Meet Our Crew

The Quality Catering story and that of its founder, James Scharnell, represent a classic all American yarn, lacing together a huge, entrepreneurial success with a challenging personal physical setback. A former U.S. Marine who served in Vietnam and rose to the rank of Captain before being honorably discharged in 1973, Jim founded the catering firm in 1976, in a nondescript building on the then windswept northeast corner of Fairfield and Monaville Roads in Lake Villa, IL. In the beginning, Quality Catering consisted of just two trucks, and a handful of employees who served a single customer, a nearby preschool with an enrollment of ten children. Today, the company’s employee roster totals seventy men and women who prepare 16,750 meals and snacks a day and deliver them in a fleet of twenty-four customized heated and refrigerated trucks to a customer base that stretches from Gurnee to Chicago’s far south side, to Joliet, Rockford and Milwaukee. In a measure of the company’s 20 percent yearly growth, on Christmas Eve, 2014, Quality Catering relocated to a 29,000 square foot former UPS distribution hub in Gurnee, IL that had been entirely retrofitted to meet the company’s catering needs. And, in a measure of Jim’s determination to overcome life’s challenges and emerge a winner, he survived a brain aneurysm--against all odds---that struck him in 1986 and required complicated surgery at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, IL, an extended stay there and long term post-operative monitoring. With success now in the rear view mirror, Jim is looking to future business expansion possibilities.


Lisa England started out at Quality Catering as a part-time employee working in customer service. Today, ten years later, she is Office Manager and her responsibilities are many. She is in charge of data entry, inventory and customer service. Critically, she is the first person the new customer deals with after that new customer has signed a Quality Catering contract, determining whether the customer will place orders by e-mail or fax, what food storage equipment that new customer may have, what food storage or warming equipment the customer might opt to borrow from Quality Catering, what time the delivery is to be made and much more. In effect, she tailors the company’s catering services to meet the different needs of each client. Lisa, who worked in retail for 20 years before landing at Quality Catering, notes proudly the positive culture enshrouding the company, a culture engendered by owner Jim Scharnell and one that is vastly different from the corporate world she once had worked in. “Jim cares about his employees, he is committed to them and he listens to them,” she says, adding that a significant number of her fellow employees have been with Quality Catering for more than two decades. And, she is proud of the company’s new quarters, the 29,000 square foot building the company moved into over Christmas, 2014. Before the move, she said, the catering firm was housed in three different buildings in Lake Villa, a situation that brought many inefficiencies with it.


Eleazar Arellano is the Director of Plant Operations for Quality Catering. One might also say that Eleazar is the unofficial Quality Catering historian as he has been with the company longer than any other employee, practically from the day the catering firm was founded in 1976. A native of Zacatecas in north central Mexico, Eleazar arrived in this country as a teen-ager, grew up in Palatine where he graduated from Fremd High School and has been with the company for over thirty-one years, when Quality Catering’s delivery fleet consisted of just two trucks and a handful of employees. As Director of Plant Operations, there is only one person to see if the company is in need of a critical piece of new equipment and that is Eleazar. “I am the one who makes the big decisions when it comes to purchases,” he says. Whether it is a new $35,000 Alto-Cham oven, a $16,000 Groen steam kettle or a $70,000 custom made delivery truck from Delivery Concepts in Elkhart, Indiana, it is Eleazar who oversees the acquisition, getting the necessary paperwork in line for James Scharnell, the company’s founder, to sign. His responsibilities do not end there, however. He is also responsible for overseeing maintenance of Quality Catering’s fleet of 24 refrigerated and heated delivery trucks and its extensive array of sophisticated kitchen equipment.


April Tatum is Quality Catering’s Delivery Manager. In that role, April oversees the company’s drivers, those men and women responsible for delivering more than 16,000 meals daily aboard the company’s customized hot/cold trucks to destinations ranging from Milwaukee and Rockford to Naperville and Chicago’s south side and beyond Specifically, April is charged with seeing that the drivers at all times act professionally, meaning that they always meet the customer’s needs, and that they depart Gurnee headquarters on time, which is anywhere from 4 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., depending on the designated route. She also reviews all paperwork generated by driver assignments, including logs which track the delivery trucks´ internal temperatures to make sure those temperatures are at all times where they should be. And, at the end of the day, she makes certain drivers have left their delivery trucks clean and orderly, all set for next day’s deliveries. It should be noted that April, who only recently was promoted to Delivery Manager from customer service, is aptly qualified for the new position. When she began her career with Quality Catering in 2011, it was as a delivery driver, a position she held for the next three-and-a-half years. A resident of Grayslake and the mother of three small children, April earned an Associate Business degree from Robert Morris College in Chicago.