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Communication, organization key to finding right caterer

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Elizabeth Bair Elizabeth Bair
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Elizabeth Bair is director of catering and special events for AVI Foodsystems and the University of Charleston.

I have been with AVI Foodsystems for six years and have had many opportunities to travel and experience many types of foodservice accounts. Originally from Canton, Ohio, I came to Charleston four years ago as an interim director and fell in love with the community.

The University of Charleston is a beautiful campus with many different levels of venues from country style to artistic to historically elegant. Our venues have become more and more popular in just the time I have been here, and it's growing in business every year.

When I meet a client I always stress to them the importance of booking their venue first and foremost due to the popularity and demand. 

Once you have your venue reserved, you can then begin planning the details. The sooner you book, the better. I book anywhere from a year to a year- and-a-half out most of the time.

When planning an event, whether it is corporate, wedding, political or private, communication and organization are the two key factors in a successful event. 

Communication is important because we both need to know what is going on at all times with the event. Whether it be guest attendance, times or menu, each detail is equally important to the success of the event. Organization is key with so many different details coming together. It's imperative that we both stay in the loop with every detail.

I always stress to my clients, especially brides, to enjoy the planning. Don't stress yourself out to the point where it's no longer a good experience. When I meet with couples, I like to keep things light and make myself as relatable as possible.

Planning an event can be a scary thing if you have never done it before. It's a big responsibility you take on, and most of the time, there is no room for error, so my recommendation would be to find someone you feel comfortable with and leave the worrying to us.

Another aspect of a successful event is to have a good, reliable team on which to depend. My staff here at the University of Charleston is wonderful. My clients constantly comment on how friendly and helpful they are, and I know this because I work side by side with them on a daily basis.

Catering is not an easy job. It's long hours, hard work and at times a thankless job, but it's all the times that you think about the memories that we helped create that makes it one of the most rewarding jobs I've ever had. I strive to make sure that every guest who walks away from an event is happy and satisfied. I love what I do and I love being a part of planning what could be the most important day of your life.

I have been fortunate to work for not just a great company but also one of the most beautiful venues in Charleston.