by Joe Sheptak
Playing poker with Rob Vidra, owner and CEO of Simply Elegant, might not be wise as he likes to hold his cards close and thinks every step through and when he does play his hand he is always holding 4 aces.
Founded in 1997, Vidra has taken the time to truly learn the best way to meet Calgary’s ever evolving catering needs. Making catering deliveries from the back of a cab might not be the way most people would think ‘this is how I am going to start a catering company’, but this allowed Vidra access to a wide variety of individuals who provided him with endless market research, thinking all the while he was just chatting them up.
Since their inception Simply Elegant has grown continuously year after year, and has grown from a catering company to Calgary’s premier event planning company.
The key to their secret really is not a secret at all it is customer service. “We are really good at customer service, we are really good at listening to what our clients want and give them what they want,” Vidra states.
Each week Simply Elegant could be any where and everywhere, helping their clients turn their desires into their reality. Vidra is quick to acknowledge the reason for his success is the staff he has surrounded himself with, 10 full-time and 30 part-time. “The people that are in your company are what truly makes your company successful, nothing else does,” Vidra believes.
“Food is the picture, the plate is the frame and Simply Elegant is the movie,” Vidra says. Sharon Barwick, Events and Client Manager of Simply Elegant, says about Vidra, “He is truly a visionary; he has learned his business and what it takes to be successful. He is a master problem solver, has no fear and always does what is best for the client.”
When asked about a signature dish at Simply Elegant Vidra cracks a mischievous grin and admits they really don’t have one. They have 4 Red Seal Chefs on staff and they are all required to be able to create dishes on the fly. “We don’t have many recipes here,” Vidra says, “We listen to what our clients want to serve and then take into account their culture and design dishes they will love.”
“We believe in building partnerships with our clients, vendors and suppliers. We never want a one time sale, we want to develop a longterm relationship with everyone we deal with,” Barwick says. Vidra adds, “Our partnership with Sysco is based on that principal, we are looking for a partner that truly gets what we are doing and [Chris Jacobi, a Sysco Marketing Associate] understands what that truly is.”
When listening to the team at Simply Elegant one realizes quickly they truly mean what they say. The team strives to give their clientele what they want, a quality event that fits in their budget. And the team is not afraid of a challenge. Simply Elegant’s core values were put to the test recently when they were presented with the challenge of helping organize the Airdrie Air Show. Now for an event planning company one might think this should be like a turbulence free flight, easy and relaxing. But the team at Simply Elegant were given one small hic-up, they only had two weeks to put the entire show together. A show that was expecting 15,000 people. Vidra pulled his team together and rallied them behind the client. “We are very good at working with everyone, even the competition, to ensure the client’s event is a success,” Vidra states. And he was right as the Airdrie Air Show was an event the people who attended will not forget and the organizers realized that a team like Simply Elegant is truly there for their success.
Chuckling to himself, Vidra also wants to apologize to all the chefs and owners at past jobs for making their lives miserable now realizing what a renegade he truly is.