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Catering Chef: Sales Increased by Social Media

3 min read

Before his catering business, Vibrant Occasions Catering of Benton, even gets a phone call, said Serge Krikorian, brides have already done their research.

“Before we get a phone call, our clients, our brides, have vetted us,” he said. “They’ve gone online. They’ve gone through the process of educating themselves. And by the time we get the phone call, they already have somewhat decided, at least if not just us, we’re probably in the top two or three” of potential caterers for their events.

Seeking to reach this market where it is — on social media — Krikorian and his wife, co-owner Mary Krikorian, decided to leverage the clout of social influencers like Alisha Curtis, chief communications and legislative director at the Arkansas Department of Commerce and an Instagram presence, along with Instagram influencers Mary Kate Whitmire, Sarah Jo Reynolds and Karen Alejandri.

In addition, the Krikorians present themselves directly on YouTube through their channel Cooking With the Kriks. “We’re trying to let them know who we are,” Krikorian said of the social media outreach.

The influencers “happen to be people we know, for the most part,” he said. “We realize they have a lot of value to bring and help us to grow our business.”

“We have hired some very, very amazing professionals,” Krikorian said. “We realized early on this is what we needed, the company in general.”

But has this effort increased sales?

“Absolutely,” he said. Krikorian estimated his business spends less than 1% of its sales on advertising. “The rest of it comes through social media. The rest of it comes through word of mouth. The rest of it comes with building those relationships with key individuals who are trustworthy, and their recommendations take us a long way.”

Between 2020 and 2021, sales grew by almost 40%. Of course, 2020 was the pandemic year, when events were called off en masse. A better comparison is to pre-pandemic 2019; sales in 2021 compared with 2019 grew by almost 17%, Krikorian said, to a little more than $1 million.

“This year is going to be not only our best year ever, but we’re expecting almost 25% to 30% growth,” he said.

“In 2022, my brides woke up and they were sick and tired of being sick and tired, and they started planning big weddings, not just weddings, but big weddings,” said Mary Krikorian, who along with another employee handles sales. Business has been so good, they’re having trouble keeping up with the proposals they’re being asked to put out, she said.

The Krikorians also own Dinner’s Ready Express Catering, a division of Vibrant Occasions that specializes in corporate and drop-off catering. Business for that segment hasn’t yet returned to pre-pandemic levels, Serge Krikorian said.

Vibrant Occasions has 24 full-time employees and almost 40 part-time workers who help with events.

Krikorian, a native of Lebanon, came to the United States in 1985 to attend Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, where he met Mary. He worked in sales at the Arkansas Democrat while attending graduate school at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he earned an MBA.

After the Democrat bought the Arkansas Gazette to become the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Krikorian, who’d always wanted to own his own business, became a multi-unit manager at Taco Bell, a company that appealed to him because of its strong training system, he said.

A couple of years later, he bought “a rundown pizza place” that became Sergio’s Pizza, a carryout and delivery pizza restaurant that grew to two locations, one in Benton and one in Bryant. A dine-in restaurant was not so successful, and the Krikorians turned to catering, which was. “It ended up taking over our pizza business within six months,” he said.

“And since 2002, we’ve been in the catering business.” And after 20 years, and with the help of the Krikorians’ adept use of social media, it looks like they’re there to stay.

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