Catering is Not Just Food

Okay, so you are trying to plan a party or special event and you want to make it truly special.  You want to be able to mingle with your guests and not spend time preparing the food, cleaning up plates-you know what happens!

Your first thought is to call a restaurant and have the food dropped off, but is that what you really need?  Over the years I have talked to many people who have had a restaurant drop off the food and they still felt like they were doing all the work.  To create that special moment for you and your guests here’s why a catering service may be your answer:

  • A full service caterer will take the time to speak to you about your event. They will want to know what type of party it is, how many people, what is the time frame are just a few questions that will be posed to you.Legacy Salad
  • Next-are you celebrating anything special? How would you like your food displayed?  Is there a theme, special colors, where will it be set up? Remember we first eat with our eyes!
  • Service staff you hire will make your event run smoothly. They will be taking care of your guests just as you would.

You will pay more for a full service caterer, but it is well worth the money spent to create the experience you are looking for.  Then you can sit back and be a guest at your own party.  Imagine that!

Who are the “Whos”?

If you’ve been following our blog or if you know any of the Taylors, it has probably become fairly obvious that we are a family owned and operated business. Since we all sat around at our last community “Who” meeting and made the decision to share this blogging experience, we thought it was important to introduce the different members of the family. You’ll have to forgive us for our Dr. Seuss references but being in a family business sometimes requires a bit of humor! Unless you own your business or spend your days working among family, it’s hard to understand how many different hats each member has to wear. On a daily basis, my title could vary from VP of Accounting to VP of Human Resources to VP of Putting Groceries Away. Technically, I’m Dawn…VP of Operations and daughter of our owners, Al and Michelle Taylor.

Our first blog was written by my brother, Brad. His technical title is VP of Sales and Finance. He and I both graduated from ASU a few hundred years ago (or so it seems) and have been in this business for as long as my parents could figure out a way to put us to work! Event planning and catering is in our blood I guess you could say. Brad is on the outside, talking to customers, networking and helping to create Special Moments wherever he can, while I prefer to be in the background working in the kitchen and keeping the operations going. It’s a good system and we make a good team.

The next blog was written by Al, our CEO and President. He retired from police work and joined my mom in the catering world. An odd transition to some but it has some surprising similarities at times. He was the Lieutenant of the downtown Tempe quadrant when the Superbowl came to town. Planning the security and overseeing all of the events that took place down there makes him our expert in event design, special event liquor licenses and large event management.

Soon, you’ll hear from Michelle, my mom. She is the founder of Special Moments and it is her special touch and caring heart that started our success. My mom truly cares about the events that she puts on and she is still the one quite often in the warehouse arranging the flowers and compiling the sets for our customers.

To help us in our blogging endeavors we enlisted the help of my daughter, Larissa. She’s going to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and has worked for Special Moments for as long as I could find a job for her to do! We thought it might be nice for someone not necessarily involved in the daily operations to be a part of our voice.

And finally, you’ll hear from Mimi, Brad’s assistant. She’s not technically family but we pretty much adopted her! She should probably write about what it is like to work for a family like ours, especially when she’s caught in the crossfires of sibling bantering!

Overall we hope our blog accomplishes a few things for us and for our readers. We hope to share some of the crazy moments of our business endeavors (like the grease trap insanity) as well as offer up some of the knowledge we have gained over the years in this industry. Our topics will probably be as varied as the family members (and adopted ones) who write them but we hope they are fun for you to read! At any rate, it was a family commitment so one thing is for sure…we’ll see it through!

What the Heck is Shabby Chic Anyway?

If you read our earlier Blog on the grease trap debacle, you would know me as the Elder Who from Whosville.  Although that title is new, I have been the proud wearer of the CEO title of Special Moments since our origination in 1984.  A catering company CEO wears many different hats from decision maker, to visionary to administrator.  And as an entrepreneur I would describe myself as somewhat of a jack of all trades.  To keep our company interesting and on top of the trends, I spend a lot of time researching and building sets.  Hence the reason I came to understand shabby chic!

In a catered setting or a fun meal setup, trendy “sets” are in order.  To made a food table look interesting we rely on height, color and out of the box displays.  Keeping track of what is trendy and currently in style requires paying attention to holiday and social events as well.  And in spite of my “elder” status, I am quite proficient at Pinterest!

Being the creator of most of our set materials, I am often approached by the other Elder Who (Michelle) and am asked to build something for our food displays or tables.  Although I enjoy the business side of my job, I really enjoy the opportunity to be creative and brownie popshave fun in my workshop.  chx waf 2Some of my creations include this brownie pop display and our “Chicken and Waffle” appetizer display.

Well, one day a while back, I was told we needed more “Shabby Chic” items.  Not wanting to appear out of the loop, I took my Elder fingers to the Google search bar and asked what the heck I was supposed to do for shabby chic items.  Here is what my friend Google told me, “Shabby Chic is a form of interior design where furniture or furnishings are either chosen for their appearance of age and signs of wear and tear or where new items are destressed to achieve the appearance of an antique.”

This was a challenge I was prepared to accept!  I started by making a list of the items needed to create the Shabby Chic look.  * Barnwood * Burlap * Industrial Fixtures * Reclaimed Wood * Old Trunks * Wooden Table Legs * Mason Jars * Old Creates * Drift Wood * Old Windows.

Now the hunt was on and to be honest, it’s kind of fun!  I remembered two old wine type barrels I had in the garage that I used to store wood scraps.  I thought they might look IMG_1655cool as a table base.  I treated the old barrels with Linseed oil and built the top with furniture grade pine plywood. It’s become a favorite piece of many brides for their appetizer or cake displays.

I’ve assembled a variety of pieces over the past season and have a few more planned for the future.  Next time I have the pleasure of transforming something old into something new, I’ll take some photos along the way to show you the process.  I personally have enjoyed the shabby chic trend and suggest that you might too.  When you’re looking at things with different eyes like I do now, a trip to the local thrift store or swap meet takes on a whole new perspective.  Stay tuned for more of my fun designs and feel free to comment with photos of your own creations.  I love to see creativity in action!

Business Advocate ….not JUST the title of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce’s newsletter…#truth

So what happens when your 5,000 sq ft. commercial kitchen looks like this   20160106_160619and the city denies your permit for construction unless you come up with an additional $30,000?  Besides freak out…I’ll tell ya, you call Wonder Woman.

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. We didn’t ACTUALLY start construction until we got approval but I wanted you to see how big of MESS and the size and scope of this disaster that the Tempe Chamber helped us through.

A quick background on our situation is in order.  In June 2011 Special Moments Catering took occupancy of a building/kitchen previously run by a competing catering firm.  Said firm went out of business and left countless amounts of equipment and a full culinary kitchen behind in the ashes of their demise.  The building owner reached out to local catering businesses in the area offering a unique leasing opportunity that would include use of the equipment as part of the long-term leasing agreement.  While this was a rather complicated offer, we saw the opportunity to grow into the space and moved in assuming the equipment as-is and the responsibility to maintain it.  A few inspections here, a few repairs there and bam….we were up and running in our great new location.

Well, fast forward five years to July of 2015 and find our catering company growing steadily and loving our new digs.  Turns out that a well equipped kitchen and a few large walk ins can really help a catering company produce excellent/affordable food…huh…who knew?  Eagerly we renewed our lease, this time adding a buy-out payment for all equipment and signing on for another five years. Hurray progress!…or so we thought.   All seemed well and our season continued on without a hitch.

The Holiday season was upon us in no time and as we put a close to our best year yet we reveled in excitement for what was to come next.  And then it happened….we call it the great flood of 2015.  Routine dish washing started to yield massive flooding along our kitchen floors and all efforts to maintain a clean space were redirected to cleaning up countless gallons of water.  Had it finally happened? Had the old grease trap separated its last load of grease and water before sending grease free water to …well wherever the heck it goes?  A quick visit from our plumber would conclude our fears were true.  Our grease trap had gurgled its last gallon of commercial dish water.  It was time to finally send it on its way and upgrade to a new unit.  Ugh….this was going to be expensive.  Had the Grinch stolen our Christmas?  Indeed he had, but such is life as a business owner.  So, sadly we signed the contract and the large plumbing project began.

Two days later we receive a rather panicked call from the owner of our plumbing company.  “The permit we applied for was rejected, and worse yet the city is requiring an interceptor to be installed in order to approve the use of your grease trap.”  Knowing little to nothing about plumbing we asked, well…how much would that cost?  Expending a rather nominal number our hearts sank immediately with his response…$20-$30,000 in addition to your current bill.  WHAT!!! (INSERT A FEW OTHER FOUR LETTER WORDS HERE).  Needless to say we were shocked, devastated, angry, and confused.  This was simply a replacement for a unit that had already been installed…how can this be?  It had appeared the Grinch had stolen more than just Christmas. If this was the case, he had stolen our ability to operate as by no means did we intend on investing $30,000 plus into a building we didn’t own. But wait…we just signed a five year lease….what choice did we have?!  The Who’s in Whoville were quite distraught and decided a town hall meeting of the elders was in order.

The meeting room was quite grim as nobody really had much to say…except the elder Who, Al Taylor (ie CEO/Owner).  “I am going to call Mary Ann Miller (Wonder Woman)Mary Ann Miller 2 (1)of the Chamber and get her involved” was all he had to say as he got up to make his phone call.  I have to admit, my sister and I both thought the stress of the situation might have finally pushed him over the edge.  That his marbles may have indeed been scattered beyond repair and this call was pointless.  I mean what in the world would the President of the Chamber of Commerce have to say about our permitting issue, especially 2 days before Christmas.

Wonder Woman took the call and started a very quick text message assault to various department heads within the City of Tempe.  People that we had no access to or even knew existed began to phone my father to discuss our situation and options.  Within a few hours we had people that were on vacation reaching out to us to try and offer help.  The response was astounding, especially just after the news we received a few days prior.

Christmas Eve morning I was greeted at our office by a Department head I was told was on vacation. He explained that he had spoken to my father the night before and that he usually didn’t come out to do inspections but wanted to see if he could help get the project back on track.  He had been Christmas shopping down the street and figured he’d stop in.  The look on my face must have been a little confused as he quickly handed me his card to confirm his identity.  “Um, wow…ok…yeah I’d love you to take a look” was really all I could come up with above my shock.  Put yourself in my shoes, a Department head that is on vacation stops into your office on Christmas Eve to offer help on a project that you didn’t even know he knew about…this NEVER happens.

To my surprise he took a quick look or two at our dish area, made a few recommendations as to how it could be done legally and cost effectively and announced he’d call the department and have them approve the permit immediately.  Five days of overwhelming stress ended in 5-10 minutes by this wonderful man that took his personal time to come over and offer a solution.  We were called later that day by the City requesting someone come down and pick up the permit.

So how did these solutions and quick return phone calls happen? How is it that on Christmas Eve the City approves a permit that had been denied by multiple departments?  Wonder Woman and The Tempe Chamber of Commerce, that’s how.  She and her staff stood up for us during some of the most inconvenient times.  Mary Ann Miller knew who to call and that the information we were given was simply not accurate.  It was astounding to see the response the City had once we got to the correct people.  People that would have taken us on our own weeks to get in touch with became quite accessible.

Remember this story the next time you need to renew your membership dues.  Who knows, in the future you too might find yourself in need of a super hero.

Special Thanks to the Tempe Chamber of Commerce Team and especially Mary Ann Miller.

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