Couples are out thousands of dollars after a catering company unexpectedly shut its doors and announced insolvency.

Couples are out thousands of dollars after a catering company unexpectedly shut its doors and announced insolvency.

"This is devastating to us," said Stephanie Dyck, a bride-to-be with plans for a rural July wedding.

She and her fiancé were wowed by Modern Plate Catering’s menu and online reviews. They put a $2,000 deposit down in November after settling on a prime rib dinner for their 250 wedding guests.

Dyck was shocked to receive an email Jan. 15 from the River Heights-based company saying it was shuttering.

"Due to the last two years of financial and personal strain due to the pandemic, we are writing this letter to inform you that Modern Plate Catering has closed its doors," the email read. "We apologise for the inconvenience this has caused you."

Co-Owners of Modern Plate Catering Amber Gill (left) and Lindsay Platt

Co-Owners of Modern Plate Catering Amber Gill (left) and Lindsay Platt

Dyck said she responded immediately and asked for her money back. After two days without a reply, she emailed again. She did so another four times.

"We have no idea, other than their emails, how to reach them, because their phone is out of order," Dyck said.

Modern Plate Catering’s phone is disabled, and the company has scrubbed its website and social media presence clean. Even co-owner and head chef Lindsay Platt’s LinkedIn account has been deleted.

Wedding industry looking to booming summer

The wedding industry — hard hit by public health restrictions over the past two years — is facing the future with optimism.

Elisabeth Schalla, owner of The Rustic Wedding Barn, is preparing for pre-pandemic numbers of weddings this summer, as long as there aren’t restrictions.

“It’s kind of going to be like three years’ worth of weddings piled into one,” she said, adding she knows many in the industry who can’t go another year with fewer bookings.

“It’s gotta roll out,” said Allison Polinsky, owner of Alli Mae Events.

The entrepreneur said she’s busier than pre-pandemic.

“I know so many planners who are booked solid this year, and that’s just because of all the postponements,” she said. “We’re trying to push people into 2023 for new inquiries.”

The wedding industry — hard hit by public health restrictions over the past two years — is facing the future with optimism.

Elisabeth Schalla, owner of The Rustic Wedding Barn, is preparing for pre-pandemic numbers of weddings this summer, as long as there aren’t restrictions.

“It’s kind of going to be like three years’ worth of weddings piled into one,” she said, adding she knows many in the industry who can’t go another year with fewer bookings.

“It’s gotta roll out,” said Allison Polinsky, owner of Alli Mae Events.

The entrepreneur said she’s busier than pre-pandemic.

“I know so many planners who are booked solid this year, and that’s just because of all the postponements,” she said. “We’re trying to push people into 2023 for new inquiries.”

Daisy Prockert, co-owner of All Seasons Catering, said she’s heard of event planners, DJs and photographers leaving the business during the pandemic. But, things are picking up.

“Wedding wise, (we’re) not quite back to normal, because we used to do over 200 (person) weddings,” Prockert said.

Beginning the pandemic with good finances was crucial to making it through the past couple years, she said.

Loyal customers were key for Melina De Luca, owner of bridal shop 7th Avenue Fashions. Still, there have been difficult periods, she said.

“When they cut us to 10 per cent (capacity), we might as well have locked the door,” she said. “There were days where I think it cost us more just to turn on the lights than we made in sales.”

Couples seem cautiously optimistic about weddings this year, De Luca said.

“This is a huge wedding year. We think 2023 is going to be even bigger, and we’re ready for the world to open up.”

- Gabrielle Piché

On Saturday, Dyck received an email from the business — her first since it had proclaimed its closure — saying it was insolvent and wouldn’t be issuing refunds.

"I cried," Dyck said. "We have five children… Even coming up with the $2,000 to put down was really difficult for us. It’s not easy, especially in the pandemic."

But, she knew she wasn’t alone: many couples stated in a Manitoba weddings Facebook page that they were facing the same issue.

"We question where this money has gone," Dyck said. "They wouldn’t have bought our food in January for a July wedding, so where’s our money?"

No bankruptcy or insolvency records appear under Modern Plate Catering’s name in Ottawa’s online database. The company’s annual filings for 2020 and 2021 are overdue, and the business’s status was still active Monday in the federal government’s business registry.

"They had to have known that they were having financial issues in November when they took our deposit," Dyck said.

She and her fiancé have contacted a lawyer and plan to take Modern Plate Catering to court if they don’t regain their deposit.

Modern Plate Catering did not respond to the Free Press by print deadline. Instead, a reporter received a bounce-back email stating the company’s closure and thanking people for their love and support.

Marcus Gallant and his fiancée had a custom plant-based menu made for them. The wedding is in August, but they deposited $1,000 last year.

"She was quite a bit more expensive than others, actually, but we really enjoyed her and her tailored… menu," Gallant said of Platt, who co-owned the business with Amber Gill.

Now, he’s scrambling to find a new caterer, and dishes and table settings, for his 150 guests.

“We have no idea, other than their emails, how to reach them, because their phone is out of order.” – Stephanie Dyck

"I’m upset as a consumer, but I’m empathetic," he said. "It’s not an easy decision, I’m sure, to make the call that she made (to close)."

As of Monday, he didn’t intend on taking Modern Plate Catering to court — it’s a big investment of time and money.

"If the company is insolvent and claiming bankruptcy, then there’s no money to take," he said.

However, he’s frustrated the company possibly used his dollars to pay bills.

"Those funds should not be accessible to the caterer until payment is actually required for the service that they provide," Gallant said.

“We question where this money has gone. They wouldn’t have bought our food in January for a July wedding, so where’s our money?” – Stephanie Dyck

Elisabeth Schalla, the owner of The Rustic Wedding Barn in La Broquerie, said she was stunned to hear Modern Plate Catering closed.

"I did not see that coming," she said. "(Platt’s) skillset was incredible, her food was amazing, and I thought she was heavily booked."

Closures in the wedding industry are disheartening, Schalla said, bringing up Anderson’s Hitch ‘N Post Ranch, a venue in Grosse Isle that closed last June after decades in business.

"You make friends with these people," Schalla said. "It’s very much a community."

Modern Plate Catering was incorporated in June of 2017.

gabrielle.piche@winnipegfreepress.com

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.