My career has probably been equal parts of failure and success. I’ve spent almost 30 years in the restaurant industry, and as much as I learned about operations and leadership working for global chains, I also learned what I did not want CERA to be.
Years of dreaming about my own restaurant concepts, a life-time obsession with sandwiches, and a dash of farm-to-table fast-casual experience. I wanted to start a company that thinks differently, acts differently, and actually cooks food. I wanted to change peoples’ expectations of what a sandwich is and create something special.
I have had a thing for sandwiches since I was a child, my first love was peanut butter & honey. I’m still inspired today by a little sandwich shop near where I went to high school that made really massive, unique sandwiches with silly names (they still do). Along with my lifetime passion for sandwiches is a lifetime of frustration from not being able to find those kinds of sandwiches. Then trying to find great, unique sandwiches with high-quality, clean-label ingredients, forget it. So, I set out to fill that niche and create places where everyone can find my vision for great sandwiches and salads and share my passion.
My life partner; Jennifer and I had worked together in a small upscale market/café where I wrote the initial sandwich recipes that would become the start of CERA. Since then we’ve dreamed of creating something together and now we knew what. Then, a casual conversation with an old friend from high school who had become a chef led to the idea of him being part CERA as an owner & our Director of Culinary. Sean is well known in Portland for his work with Scales, Boones, The Rooms and more. He has been an avid mushroom forager, fermenter and was a contributor to a new culinary book, Koji Alchemy. Sean's passion and style couldn’t be a better fit, and he has helped bring the CERA vision to life.
We wanted to go beyond just intentions about treating workers fairly and running restaurants sustainably. So, we are working towards B. Corps® certification, which verifies that companies are balancing purpose and profit and considering their impact on workers, customers, suppliers, communities, and the environment.
We wanted to make great food and change what sandwiches are, we wanted the company to operate with high standards, but we wanted it to be more. Companies sometimes have a charity of choice, and brands are talking about recycling this and compostable that, but we wanted to have a purpose. The Bees…
Our planet’s food supply chain is dependent on these pollinators, and they are endangered. With that, we began searching for information on saving the bees, and looking for our name. CERA is Latin for honeycomb. This had a connection to our purpose, it rolled well, and our brand name was born.
Former co-workers and colleagues offered help and guidance. Entrepreneurial networking group in Boston; Branch Food, not only offered advice, but helped make connections. This led us to Mike, who is an accounting guru and filled one of my weaknesses in the process, writing the financial plan. He told me that he would help create all of this and it was part of his ‘pay-it-forward’ philosophy, so there would be no cost. So, yes, we owe Mike and we’ll being paying Mike’s help forward to someone too.
We make cravable sandwiches, use business as a force for good and you save the bees when you eat with us. Win. Win. Win.
Steven, Jennifer, Sean & the CERA team –
Our Core Values...
We promote kindness, caring, and a willingness to help others in our restaurants, our communities and towards the planet
Inspire others through our food and our actions
We want our choices to outlast us
Impact yourself and others and the world in a positive way...and one sandwich at a time
Real food - Real people - Real passion
Everything we do has to have that one special detail that makes it irresistible
Our mission is to make the world a better place by taking care of our customers, employees and environment through offering sustainable, clean label craveable food while supporting the preservation of the bees.