PHOTO: Menu Maker founder Mary Weary, left, with new creative director and owner Reiko Tate, right, stand outside their headquarters on Friday, August 31, 2018./Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Last August, Mary Weary opened a brick and mortar location in Franklin for the catering company she began in her kitchen in 1992.
“I’ve always had a dream to open my own place,” she explained inside Menu Maker’s building, located off Alpha Drive.
Now, Weary has sold full ownership of the company to Reiko Tate, a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta who has a background in corporate marketing and client development.
A native of the Green Hills area of Nashville, Weary attended the University of Memphis, majoring in food and minoring in business.
Her mother instilled a love of food and cooking during her childhood.
Weary remembers her fondness for a Betty Crocker Jr. cookbook, and how she would bring home-cooked food to sports events she participated in.
Her favorite dish was her mother’s spaghetti and homemade meatballs, with sauce made from scratch.
After college, Weary began the company as a ministry, serving Forest Hills Baptist Church and Judson Baptist Church before opening and licensing her own kitchen to operate the company from.
“I always liked serving people, and having people like what we eat,” she said. “That’s the biggest joy we can have, is to have food look good and taste good.”
After purchasing the building on Alpha Drive and opening their carry out location last August, Weary said she decided she “wanted some ‘me time.’”
“Catering is 24/7,” she said.
She met Tate through professional contacts, and the women opened a dialogue about the business, before Tate purchased the company on August 1.
Love for entertainment
Tate said her love for creating an experience led her to Menu Maker.
“I almost look at it like art,” she said. “Creating the whole experience where people walk in and you have appetizers for them, and it’s just good times with family and friends.”
Tate got her start planning parties in her college dormitory.
“Even when I didn’t have a nice place, I didn’t care,” she said. “I just got great food, great drinks, and, everybody come over!”
“I love the idea of coming up with menus and pairing them with wines, and really elevating the experience of enjoying the food,” she added.
Now, Weary is listed as “founder” on the website, though she is still acting in an advisory role, helping Tate find her footing.
What are their favorite menu items?
For Weary, it’s either the pecan pie or the pecan chicken.
“Favorite? There’s been so many of them,” Tate said, mentioning a chocolate pie before pausing to think. “Our pimento cheese! There’s a fried pimento cheese bite that’s so delicious.”
Corporate clientele and carryout expansion
Clients today are mainly corporate entities, but also include private individuals who contract Menu Maker for weddings.
The Nashville Kennel Club, Williamson County Bar Association, Williamson Medical Center, Reliant Bank, Vanderbilt University and the Adventure Science Center are all clients.
Menu Maker is also the in-house caterer for several clients, like the Belle Meade Plantation.
In addition to their catering services, Menu Maker opened their space to offer menu items for those who want to pick up a quick lunch.
Food is made from fresh ingredients, with all sides, desserts and sauces made from scratch.
Menu items range from $6.50 to $9, with various sides available. Tate and Weary said customers often come in and sit down to eat there.
“It’s great for people to come in, it’s very low-risk,” said Tate. “Come in, eight bucks, you can get a hot sandwich and eat.”
Nashville/Williamson County catering company Menu Maker has a carryout location in South Franklin! Here are some of their specials, described by new owner Reiko Tate. Story coming to @BusinessWillCo! pic.twitter.com/RmLDiRUCno
— Brooke Wanser (@Bwanser_writes) August 31, 2018
Location: 102 Alpha Drive, Franklin
Carryout hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.