In the early 1990’s, University of California Santa Barbara graduate and Santa Maria-style grilling extraordinaire, Doug Biggs, began his catering company from the kitchen in his home. Fast forward to present time, and Doug’s company, DJ’s California Catering, has become one of the leading catering companies in Southern California. His new ‘home-based’ kitchen is a 10,000 sq. ft. catering facility in Ventura headed up by Michelin starred Chef, Eric Bryant, and their highly dedicated family of 50 full-time employees.
From the ground up
“From the beginning my goal was to build DJ’s California Catering into one of the premier catering companies in Southern California. With this goal, however, I’ve never rushed to expand. Second to customer service, we focus on quality. Too many companies grow too quickly and quality suffers. We’ve all experienced this in some way,” stated Doug. “The turning point in our growth came when I hired our chef. Prior to this point, I ran the kitchen and the office. With a great leader to run my kitchen, I was able to focus on sales and human resource management. We’ve never looked back.”
One thing’s for sure, their focus on customer service, food quality and consistency has caught the attention of their growing customer base. DJ’s has been the recipient of numerous awards for catering, including “Best of Weddings Top Pick” by The Knot and “Couple’s Choice” by WeddingWire three years in a row.
“As an organization from the top down we focus on every interaction with our clients to be amenable and affirmative. If a client has a need, we do everything possible meet that need. If that need requires little additional effort or expense we’re happy to meet it at no additional cost to the client. It’s all of the small positive interactions that build into the complete experience for the client. In the rare occasion that something goes wrong at an event, it’s all of these positives that help get us through that one negative,” said Doug.
Going above and beyond – diversification is key
Although some catering companies only cater to traditional events like weddings and corporate gatherings, DJ’s strategically expanded their services to include pre-determined menus for emergency services, décor-themed parties, and the highly successful DJ’s Blazin BBQ mobile grilling (a nod back to his passion for all things BBQ).
“Diversification is key. If we focused primarily on corporate business, we would have been out of business with the 2008 recession when corporate business all but dried up. Corporate events, weddings, themed parties, and emergency catering all add to the bottom line,” said Doug. “Perhaps the largest component of additional revenue aside from food and beverage catering is our event rental business. Years ago we began supplying tables, chairs, linens, china, glassware, flatware and other common event rentals for our catered events. Not only do we have better control over this aspect of our events, but it’s very lucrative.”
Treat your employees like family
The majority of DJ’s full-time staff has been with the company for more than 10 years. In an industry with a high turnover rate in employment, Doug points out some of his tips for creating a better workplace. “It sounds corny, but I’ve always treated our employees as I would like to be treated – maybe even better! I think of our team more like family than employees. I know that without them and their dedication, we would not be where we are today. Our full-time staff receives one week of paid vacation per year as well as five paid days off for the major holidays. We also have a 401K retirement plan for all who choose to participate. In addition, we sponsor an employee holiday party each year that’s always a blast.”
The power of the internet
When it comes to advertising, all businesses need to weigh their options to decide what outlets best fit their company’s goals. From direct mail and social media, to e-newsletters and in-house contests, each business is different. For DJ’s, they’ve found the best success in utilizing simple, online marketing.
“For advertising, I’ve always focused on forms of advertising that I use myself. When I’ve strayed from this policy, it’s never worked,” said Doug. “Social media is a good example. We put some of our advertising dollars towards this a couple of years ago when it was all the rage. A few thousand dollars later, with not much to show for it, we canceled that campaign. When I started 24 years ago, the Yellow Pages were king. Today it’s the internet in general. Fortunately, with our longevity we have great organic placement on search engines such as Google – free advertising as good as it gets! For our paid advertising we focus on review-based websites such as Yelp, WeddingWire, and The Knot. Of course you need good reviews to be successful on these sites!”
Partnering with Jordano’s
In order to keep up with the fast-moving pace of any catering business, the need for a highly reliable and responsive foodservice supplier is key. “What I love about Jordano’s is that it reminds me of my company – large enough to supply almost everything I need, but small enough to provide personal service. The team at Jordano’s makes me feel like my business is important to them, not just another account to be serviced,” stated Doug.
For many of their menu items, DJ’s leans on Jordano’s for high-quality products, like Chef Bryant’s favorite fresh, custom cut-to-order chicken breasts from Commodity Sales. “We never freeze our chicken, and without fail our client’s comment on how tender, juicy and flavorful it is.”
Also important is the role of the account executive, and for DJ’s that’s John Wagner. “Trust – that’s what I think of when I think of John. Of course he provides outstanding customer service calling our chef each morning to make sure we have everything we need and running supplies out to us on his own time when we have a last minute order,” Doug said. “But above all, I know that I can trust John for competitive pricing and a fair deal every time. Too often with other salesman from other vendors, we’ll get a low price at first, and down the road, when we’re too busy to pay attention, that price climbs and climbs. We remain grateful for all his steadfast work.”
For more information about DJ’s California Catering, visit www.djscatering.com or find them on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, WeddingWire, and the Knot.com.
By Kiersta Halseth, Assistant Director of Marketing, Jordano’s Foodservice