We’re no arrogant bastards, but for this month’s new member spotlight, arrogance and bastardy are commonplace. Well, not really, but this special wedding vendor is also special in that it boasts creation of one of the most popular beers in southern California today, Arrogant Bastard. So popular that this beer has it’s own Facebook page!
Perhaps needless to say, Stone Brewing Co., an iconic figure in San Diego’s beer and food scene. So, when the catering division of this popular restaurant and beer-maker joined Weddings of Distinction, we were extremely honored. I spoke with Susan Holmes, Catering Sales Manager for Stone Brewing Co., and I got some insight into how this successful business caters to the wedding industry, pun intended.
How did you start with Stone Brewing Co.?
I was working for another catering company, and had been for a number of years. Then, one day I was on the NACE website looking at their new member list. I saw the name of someone I had worked with years ago, and he was working for Stone. We connected then, and when he called me to help implement Stone’s catering department, I was eager to go. Stone Brewing Co. is a respected business, and of course, people love the Stone product, so it was a good fit.
So describe what exactly you do for Stone?
I am the Catering Sales Manager, and focus on the off-site events, weddings and corporate, but more so weddings. I design proposals for our client’s events that in addition to our innovative cuisine and craft beer include rentals, entertainment and various other services. Stone World Bistro and Gardens also has an Events team that handles our many on-property parties and I am here to assist them as well.
Describe Stone as a catering company?
Stone Brewing Co. is known for its craft beer, and its reputation is our advertising. Stone does not actively advertise anywhere in San Diego, not for beer or for our catering; we rely solely on word-of-mouth. That approach is actually our company policy. Our philosophy is about networking.
That being said, that also poses a challenge to us as a caterer. Some do not realize that we have an off-site division that handles all private events. We have only been in existence for about two years, and up until now, our presence hasn’t been highly emphasized. Now, fortunately, we are on the preferred vendor lists of many San Diego wedding venues, so when people see our name on those lists, they reach out.
So what does Stone offer its catering customers?
We can bring the “Stone experience” directly to you. We offer our clients a very customizable experience, great food and drink, and top-notch service. We create all our menus individually, based on the client’s specific likes, dislikes, so our process does take some time. At this time we do not operate with a pre-set menu. We create something from nothing.
Stone has a good reputation in San Diego, and as a result, we have a core following. The craft beer movement is so popular right now, and Stone is at the head of it. Name recognition associated with our beer is our biggest plus. People know Stone and know the product, so I do not see our business ever advertising! It’s funny: we don’t have a street number on our building; there is not even a logo on it. That goes along with our “You’re not worthy” slogan; those that are worthy find us… if you want to know where we are, you’ll know where we are.
Very interesting! I can guess about your business mantra, but I’ll ask anyway: what guides Stone World Bistro and Gardens and Stone Catering’s business?
All of our food is 100% organic, as local as possible and sustainable. In San Diego, Stone is one of the biggest recipients of local produce. We firmly believe in giving back to the land, and we try to give more than we take.
We have an organic farm about 9 miles north of our location. It also doubles as a rustic event space, but it is number one a working farm. Brides are eager to see it and then are amazed when they see the work that’s done there. It is not what they expect, but it contributes to setting Stone apart from the rest.
Our food is NOT typical bar food, like hamburgers and hotdogs. We offer more world-type cuisine. Our owners are very passionate about being different and eclectic in the restaurant business, and that approach is reflected in our catering, as well. We don’t want to be what everyone else is; we want to stand-alone. We think outside the box, and the chef and I will look up trends and try new recipes all the time.
Describe the process that a bride/couple goes through when working with you?
The chef and I customize a menu for our clients. We talk to the clients, get to know them, ask them what their vision is, what’s special to them as a couple. Then, based off of what they tell us, we work to build a package for them. I also keep in mind the couple’s budget when planning, so I try to work within most parameters.
We have our popular dishes, and we can add those to any package, but whatever is selected, it all is prepared on site by a chef. We bring the restaurant to them! All our plans include food, the rental equipment, staffing, and of course, good flavor!
How long does that take?
Since each menu is customized, it does take more time than a generalized menu would. We take time to get to know the clients so we can then prepare a menu that truly speaks to them.
Our job is to provide the clients with hot and good food for their special day and if the venue permits, offer them our unique beer. While we are not permitted by ABC to offer wine or alcohol, we can supply the beer and of course provide bar service. Our Certified Cicerone can also pair Stone’s beer with the foods they’ve selected. Craft beer is a booming industry; it’s a movement. Beer doesn’t just taste good; it pairs with food perfectly and can enhance the tastes and flavors.
Why did Stone decide to join Weddings of Distinction? What does it mean to you?
I heard of WOD through another member, Lois Mathews, of Lois Mathews Design. I’ve known her for years, and she told me about the group. I was impressed with the group’s dedication and standard of quality and wanted to join.
I love the referrals that the group offers. It really is a comfort getting referrals from trusted professionals and friends. Also, since I have been in the business for many years, I have been able to connect with others and get on preferred vendor lists.
Being a member of Weddings of Distinction add to that. Being a member of the group means being associated with core group of people that believe in good customer service. Clients that work with WOD vendors are in the best hands possible, so they do not have to worry about anything, and Stone Catering is a part of that. That is how we run our business.
What’s something that people may not know about you or Stone Brewing Co?
Two guys started Stone Brewery. They met at a UC Davis extension class about beer and recognized each other thru a bond of music. They started experimenting with home brew in Greg’s condo and the rest is history. Stone Pale Ale was their original brew!
Also, we have a new location in Liberty Station; we feature collaborative and specialty beer there. Also at this location are two indoor event spaces, a Bocee ball court, garden space and a theatre. Wednesday nights we have movies in the garden, so people can come, have a beer and watch a flick! This feature about this space is especially popular to brides!
Then, my last tickler, we are opening an airport store soon! So people coming in and going out of San Diego will be able to enjoy Stone’s craft beer while waiting for a flight!
What advice would you give to those planning a wedding?
Contact at least 2-3 caterers and don’t necessarily go with the least expensive bid. Look at the entire package, the service, the staffing and more. We serve all organic food, so we are not the cheapest catering company, but we offer service above and beyond. So, don’t skimp; don’t cut corners. People at your wedding remember the food, so remember that!