy-free diet at home.
A self proclaimed and unapologetic workaholic, Ruthie appreciates it when David reminds her that everyone now and then needs some “down time”. She loves to read, dance and daydream, eat chocolate, spend time with her husband and family, see friends and experience those rare and refined moments when she feels totally at peace with the world and everything around her feels just like velvet.
NO ONE BUILDS A BRAND BY THEMSELVES
The Lunch Lady evolved from its humble beginnings in 1993 into a thriving business. No one does this by themselves. It is a team effort resulting from the efforts of many people, including mentors, partners, staff and strong family support.
Our association with the Canadian Franchise Association has provided us with many of the tools we have used to grow as a business and given us the opportunity to connect with and learn from our peers in the Franchise Industry
And of course, Our Brand is supported by a dynamic and dedicated Head Office Team who keep things humming at the office every day and support our franchise partners.
Back row, left to right Steve Robinson [Partner and President] Larah [Nutition and Operations Coordinator] Nancy [Director of Franchise Development] Jim [partner and CFO]
Left to right front row Jennifer [Branding Coordinator and Operations Coach] Carole [School and Alternate Services Coordinator] Maria [Office Assistant], Rebekah [Director of Food Service and Operations] Ruhie [Founder] and Colleen [Office Manager/Book Keeper]
1993 – the Lunch Lady is created by Ruthie Burd
1999 – Jim Essex CGA becomes a partner to franchise the concept.
2001 – the first franchise is sold
2003 – we join the Canadian Franchise Association
2009 – Stan Newman former president of Colour Your World joins to head Corporate Development and reorganize the company –retiring from the Lunch Lady in 2013, his work done
2010 – we moved into our first offices in Vaughan Ontario
2011 – we purchased a competitor called Lunch Connection from the Hamilton Niagara area and hired one of the founders, Steve Robinson as our Director of Sales
2013 – Steve Robinson is appointed President and CEO and third partner