Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”
With the Indiana State Fair in full swing, "Inside Dish" switches its focus a bit this week to catering. It might
not occur to Indiana State Fair visitors gorging on country-fried bacon at the Barto's Catering & Concessions booths
that the Fairgrounds buzz year-round with events that require food-and-beverage service. Barto's is the main caterer for
the Fairgrounds throughout the year, in addition to running concession booths during the fair and other events. It's headquartered
in the Farm Bureau Building with a 2,500-square-foot kitchen that can feed thousands per meal, plus event rooms that together
can seat close to 1,000 people.
Owner John Barto, 51, started the business in 1990, after serving a managerial apprenticeship of sorts with the building's
previous occupant, Berry's Banquets and Concessions. With $1,000 borrowed from his father to purchase equipment, Barto
contracted with the Indiana State Fair Commission to take over the facility and began providing food at the Fairgrounds. Family
and friends helped with staffing, and Berry's loaned him some additional equipment.
Barto's also provides catering for all manner of events outside the Fairgrounds, as big as the Indianapolis Air Show
and as tiny as a backyard tea party for pre-teen girls. "How could I turn that down?" Barto said.
In the video below, Barto discusses starting the firm from scratch, the broad scope of events he now serves, and how the
recession has tightened his customers' purse strings.