Chef Serge Krikorian and his wife, Mary, started Dinner’s Ready Catering 19 years ago. Having catered 1000s of events over the years as Dinner’s Ready, they launched Vibrant Occasions Catering, a new name that more accurately depicts the level of food and service provided at your weddings and social events. Vibrant Occasions will cater to all of your guests’ senses and provide a memorable dining experience. Our sister company, Dinner’s Ready Express Catering, is perfect for your corporate or drop-off catering needs, when you need great, chef-prepared food brought to your event without any extra services or with only back of the house service.
In 2020, they launched their third brand, Our Mobile Kitchen by Chef Serge. Our Mobile Kitchen will allow us to provide five-star restaurant quality food prepared on-site at our catered events. It can also operate as a food truck at large corporate and social events.
Under the leadership of founders and owners, Serge and Mary Krikorian, along with their amazing staff of professionals, Vibrant Occasions Catering continually strives to establish long-lasting relationships with our clients by treating them the way we would want to be treated.
- TheKnot Best of Weddings Hall of Fame with Wins 5 Years in a Row
- WeddingWire Couple’s Choice Winner 8 Years in a Row
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced while planning an event and how did you overcome it?
We were catering a wedding at an indoor/outdoor venue when the power went out. That meant that not only did we not have power but none of the other vendors did either. Our Event Manager called me and told me the issue and I loaded up my generator and headed to the venue. We started the generator and not only got power to finish the catering but also got lights on inside the venue and power to the DJ so that he could play his music.
As the couple was exiting the venue at the end of the night, the power came back on. No one had even realized it had been off except us, the DJ, and the venue owners.
What are 2 trends in the catering industry that you’re excited about?
The two things that we are most excited about is that clients are increasingly more open to new cuisines and innovative methods of service. Catering is no longer about the obligatory piece of chicken, potatoes, and veg. We are creating new dishes combining flavors from around the world in exciting new fusion cuisine.
And, we are offering food service in new ways such as small plates, where we present the guests with small, completely composed dishes and sides with each guest getting several different small plates to experience.
What is a go-to meal for a tight budget that also leaves the attendees feeling like they’ve just been served a gourmet meal?
Pork and chicken are very economical right now but that doesn’t mean that they have to be boring. Both proteins are very good at taking on elevated flavors with the use of marinades and rubs as well as finishing sauces. For example, Pork Adovada is a pork butt that is marinated overnight then smoked for six hours and then braised until fork tender. It’s a long process but the end result is a delicious, flavorful entree that is worthy of the title chef-prepared.
If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream client and event look like?
Every event we cater we begin with a discussion with the client regarding what their vision of their event is. We try our best to understand what the goals of the event are — is it to ensure that all of the guests are talking about the food that was served for months to come? to present their guests with new and exciting menu options or to comfort their guests with recognizable favorites? to wow their guests with presentations and service?
With unlimited resources and trust from the client that allows us control over what the catering would be, we would take the client’s vision and elevate it to the highest level with the highest quality ingredients available and the highest standard of service. Our dream client is someone who comes to us with ideas as a starting point and then trusts us to expand on their ideas with our years of experience and expertise to arrive at a point that wasn’t even foreseen by the client in the beginning.
How important are your relationships with vendors and what are some ways that you successfully cultivate and ensure good rapport?
Vendor relationships are extremely important to us and are the cornerstone of our business model. We cater many, many events over the course of a year and we see many of the other industry vendors numerous times throughout the year. Developing a relationship with them is so important because ultimately, we are all there to make sure that we provide the best service possible for our clients. We have a collaborative relationship with so many of them and they know that if something goes sideways for them at an event we are ready and willing to help them in any way we can and we know that they will do the same for us.
How do you handle the diverse dietary needs and requests of your clients and what is one of the most challenging requests you’ve been presented with?
When a client expresses dietary needs for their event, we try our best to accommodate those needs. If it is just one or two guests at the event that have needs, we often bring a separate meal for those guests so that the client does not have to gear the entire menu to a couple of individuals’ needs.
The only request that I can remember not being able to figure out how to accommodate was a request for a virgin mimosa — a mimosa is OJ and champagne — a virgin mimosa is just OJ. lol
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
We are super excited about our new food trailer, Our Mobile Kitchen by Chef Serge. It has been a long time dream to have a mobile catering kitchen so that we can prepare five star restaurant quality menus on-site at catered events. While we are very good at cooking, transporting, and serving quality meals that are cooked in our commissary, with the Mobile Kitchen we will be able to cook fish, seafood, steaks, etc. to order on-site. The Mobile Kitchen will also allow us to extend our service area outside of Central Arkansas. In the past, we limited our delivery area to about an hour radius from our commissary because we did not want to hold cooked food for longer travel times. Now we have the ability to cook on-site so we can start accepting the requests we receive from Oklahoma, Texas, Memphis and Louisiana to cater events.
What inspired you to launch your own company in catering? How long did it take from initially having the idea to setting up and starting to attract a client base?
Getting into the catering business was a fluke. We formed a company, Dinner’s Ready, with the idea that we would go into private homes, cook a week’s worth of meals for the family and leave them in the fridge. While sitting at our son’s baseball game, one of the moms asked if we could cater a lunch for her the following day. Without any thought we said absolutely and our catering business literally exploded from there. Because we had already formed the Dinner’s Ready company, we catered under the Dinner’s Ready name for many years before launching the Vibrant Occasions Catering brand in 2017. We still cater under the Dinner’s Ready brand for our corporate and drop-off business.
At the time we catered our first event, we owned a carry-out and delivery pizza restaurant. Within 6 months, we moved catering out of the restaurant into its own space and within a year, we shut down the pizza restaurant entirely and focused solely on catering.
What’s the first event you can remember catering and how did it go?
The first event we catered was the one I talked about above. We made homemade tamales from scratch (something we had never done before BTW). The meal was a huge success and catering took off immediately.
What are some things you wished you knew before starting your businesses?
When we started our catering business in 2002, we had been in the pizza restaurant business since 1994. Most of the learning curve for running a small business had already been dealt with by then. I do wish that we had known more about the resources available to caterers in the way of conferences and mentors. It wasn’t until 2012 when we went to our first catering trade show that our eyes were opened to the vast possibilities catering could present. That trade show changed the way we thought about catering and helped us to elevate our food and service a thousand fold. We have since attended many trade shows and continue to educate ourselves on trends and innovations in the industry.
What is the most unique location that you’ve had to plan around?
After getting Our Mobile Kitchen, we pulled it to a “Party Barn” (a family barn that had been “upgraded” to accommodate family get togethers and parties) in the middle of a cow pasture and catered a wedding for 150 guests.
What sets you apart from other caterers?
We are continuously striving to educate ourselves and our staff on the latest catering trends with continuing education classes and conferences. We work daily to improve our menu items and our standard of service. We are truly a family-owned business as not only have our children worked for our company, but our niece is our marketing director and an event producer for our company. Our Catering Manager has been with us for 13 years and all four of her children currently work for us. Many of our other staff members have brought their family members in over the years to be a part of our company.
We have created and implemented Standard Operating Procedures for every aspect of our company so that when we bring in new staff, we have the systems and structures in place to teach them the Vibrant Occasions Catering way of producing an event.
But most importantly we are different because we have instilled a sense of pride in our staff: Pride at being a team member for Vibrant Occasions Catering, Pride at providing the best possible food and service at our events, and Pride at making our catered events something that our clients talk about for years to come.
What kind of food are you known for and what is your favorite food?
Our flavors have evolved greatly over the years we have been in business. I think research shows that a person’s taste buds change every seven years or so. Things we used to think were amazing are, while still very good, just not as exciting as they used to be. Currently, I am very excited about our fusion cuisine, combining flavors from around the world into really exciting new dishes. If I had to pick my favorite new dish, it’s our marbled twice cut pork chop with a red grape and wine reduction sauce.
What types of events do you service?
We cater to all types of events. Weddings, corporate events, fundraisers, community banquets, social events, bereavements, parties — anywhere there is a group of people who want a great meal we will cater it.
Anything else you’d like to comment on while we have you?
Thank you very much for your time and for allowing us to be a part of your program!