These days everyone seems to be focused on creating an experience — whether it’s for shoppers at a brick-and-mortar clothing store or guests at a runway show during fashion week.
Andrew Cavitolo and Bobby Stern, the duo behind NYC-based Riviera Caterers, have become experts at creating unique experiences that blend food, fashion and art for their various clients like Nike, Ralph Lauren and the Fat Jewish.
With summer right around the corner, we recently spoke with Cavitolo and Stern to get some party planning tips and advice for hosting one-of-a-kind events. The duo also dished on their favorite events, the most challenging part of their jobs and more. Keep reading for the full interview.
1. How did Riviera Caterers get its start?
Andrew: “My family’s been in the catering business for four generations with a catering facility in Brooklyn. My great grandfather started it. In college, Bobby and I met, and we were best friends, and we had this idea of starting our own catering and events company in the city. [In 2012], Hurricane Sandy destroyed my family’s business. All that was left was the kitchen. Bobby and I decided [to revive the business]. Now we do about 400 events a year in the city for Fortune 500 companies and celebrities and we have over 200 part-time event staff and about 24 full-time people.”
2. What makes you different from other catering companies in NYC?
Andrew: “I think what makes us different is that we completely design our food and presentation around the client or event. We provide really innovative food and presentation.”
Bobby: “We work hand-in-hand with the clients, and we really try to understand their whole vision. We take their creative insight and combine food and presentation to make sure it’s in line with that. A perfect example is Nike came to us for the World Cup, and what they wanted to do was do something special for all the teams that they represented for the World Cup when it took place in Brazil. We did our research and found all the teams Nike was sponsoring and we created menus to capture the culture behind the teams. For example, for the Brazilian team, we did a Brazilian barbecue. We really go the extra mile to make sure all the food is on par with the messaging behind the event, whether it be a social gala for a charity or a consumer event promoting a new type of product.”
3. Where do you find inspiration for the unique ideas you incorporate into the events you work on?
Andrew: “It’s pretty much everyday stuff, whether it be architecture that we see or anything we see throughout our day. We get inspiration as a team and we come up with these random ideas. The whole team just throws ideas out there, and we just try to make it happen. For instance, the pretzel wall thing, we thought it’d be really cool to suspend food on a wall and take it off, and we thought what kind of food can we suspend on a wall, so pretzels, doughnuts, etc. The pretzel thing took off because it was really easy and clients loved it. We take inspiration from everyday life and we try to incorporate art into food.”
4. Tell us more about the space you recently opened at Four World Trade Center.
Andrew: “The space that we opened was a partnership with Silverstein Properties. A lot of people had events there before, and it’s just very expensive to do an event there. In order to do any type of event, each client has to run their own electric, bring in their own furniture, pretty much build out the space to be appropriate to do events. What we decided to do with this partnership was build out the space for the clients. We make the space appropriate for big brands to come in and use it. With that being said, we decided to — in keeping with our brand and Silverstein’s brand of making downtown cool again — make the menu offering and all the designs to be really innovative, fun and attractive to fashion and art clients. We’re bringing in a lot of trendsetters in fashion, art and food. We’re taking off because we’re providing something that most people haven’t seen before, especially when people are used to going to these same seated dinners and stuffy type of environments.”
5. What do you think are the key elements to hosting a good event?
Bobby: “Creating something really different and unique — an experience for the guests. That makes the event most memorable. It’s that really distinguished moment that creates the atmosphere. When we did our launch party for Four World Trade Center, we created a speakeasy. We actually gathered a small group of guests and brought them through the kitchen to a small designated area where we had a bathtub filled up with bottles of champagne. There were quartets singing. It was a really nice experience. We really go for that one-off experience. Catering today, and especially the events we throw, it’s about more than just the food, it’s about telling a story. We were telling a story about New York. You come into our party, and we have the whole room, which has a 360-degree view of Manhattan, divided into the different neighborhoods that it overlooks. We had mixology bars in the Soho area, we had a stage with live performers when you overlooked Midtown and Broadway. When you went to the Brooklyn side, we had a Brooklyn soda shop. It has to be more meaningful than food on a tray. It is telling a story. People going to your event, they’re not just going to get a chicken skewer on a tray. They want to have a full story told to them and a full experience, and it means so much more when you do that.”
6. What’s your favorite event that your company has been part of?
Bobby: “My personal favorite was the World Cup event. It really pushed the limit on our creativity. We had to create 14 different venues to serve 5,000 people. The venue we were working with was a 60,000-square-foot empty space. We had to create multiple kitchens and multiple points of distribution for the food service. We created trays that could house up to 60 pieces of hors d’Oeuvres. We created this intimate setting within a large event. While it was challenging, it was a lot of fun to push the envelope and create these really large trays and tailor the menu to the teams.”
7. What tips do you have for people hosting a party this summer?
Andrew: “I’m really big into personalizing things for your guests, whether it’s 30 or 60 people. It’s easy to do and it means a lot to the people. A really cool idea is personalizing a cup when they walk in. They can take their own cup or goblet with them throughout the day and you can have two or three different areas where they can get a drink. Little things like that. Or personal takeaways. I think just being a little more detail-oriented, that impresses the guests tremendously.”
8. What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Bobby: “I think the most challenging thing is being ahead of the trends. I really like to travel and explore the world, and it gives us different insight into what’s going on in different cultures, learning from different markets and really being ahead of the game here in New York.”
Andrew: “I think the biggest thing too is that we’re millennials. Being only 30, we’re ahead of the curve when it comes to finding the trends, and we’re competing against the guys who have been in the game for 20 or 30 years. We’re disrupting the game heavily. That’s definitely the most challenging part… staying ahead of the larger companies out there. I think we do a really good job at it because we’re willing to break the rules much quicker and it’s more fun.”
Read more on this article at fashiontimes.com