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‘She knows what we like’

Catering director tailors menus to suit residents’ tastes

Created date

February 26th, 2013

Bonnie Neal, catering director at Eagle s Trace, knows her job isn t like any other in the dining services industry. You typically don t get to know your clients on a personal level, says Neal. After the event is over, you may or may not see them again. That s different at Eagle s Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston where Neal interacts with more than 500 residents on a regular basis. I get to know our residents, she says. I learn what they like and what they don t. It s much easier to plan meals that will please our guests when I m familiar with their tastes and preferences. Neal has been in her current position since 2007. Prior to joining the staff at Eagle s Trace, she spent five years as the catering coordinator at Greenspring, a sister Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va. I oversee all the catered events in the private dining room and in residents apartments, says Neal. I also work with our sales team to plan menus for marketing events.

Easy and convenient

Emily Thomas and her husband Noel have hosted two catered events in their Eagle s Trace apartment home. The first was a marketing reception for prospective residents. The preparation and cleanup were so simple that Emily decided to stick with the same plan for a holiday get-together with family. That was the way to go, says Emily. I didn t have to cook. I just picked up the phone and called Bonnie [Neal]. She s so accommodating that I will continue to use her from now on. Emily met with Neal, and together they chose the menu for the party of 12. Emily served chicken pot stickers, egg rolls, asparagus, and bruschetta. The food was delicious, says Emily. And I didn t have to do a thing. Bonnie and her team brought the food up to our apartment, set it all up, and came back the next morning to pick up the serving dishes. It worked out so well that I m 100% sure I ll do it again next year.

Fresh food, tastefully prepared

Neal, who averages ten events a month in residents apartments and five events a month in the community s private dining room, keeps meticulous records for each catered event, noting what residents liked and what could be improved in the future. If I m catering the same event year after year, I can look back at previous menus and incorporate favorite dishes and try new ideas I think the resident will like, says Neal. In addition to catering everything from brunches to barbeques, Eagle s Trace also whips up signature dishes like fried Portobello mushrooms, mini crab cakes, shrimp cocktail, quail Wellington, and chocolate silk pie. Gail and Bob Holter have attended a number of catered events in recent years. They can t say enough about Neal s work. Bonnie is skilled at making every dish look visually appealing, says Gail. I ve seen her dress up a salad bar. Whatever she does, you know it will be good. Gail and Bob also say Bonnie s approach to customer service makes her a favorite among residents. She knows what we like, and she s very receptive to feedback, says Bob. She listens.