While The ONE Group’s 11 locations for STK are known as destination dining spots, it’s their off-premises catering gigs that saw a 1,400-percent growth since the hospitality company’s formation of catering arm, STK OUT. Modern Restaurant Management magazine’s “Talking With:” continues as Celeste Fierro, Co-Founder and SVP of The ONE Group discusses the company’s accidental off-premise success. The hospitality veteran joined The ONE Group in 2004 when she and Jonathan Segal opened ONE at 1 Little West 12th and grew the company by establishing brands such as STK and Asellina. In her current role, she oversees the operations and marketing of the company nationwide.
What factors do you feel have fueled the success of off-premise catering?
For STK OUT, and off-premise catering in general, the future is extremely bright. There is a lot of opportunity to be had by bringing a fresh culinary approach to events. There seems to be not only a huge trend for food appreciation–think Buzzfeed Food videos and the popularity of food bloggers–but at the same time a large movement towards the development of extremely impactful events for brands and companies.
Why do you feel customers sought you out?
Our STK brand is known for energetic vibe-dining and emphasizing the guest experience with high service standards and exemplary culinary offerings. We began by doing a wide range of private events – from popular music festivals like Coachella, dinners at film festivals like Sundance and Tribeca, VIP suites and green rooms for concerts or television shows, to intimate private events at client’s homes. As we continue to do off-premise catering, the interest and need for customized culinary solutions keeps growing.
How did word spread?
Much of it has been word-of-mouth through regular clientele or from guests who have been at events where we provided the catering. We’ve been fortunate so far to have been a part of so many wonderful events from small to large, and we look forward to continuing to build our client base.
How is STK OUT different from competitors in this area?
The catering market is extremely saturated and can often feel mundane. With STK OUT, we stand apart by infusing our restaurant experience into our service. We deliver high-end custom culinary options that mimic the modern American cuisine that you find within our STK restaurants, as well as the world-class service and energy that our clients and guests expect. STK OUT gives guests more than just food on a plate!
Was catering a factor in the business at the start or become a factor when it started to take off?
Catering was something that we always wanted to have a focus on. Recently we’ve seen a growth in revenue from off-premise events, and it is now something that is taking a bigger role in our business considerations. It has also been an excellent way to introduce our brand and what we can offer to a broader demographic.
How does staff training differ for off-premise vs. on-premise work?
Since we try to replicate the STK experience at our off-premise events, we place a considerable emphasis on service and making sure that all staff is being held to the standards that we have in our restaurants. We want to provide an elevated guest experience and therefore you’ll find our front of house staff to be energetic, active, attentive, sociable and gracious.
What are the challenges of working off-premise events?
Events that aren’t held within one of our venues require a bit more strategy and pre-planning. When we are working in our own venue, we know the layout, where the kitchen is, the exact timing of food service, ample storage, etc. Once you step outside the venue – whether you’re doing an event that is down the block or in a different state – it requires a little more foresight to make sure you have all of your bases covered.
What was the most unique and challenging events?
Every event is unique and affords us new exposure and opportunities. We are just as thrilled to work on small, intimate dinner events held at someone’s private home as we are to be working at an 8,000 sq. ft. event filled with celebrities and big brands. Each comes with its own challenges, whether the space and guest count is large or small.
What are the advantages/disadvantages for restaurants pursuing off-premise catering jobs?
The advantages are many; additional revenue streams, greater brand footprint, providing a top-notch experience for clients and guests, and connecting with similar-minded companies and brands.
As far as disadvantages, sometimes it can be challenging on our venue teams who might be also handling a buyout or busy night within the restaurant on the same night as an off-premise event. However, we have truly fantastic team members both in our culinary and operations departments who welcome the challenge to execute flawless off-premise events.
Overall, making the dive into off-premise catering with STK OUT has been extremely successful and a wonderful platform to showcase our brand. The best outcome for us is to have happy guests, an impressed client, and leaving the event knowing we not only delivered upon expectations but exceeded them.