Crimson Catering

February 6, 2019
Crimson Catering

Crimson Catering is highly visible each May during Commencement, when they serve approximately 100,000 meals at 375 events over a 10-day period. But the team is also hard at work throughout the year, providing catered meals and producing events across Harvard’s campuses. Tamara Kenny, Catering Sales Manager, Nick Segretario, General Manager, and David Rand, Director of Catering, discuss serving the community.

What do you do and what is your team’s biggest contribution?

David Rand: We are a full-service caterer competing as a Harvard-based business with other catering options for Harvard business. We pride ourselves on tailoring event menus and pricing to client needs and building relationships on campus. I have a sales team, a culinary team and delivery staff, and a front-of-house events management team. It’s a big group.

Nick Segretario: As the general manager, I provide oversight to catering and special events operation, focusing on the welfare of the team providing maximum satisfaction to the Harvard community and guests. Being a department within Harvard and part of the University community, we have a comprehensive knowledge of campus familiarity and protocol supporting our partners to offer the best experience.

Tamara Kenny: We provide catering services to an extremely diverse set of clients, from students to University leaders. Starting with a phone call or email, we walk our clients through every detail that needs to be covered to insure they realize their vision for a successful event.

What don’t people know about what your team does?

Tamara: As David said, we are a full-service caterer and provide a myriad of event planning services and have experience in executing elaborate events. It was exciting to be involved with many of the inauguration events for President Bacow last fall. The size of our sales team is relatively small (4) in relation to the number of events that we manage every day, on average we are planning about 30 events a day

David: People know our drop-off lunches and catering, they see us delivering around campus. But some people don’t know the talents of our staff and are surprised that they can get beautiful, high-quality dinners and high-end events from a campus-based business. I’ll come to check on an event and I hear people say, “Crimson did this?” Which is very gratifying – but we also want people to know more about all we can do.

Nick: I think people would be surprised by the commitment, creativity, and level of detail the Crimson team contributes to each and every event.

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

Nick: There is never enough time in the day.

Tamara: Getting to know all the different locations across campus. There are hundreds of locations across campus with their own set of restrictions as well as specific rules for executing an event in their location. It is our job to gather this information and make sure that is communicated to the drivers, the event managers, and the culinary team.

David: That’s two-fold. We pay good wages with full benefits to our employees. We’re competing with businesses externally that don’t pay at these rates, and that can be a challenge in pricing. Also, there’s a perception that as a Harvard-business we are subsidized and should be less expensive. Crimson Catering is self-funded, so that’s a misperception. I hope that at the end of the day, people know that by using a Harvard-based business, dollars spent here are coming back to and supporting the institution.

What are the professional backgrounds of your team members?

David: Our staff is recruited from the best – we have people from A Catered Affair, Four Seasons, our chef is French-trained, all with extensive experience. I think people would be very surprised and amazed at the talent we have among our staff. I have roughly 30 years in the industry. I worked at Northeastern for 20 years before coming to Harvard.

Nick: David has built a strong, diverse, and talented team. I am proud to be a member of this team and contribute to their successes. I have been in hospitality, events, and catering for 20 years, all in higher education settings. Prior to that I worked on the “other side of the desk” in alumni affairs and development.

Tamara: My team has broad experience in catering and events and working at Harvard. I have 25 years in high-end event planning, production, sales, and team management, including working with the Harvard Art Museums as a contractor with The Catered Affair.

Do you cook?

David: I love to cook and entertain, but it’s a double-edged sword – my friends won’t just let me throw something on the grill! Also, they won’t invite me over – they say they can’t compete!

Nick: I’m from a Greek family and grew up in a household that always cooked and entertained. Daily dinners weren’t meals but events! Overall, although I give it my all in the kitchen, I’d say my talents lie in the front-of-the-house.

What does success or your best day look like?

Tamara: I am a detail-oriented person and I prioritize client interactions and experience above all else. I really enjoy the interaction with so many different clients across Harvard. The shared collaboration and helping them achieve their vision are what drives me.

Nick: What we do each day is all about customer service and customer experience. Success is a satisfied client surpassing their expectations.

Dave: The reason we do this is because we love the creativity and talent that we pull together as a team, and the instant gratification from clients when they see the room and are just so excited! They taste the food and have a great experience, and you can see that. Also, for the annual Commencement, we have 375 events and 100,000 meals and it’s all-hands-on-deck – the pride you feel when that’s over and has been successful is amazing.

See also: Profile