Cara Operations Ltd. is a Canadian company that provides catering services to airlines and operates several restaurant chains including: Harvey's, Swiss Chalet, Kelsey's, Milestones, East Side Mario's, Montana's and St-Hubert. Its headquarters are in Vaughan, Ontario in the Greater Toronto Area. It used to be headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario. In November 2008, the company moved to its new headquarters in Vaughan, Ontario near Vaughan Mills shopping centre.
In 2002, sales for the whole company were C$1.9 billion. 88% of the business comes from the restaurant services with the remaining 12% deriving from airline catering.
The name Cara was derived from the first two letters of each of the words "Canada Railway"; it is also an Irish word meaning "friend".
It was chartered in 1883 as Canada Railway News Company selling newspapers, magazines and confectionaries at railway stations. The company's roots go back to the mid-1850s when Thomas Patrick Phelan was selling fruit and newspapers to train passengers between Hamilton and Buffalo. Canada Railway News soon moved into the food business, catering to a boom in passenger rail traffic in Canada.
In the 1930s, Cara began offering catering services to the airlines. By 1951 it was serving about 1,500 meals a day.
In 1961 the company changed its name to Cara Operations Limited.
Cara was owned solely by the Phelan family from its inception in 1883 until it went public in 1968. At the time, its primary business was catering to the transportation sector (airline and rail meals), but it did operate a few 'no-name' restaurants and coffee shops in various office towers and airport terminals in Canada. Total sales of all the various operations was C$30 million in 1968.
In 1986 Cara provided services for Vancouver's Expo 86.
In 1999, Cara purchased Kelseys Inc. from owner Paul Jeffery, acquiring Montanas, Kelseys and the Outback (Canada). The rights to Outback steakhouse were owned in Canada by Cara, but it was sold back to Outback in the USA because of high food costs.
On February 26, 2004, Cara went private.
In 2008, Cara was in the middle of a controversy when three employees were arrested at the Montreal-Trudeau airport in relation to a drug distribution network that used the planes for which Cara provided the catering.
In 2013 Cara came to an agreement with Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. to make Prime Restaurants a wholly owned subsidiary of Cara. This added restaurants such as Casey's, East Side Mario's, Bier Markt and Prime Pubs to its operations.
After the CBC investigated, Cara modified an outfit practice that insisted female servers at their Bier Markt locations don immodest dresses on the job. The work outfit practice came into effect on October 5, 2015, and applied to employees at locations in Ontario and Quebec. Under the updated practice, the previous gender-neutral outfit black pants and golf shirt was replaced.
On August 31, 2015, Cara announced it will be acquiring New York Fries. South St. Burger would not be part of the acquisition.
On March 31, 2016, Cara Operations announced that it will acquire St-Hubert in the summer of 2016 for CAD$537 million.
Cara employs more than 38,000 people.
On November 8, 2010 Gate Gourmet (GateGroup) acquired substantially all of the business assets of Cara Airline Solutions, Canada’s premier airline catering and logistics provider, from Cara Operations Limited.
Before November 8, 2010 Cara controlled 85% of the Canadian airline market, providing meals for more than 60 of the world's major airlines including KLM, American Airlines, British Airways and Air Canada. Meals were prepared at Cara's nine flight kitchens located across Canada.Summit Food Service Distributors Inc. now a division of Colabor LP, is Canada's largest Canadian-owned broadline distributor to the foodservice industry.
Cara Airport Services Division
Pearson International Airport (Toronto)
Flight Kitchen Vancouver International Airport - 40% market share
Cara Air Terminal Restaurant Division (Sold to GateGroup in 2010)
Kelseys Original Roadhouse
Milestones Grill and Bar
Montana's BBQ & Bar
East Side Mario's
Casey's Grill • Bar
New York Fries