A Q&A with Ken Upton, owner of Ken’s Creative Kitchen, a Maryland-based catering and event company. Get Wedding Savvy: Tell us about your company.
Ken Upton: We’ve been in business for 40 years and we have 300 employees. This is really what separates us—we have a large group of people who have been with us for more than 20 years, and we have developed a culture of consideration, respect and kindness. We’re also big on presentation and have a wonderful understanding of entertaining, which is so important in this business.
Q: What are some misconceptions clients have when it comes to catering?
A: We get a lot of clients who say they want a casual but elegant buffet. That’s a bit of a contradiction. We have others who assume that a buffet is automatically cheaper than a plated dinner, which is a major misconception. Ninety percent of the time people want a buffet, but end up opting for a seated dinner in the end once they realize it’s the better option. I always say that people who have a poor opinion of a plated dinner have just been the victim of bad catering.
Q: How do you try to reframe expectations for clients?
A: For starters I think too many people looking for caterers assume we are all the same. And because our company is very well reviewed some people just assume we’re the most expensive, which isn’t true. We’re quite competitive on price. So it’s important to explain who we are and what we provide. I always remind people that while I have a lot of opinions, I understand the importance of listening. And once we hear what the client’s vision is for their wedding we can start to talk about how to create the best experience.
Talk to your caterer. Make sure they’re cooking the food on site. And ask the right questions. Where does your caterer source the food? What’s their experience level at a particular site or venue? Who is staffing the event? Are they the trained employees of the caterer?
Q: What’s the typical price point for your field in the Maryland, DC, Virginia area?
A: It certainly depends on what you’re serving, but generally you’ll be in the range of $120 per person. Then you factor in the labor. Then of course you have to think of things like tables, chairs, linens, etc. The other thing to take into consideration on price is payment terms. We’re one of the only caterers that will allow you to pay your remaining 50 percent balance after the event.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to every bride and groom if you knew they would listen?
A: The most important advice I can give is to be realistic about budget. A lot of times the bride and groom will think their parents will foot the bill no matter what they come up with. Honestly, it can cause a lot of problems in the long term. So get everyone on board so that they don’t go broke on the party.