Right On The Marq

Posted on Oct 1, 2010 :: Small Business Spotlight
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

photo courtesy of The Marq

Festival Foods didn’t build itself up to 14 stores statewide without having a solid marketing and outreach plan. The 64-year-old company credits much of its success to its now well-known “boomerang theory,” where everything the company does is aimed at bringing the customer back.

Festival hopes its latest venture, The Marq catering and banquet facility in De Pere, does just that, offering an extension of the corporate brand with an elegant twist.

When Festival Foods’ lease expired on its office space on West Mason Street in Green Bay, the company began looking around for a new venue. “We had outgrown the office space,” says Mark Skogen, Festival’s president and CEO. In December, Festival completed the construction of the company’s Green Bay support center on Lawrence Drive in De Pere.

Around the same time as its search for new office space, Festival was approached by a broker seeking to sell a catering business. Although the name of the catering business was confidential, Skogen thought it sounded a lot like the Apple Creek Inn, located on about six acres on Hwy. 41 near Freedom, about five miles south of the company’s new support center. Although the seller turned out to be another business, Skogen approached the broker about Apple Creek. Negotiations ensued and Festival eventually purchased Apple Creek Inn from owner Sue Cashman in August 2009.

“I don’t think we would be there if we weren’t looking for an office building,” Skogen says.

While Festival won’t divulge the purchase price for the business, which had been in existence for about 25 years, Skogen says his company has invested about $1 million on renovations, which were completed this past spring. The 5,000-square-foot building includes office space, banquet hall (with seating for about 550), redesigned bar and kitchen facilities. The hall can also be subdivided for use for corporate meetings.

The company created its name from its intended more upscale identity. “What we’re looking to do is attract the ‘marquee’ events – the high end,” says corporate sales manager Larry Trucco.

While The Marq retained most of Apple Creek’s employees, including longtime executive chef Mike Hill, the new interior boasts a more luxe atmosphere than the previous hall. Its identity may be slightly different, but Skogen maintains that its ties to Festival – and its dedication to customer service, detail and quality – remain strong and necessary.

Just as Festival engages customers daily at its stores, Skogen says, “This facility offers us the opportunity to be a part of [customers’] very big days, important days. It’s more of an intimate interaction. We understand what good service looks like.”

That attention to service is what Skogen hopes will make its venture thrive in a market where many companies are scaling back on events and off-site meetings.

“If we were going to be ‘just another caterer,’ it would be a concern to see the economy down, but we know we can be the best and will be the first place people call when they need an event catered,” Skogen says. “I believe there is more business out there than we could ever handle, so we just have to get out there and earn more of it.”

The corporate cafe

While Festival already had a history of catering through its stores, The Marq will expand that business, primarily in serving off-site events like weddings, parties and corporate events. “We are more than just the scope of these four walls,” says Trucco.

Corporate meetings will be another focus, and Trucco feels The Marq’s location is ideal. “Our location is really prime for the businesses between Appleton and Green Bay,” he says.

In addition to servicing off-premise events, one of The Marq’s signature features will be operating and supplying corporate cafeterias. “That has expanded quite rapidly,” Trucco says.

One of the first “Boomerang Cafes” opened this summer at Schneider National headquarters in Green Bay, serving about 1,500 associates. According to Nancy Smith, Schneider National’s manager of corporate purchasing, usage of the in-house cafeteria by associates is up over 50 percent, which exceeded expectations.

Likewise, Festival’s location and reputation was what drew Shopko to feature a Boomerang Café at its Green Bay headquarters, according to Jill Le Cloux, Shopko’s manager of corporate purchasing. The Marq also has a Boomerang Café in the Lambeau Field Atrium and U.S. Venture in Kimberly, among other New North businesses.

Trucco and operations manager David Krumplitsch have lent their combined decades of work in the hospitality industry to The Marq – something Skogen believes will contribute to the venue’s success.

And as long as The Marq and its employees embrace the Festival philosophy, Skogen sees much promise for expansion down the road.

“If we get this right and fine tune some things, we would definitely roll this out in other areas where we do business.”