Catering to our needs: Michael Thomas cooks up a culture of giving

By : Jamie Hyman
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If we were to list all of the organizations who receive donated catering from John Michael Catering, readers would click away because who wants to read a list of dozens of names? That relentless generosity is why company owner Michael Thomas is a 2015 pick for Watermark’s Most Remarkable People.

Thomas’ company closed out 2014 with more than $100,000 in catering donated to more than 50 events, mostly fundraising events for non-profit organizations. They’re on track to top that in 2015, the company’s 20th year in business, with Thomas predicting they’ll donate about $125,000 in catering toward 60 events.

“As a company, philanthropy is huge,” Thomas says. “Of course I’m the spearhead behind that but all of our management and staff fully embraced that philosophy. We have a mantra here at John Michael: the more you give the more you’ll receive.”

John Michael Catering was #14 on the Orlando Business Journal’s list of Top Philanthropic Companies, appearing alongside Darden Restaurants, Orlando Magic and Panera Bread. Not bad for a company that employs 85 people.

Thomas doesn’t just donate catering – he also donates his time, serving on board for Come Out With Pride, Wedding Alliance, Pet Alliance and Metropolitan Business Association. He says his husband of three years, Rustan Davis, calls him a “board junkie.”

It isn’t just his giving that makes Thomas remarkable. It’s his dedication to creating an environment of generosity within his company.

Joel Wood, John Michael Catering CEO, says Thomas’ giving is “contagious,” and that he himself served three years on the Come Out With Pride board with Thomas’ encouragement.

“It breaks up the whole idea that a company’s purpose is just to make money,” Wood says. “It’s nice to know there’s a more human side, that we have a responsibility to give to our community, to give back.”

2016 will bring more opportunity for Michael Thomas and John Michael Catering, as they recently rebranded, moved operations into its own separate, dedicated office space and branched out into the venue side of events with their own facility in Winter Park’s Celebration Gardens.

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