This is Kristine Quattrone, the owner of Q Events, a catering and event planning company that she’s been running, almost exclusively, for the last sixteen years. Kristine has had sales people work for her in the past who she’s trained on her approach to catering, the software she uses and her menu, but most of the time that she’s been in business, she’s been the one coordinating with each client directly, building custom menus and taking care of everything from the food to the flowers to the DJ. Kristine started cooking at a very young age. She grew up sitting in the kitchen with her grandmother helping her cook and learned the basics of cooking from her grandmother and her mother. She started working in the food industry at 12 years old, cooking hamburgers and hot dogs and scooping ice cream at a beach concession stand on Long Island. When she turned 16, she started busing tables and soon after she began working as a waitress and a bartender. However, despite all of her experience in different areas of the industry, she said that she never really realized how her summer and part-time jobs had tied into her love for hospitality and events until she got to college. Originally an accounting major, she ended up transferring from Suffolk Community College to Montclair State University to pursue a degree in Commercial Recreation and Leisure Studies after enlisting ten of her friends to help her put together a keg party at her house and recognizing that designing and executing an event was her passion. The fact that this passion turned into a food catering and event planning business, she says, happened organically. The uncertainty of the hospitality industry has never been easy for Kristine and being a single mother in such a fast-paced environment presents it’s own set of challenges as well. But being responsible for her own future is what she loves most about her business and what drives her to keep moving forward.
After focusing on event planning throughout college, Kristine got a job as an administrative assistant at Calvin Klein. Within six months she was promoted to Special Events Coordinator, which was a position they created for her to be the liaison between the PR department, the marketing department and the facilities management department to set up for any event that was taking place internally or externally for Calvin Klein. After a few years she was promoted to Food Services Manager, where she was responsible for coordinating catering from their in-house food service department for on-site and off-site events and meetings as well as the wait staff that delivered the food. Since she was still working on all of the events with the facilities management team as well as managing this small food service department, Kristine had her hands in a little bit of everything that was going on in the building and says that she felt very much at home in this position because she loved balancing both sides of the job. However, in 2003, Calvin Klein was sold to Phillips-Van Heusen and the food service department was eliminated. Kristine was asked to stay and transfer to the facilities management team but after working in a role that she enjoyed so much, that combined her love of food and events, she decided to leave and start her own business. Kristine opened Q Events that same year (2003) and started out operating out of Guy & Gallard, which she used as her commissary kitchen. She says she basically took her food services department and turned it into her business because she already had the contacts at the rental company, a book of waiters that she had worked with in the past and personal connections with a florist and a DJ. Ironically, her first client at Q Events ended up being Calvin Klein after someone from the PR department called her for an event proposal and decided to give her a chance when she said that she had left Calvin Klein but had started her own catering and event planning business. She realized that she could leverage the contacts that she had already made and began reaching out to friends and colleagues who had been laid off from Calvin Klein to see if they needed catering or help planning an event at their new companies. Because they knew her work and how good she was, they booked her.
In 2004, looking for a new kitchen to run her business out of, Kristine attended a business card exchange where she met Eric Patel, the owner of a restaurant in Midtown called Bagel & Bean. Eric was looking for someone to help him with sales to expand his business and had extra kitchen space, so they decided to start working together. Kristine used his restaurant as her commissary kitchen for Q Events but also cooked and worked with Eric’s staff to help him expand his business from just breakfast catering to lunch and happy hour catering. It ended up being a great fit for both of them and Kristine continued working out of Eric’s restaurant on and off for the next fifteen years. Although Bagel & Bean was technically a competitor to Q Events, Kristine says she never looked at it like that. In fact, she says that she doesn’t look at any other catering company as competition. In the food industry, there’s always going to be competition no matter what, so she focuses on her own business and how she can increase her own sales rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing. She admits that she may check out other companies to make sure that her pricing is competitive but she strives to do her own research to stay on top of food trends and make sure that she’s meeting customer demand. When she first started Q Events, she created the entire menu (which includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers and desserts) herself and it’s been evolving since then. Kristine believes that what makes her unique from other catering and event planning companies is that she has a lot of fun with her menu items. Her food is delicious but not pretentious and is presented beautifully while also being filling. And she’s constantly coming up with new menu ideas, trying to be as creative as possible, especially when it comes to appetizers. She recently launched her “Kristini” Bar, which gives clients all of the bruschetta, cheese, meat necessary to build their own crostini. Kristine believes that at the end of the day, you’re only responsible for yourself, which is why she keeps trying new things that are fun and different from what everyone else is doing.
For Kristine, the most rewarding part of the business is when an event goes smoothly and she gets compliments on the food and everyone has a good time. When that happens she says that she really feels that she’s accomplished something and hearing compliments from clients reassure her that she’s doing it right. But the toughest part is the fact that she’s chosen the life of an entrepreneur so the risks are much higher, which can be scary, especially as a single mom. She briefly opened a cafe in Long Island City when she was pregnant thinking that it would be easier to consolidate her catering operations into her own location and because she had always wanted her own storefront. However, she quickly realized that both the cafe and her son needed 150% of her time and it was very difficult to do both. She ended up closing the business after a year and went back to focusing on catering. However, she says that being a single mother in this industry today is still an extremely difficult challenge that she faces daily. Her job entails long and often unconventional hours, which has made it a hard to find a babysitter as well as expensive when she is able to find one. So not having a set paycheck at the end of the week can become very stressful. But Kristine always tries to see this challenge in a positive way and make that her motivation. She’s constantly meeting with existing clients, networking to find new clients and improving her menu because she knows that she has to create her own business to be successful. As an entrepreneur, you’re always nervous and you’re always asking yourself how you can improve. Kristine says the key is staying active in your efforts as well as never giving up your belief in yourself if you’re doing something that you’re passionate about.
Kristine now works out of a commissary kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen that Eric introduced her to where five companies work out of the same space. It has a centralized purchasing department, a billing department and the entire kitchen is brand new. Kristine has been there for about a year and loves the fact that the cost is shared by herself and the other business owners because it helps her allocate those funds toward other projects she’d like to focus on, like her social media presence. Because she’s responsible for every facet of her business, it’s difficult to stay on top of everything at all times but she’s committed to not getting lazy when it comes to her clients. She recommends that anyone starting out in the food industry get comfortable attending networking events because selling your product to customers is all about the connections that you make. You have to constantly be in touch with your current clients and talking to new clients because there are always other caterers or restaurants looking to get their business as well. Kristine also recommends preparing yourself for a lifestyle change, not only in regards to the long hours that you’ll be working but also the way of life that starts once you become your own boss. She admits that you can’t really go back to a corporate job once you’ve worked for yourself because being your own boss is one of the best parts of the business. But it’s important to remember that the person that will hustle the hardest for your business is you and you need to put the work in to see the results. That’s the belief that Kristine has operated under since she started her business and it’s kept her and her business running for the last sixteen years.
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