Catering is key at Business After Hours

by Stephen McDill

Published: April 1,2012

Tags: David Watkins, Hilton Garden Inn Downtown, King Edward Hotel, Lumpkin's BBQ

Monique Davis, owner of Lumpkin’s BBQ in Jackson, is looking forward to doing business again at this year’s “Business After Hours” at the 2012 Mississippi Business & Technology EXPO.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and lasts until around 8 at the Mississippi Trade Mart.

“We are hanging on,” Davis said. “We always look forward to the opportunity to interact with the customers in a casual setting… to remind people of where we are,” Davis said.

With higher food and fuel prices on the horizon, many Jackson restaurants have embraced catering as a vitally important revenue stream in a recovering economy.

Monique and Melvin Davis are soul food royalty in South Jackson as the co-owners of Lumpkin’s BBQ located at 182 Raymond Road. You can catch them this spring at EXPO Business After Hours, Taste of Mississippi, and the Santé South Wine Festival.

Visitors to Lumpkin’s table will be able to enjoy heavy helpings of their famous pulled pork and smoked chicken as well as sample sides of fresh, organic coleslaw. Davis said the cabbage is grown in the back of the store while their pork is smoked with garlic cloves and chili peppers over Hazlehurst wood for more than 12 hours.

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“Catering has helped keep us alive,” Davis said, adding that Lumpkin’s frequently serves board meetings, wedding rehearsal dinners and family reunions. “Warm weather hits and people start thinking about food and family.” Davis said many people think they can do a barbecue all on their own. “We can do that,” she said. “They need to relax, go have a beer and sit under a tree. We’ll bring it to them.”

Aven Whittington with Mangia Bene Catering said his food isn’t typical “chicken and asparagus” awards ceremony food. Founded by Jackson restaurateurs Jeff Good and Dan Blumenthal, the company pulls its menu and talent from Bravo! Italian Restaurant, Broad Street Bakery and Sal & Mookie’s. “Our service always appears to be a little over the top,” Whittington said.

While many caterers use temp agencies to staff their events, Whittington said one of Mangia Bene’s hallmarks is that they use trained career wait staff as opposed to “weekend warriors.” Whittington and his staff are catering for all of the EXPO events and will focus on bakery and Italian-themed dishes.

The food and staff at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown are making their debut as caterers at this year’s Business After Hours. Still known locally as the King Edward, the historic hotel sat vacant for decades until it was restored and reopened by Jackson developer David Watkins in 2009.

Paulette McCants of the Hilton Garden Inn said the hotel is excited to promote its opportunities to local businesses at EXPO whether it’s their full service bar or 96-person restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Hotel executive chef Nick Wallace says he has been researching local food influences for weeks. “I’m probably going to go with turkey burger sliders and sweet potato rum bread pudding with whipped cream,” he said. “We have to cater as much as we can. Anything we can do to help the community, especially downtown… we try to keep it non-stop.”

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