In 1985, a close friend told Quentin and Sherry Nungesser about a large stainless steel grill that produced the most wonderful meat.
That friend, Roy Ellis, convinced Quentin to go see it. The stainless steel rotisserie grills could do very large quantities of meat that was delicious.
Quentin was sold, and Roy-el BBQ was born.
Roy-el began by grilling for different groups for fundraisers on weekends. What they soon found was that most groups preferred to do their own grilling.
The jobs they were being ask to do were at picnics, and they wanted sides to go with the meat.
In 1987, Quentin and Sherry bought Roy out and Roy-el BBQ became Roy-el BBQ Catering Inc.
Most of the events were still only on weekends, and 100-200 people was a large event. The kitchen was cozy, 12-by-12-foot room with a three-compartment sink and a couple tables for prepping.
But is was a family affair.
The Nungessers' son, Marty, and daughter, Brea, joined the operation when they were teenagers and have been actively at the helm ever since.
"It’s all about having the right people in the right places," Marty said.
The O'Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce selected Roy-el for it's 42nd Annual Salute to Business Awards recipients, specifically the Spirit of the Chamber Award.
"We're honored that we were thought of for this award, and we hope we can continue to help people where we are needed," said Marty, who for 17 years and counting has also worked full-time for O'Fallon-Shiloh Emergency Medical Services, first as an EMT, and now a paramedic. He also teaches paramedic courses at Southwestern Illinois College.
"I have always loved O'Fallon, and we've been active with the chamber for years, and tried to help when and where we can. But we have also believed in what the chamber does for the community by helping people and their businesses thrive, too — it all goes back to the spirit of the chamber," Marty said.
From its humble beginning, Roy-el has now grown to do more than 1,000 events a year. They have had to enlarge their kitchen four times.
The majority of the jobs are local, but they do travel for larger events. To do so, they first added a concession trailer and converted a car trailer into a kitchen to be able to do events further from home. When the events became too large for the car trailer kitchen, they converted a semi trailer into a full kitchen capable of doing meals for thousands. Their largest event was a company picnic for 32,000 people in Iowa.
"We’re large enough to serve and small enough to care," Marty said. "It's been a constant growth, and now we have the third generation coming up through the ranks, too."
When they do take the act on the road, it's not always commercial. Roy-el has worked with disaster relief groups, both locally and out of state, to provide hot meals to the workers by the hundreds or even thousands. The company has an emergency hotline to aid organizations and can be mobilized on-site within 24 hours.
Marty said the family has been growing its Emergency Services Division over the past decade, which he said is "near and dear to me, and means a lot to all of us."
In fact, Marty said, they've also been called out to Kansas, Mississippi and Colorado for months at a time.
"The American Red Cross does a really great job getting the initial needs met when a disaster happens, but for all the people working long hours running the relief efforts, they need hot nutritious meals, too, and where a lot of that lacks that's where we are able to come in and shine," Marty said.
But staying local is vital to business.
"When the phone rings at midnight, you know it must be work, and someone needs us," Brea said.
The company is based in Belleville off Concordia Road, property that Brea said has been in the family since her great grandparents time.
"I like to call it the family compound. It helps that the family all lives right here. Marty lives on top of the hill. I live in the back 40, and mom and dad live just across the creek. So when we get an Ameren call for an emergency and have to say, 'Pack up 300 box lunches fast,' we all lend a hand," Brea said.
They've also expanded into other ventures. Three years ago, Roy-el On The Fly, a cafe and snack bar, opened at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, and this past year, Country Café by Roy-el started at the St. Clair Event Center.
"We try so hard to take care of people when they call on us to serve them, and the chamber is always out there trying to make it better for people working in the community. So when they are able to honor businesses for all the hard work you do for your community, it always feels good," Marty said.
The family-owned operation was voted Reader's Choice No. 1 Caterer in the Belleville News-Democrat for 2013, 2014 and 2017.