Breaking restaurant routine

EP speaks to Celeste Fierro, Senior Vice President of The ONE Group.

Corporate entity The ONE Group Hospitality, Inc. (Nasdaq: STKS) executes many high-profile events in America, including at the Super Bowl and Sundance Film Festival. Development has been led by co-founder Celeste Fierro. EP wanted to discover the huge operations behind the success of catering these events.

Celeste has worked in the hospitality industry through special event planning, corporate events and charitable functions for almost 20 years. In 1997 she founded Cititaste Events and during this time worked with many high profile companies – Major League Baseball and the NFL, as well as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and American Express. By 2004 Celeste had opened ONE with Jonathan Segal, a restaurant in the heart of New York’s Meatpacking District. With her event management expertise and culinary experience it soon became one of the most popular restaurants in town.

Following this, STK was opened – a modern steakhouse and chic lounge with a concept that revolved around an ambient, high-energy dining experience. The restaurants began to multiply and are now located in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington DC,

Milan and London. All this experience would lead to the natural expansion into external events. STK OUT was formed to provide off-premise catering services which, similar to the restaurants, pairs culinary creations with a high-energy atmosphere. It is this atmosphere that Celeste believes creates such a compelling catering experience.

”The catering market is extremely saturated and often feels mundane. With STK OUT, we stand out from the crowd as we infuse 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.

”Events that aren’t held within one of our venues require a bit more strategy and pre-planning. 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 Ð whether you’re doing an event that is down the block or in a different state Ð it requires more foresight to make sure you have all of your bases covered.

“The events vary in size with the largest being when we worked with DIRECTV and PepsiCo. at the Super Bowl in February. We did three days of full-scale culinary service for events that had over 6,000 guests per day. We had catered events that had upwards of 8,000 guests, but for one night only. To execute something of that magnitude three days in a row was a wonderful achievement for STK OUT catering.”

Celeste says the most memorable event was catering for a private party in Malibu for Mariah Carey after she was awarded her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “It was such an intimate celebration. We were so honoured to have been able to be involved in helping to make it memorable for her and her family.”

Planning some of these larger-scale events can be a year-long process and Celeste explains how they can differ, “The Super Bowl, the Oscars and Sundance Film Festival are all very different atmospheres, demographics, and all carry unique expectations from our clients. When we enter into an event, we always personalise the experience and menu to their unique needs – so for Super Bowl, that might mean making sure we have a full buffet-style spread with high-end takes on tailgating favourites (a hit this year was candied bacon cones), but for the Oscars and Sundance Festival we do elegant seated three-course dinners.

“Our events are always well-received by clients and guests alike; we pride ourselves on executing events with extreme professionalism and keeping the process very turnkey. It’s absolutely one of the areas where we are seeing the most growth as brands and companies are looking to host unique and innovative experiences. Since 2012, we’ve personally seen a growth of 1,400% in that area of our business.

How do event guests react to the concept?

“While everyone who attends an event that we cater may not be completely familiar with STK when they arrive, they absolutely are when they leave. Our main goal is to create a memorable and seamless culinary experience for guests. With STK OUT, we don’t just come in to every event with a DJ and speakers and say ‘Here’s STK’. We achieve a compelling vibe-dining experience for guests through not only our food offerings, but through exemplary service and attentiveness to our client’s needs.

”The best outcome is to have happy guests, an impressed client, and leaving the event knowing we not only delivered on expectations but exceeded them. Going into the Super Bowl, we always know it’s a massive undertaking and requires a lot of planning and management from start to finish. The main goal for us was to execute a successful event, as well as capitalise on the wonderful opportunity to introduce ourselves and the STK brand to many new clients and prospective guests.

“Every event is unique and affords us new exposure or 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 8,000sq ft  event filled with celebrities and big brands.

Celeste is keen to expand the external events side of the business to their global locations and the group already offer some catered offsite events in London and Milan, but not on the same level as the US.

“For STK OUT, and 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 is a huge trend for food appreciation, from Buzzfeed Food videos to the rise of food bloggers, but at the same time a massive movement towards the development of impactful events for brands and companies. STK OUT has successfully developed their vibe-driven dining experience into many heavyweight American events. By pairing culinary creations with a high-energy atmosphere, the group has taken events beyond their normal realms. Celeste has led the team with a background of hospitality knowledge and turned the concept into one suitable for external events. We may see more high-energy events creep into London and beyond. It is an exciting move to monitor.