“It’s pretty great to be able to run downstairs and have a whole market at our fingertips to pick out the freshest ingredients the day of a class or an event,” Wilson said.
For their catering staff, Bonner said he and Wilson cull from among “the best and the brightest” employees in their store, then train them on the finer points of food safety, service and bartending.
That means the person dressed in a pressed white shirt and black slacks, explaining your plate of roasted butternut squash with pancetta at a black-tie affair, may be a deli worker or cashier whose regular uniform includes a green Publix vest.
“We get high-quality associates who are really eager to learn about plating or helping in the kitchen,” Bonner said. “And they genuinely enjoy being able to interact with customers in a different role than what they’re used to in the store.”
In addition to service and access to fresh ingredients, Bonner and Wilson say they believe their employer’s standard of cleanliness helps Publix Aprons Catering stand out from other caterers.
“We promise we’ll leave your place cleaner than it was when we got there,” Wilson said. “We had to put that to the test when we did a dinner party at a house where the kitchen was literally brand-new. But I think the hostess was pleased.”
Just as Publix associates are not supposed to take tips from store customers, gratuities as well as delivery fees are included in the cost of catering plans and are not accepted at events.
Publix declined to provide a price range for its catering services, noting that its prices are competitive with other caterers and vary depending on elements such as the size of an affair, the type of food and drinks served, and whether rentals like chairs, linens and flatware are needed.
A catering catalog presents food options in categories of platinum, gold and silver. Sample entrées: slow-roasted duck with mango-habanero sauce (platinum), hand-cut rib-eye steak with bleu cheese butter (gold) and mojo-marinated roasted pork shoulder with sweet plantains (silver).
Krauss said customers can mix and match dishes from various tiers to create the menu they want.
“We’re able to accommodate each individual’s customer’s needs, no matter the type of event or celebration and regardless of size or budget,” she said.
Indeed, Lopez said Publix worked with her to ensure the Trade Station party she organized came in under budget. At $4,000, her appetizers-and-wine gathering worked out to less than $14 a person.
“The pricing was affordable, and that was important to us,” Lopez said. “They never tried to up-charge me or tack on extra fees. They took care of everything, no hassle at all. I can’t say enough good things.”