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Family-Owned Coburn's Catering is Doing Something Right

5/10/2013

By Tiffany Chaney

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Coburn's Catering is a multi-generational, family-owned company based in the Fort Worth, Texas.  The company is known for its strong reputation in the community, especially as the primary concession provider for the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

"I was born into it. My father was born the year my grandfather started it. I started [working] when I was eleven. My fifteen-year-old son started when he was eleven. My eleven-year-old started with it this year," said Steve Coburn, who now is the owner and operator of the family business. "It's not for everyone. You have to love to serve people." Coburn's Catering has been serving the Fort Worth-Dallas area since 1946.

Mr. Coburn also commented on what it is like to work with family. "Family business can be great or an absolute nightmare. If everyone gets along then it works. We do stuff together. We like each other so it works. My wife sits eight feet away from me most of the day. My mom sat twelve feet away from me for years. She's semi-retired now."

The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is the primary event catered by Coburn's, and they have been serving the stock show for as long as they've been in business, which is gaining on seventy years. Annually, Coburn's Catering seasonally employs between 150 and 170 staff members to work the show from cashiers, prep cooks, grill cooks, to food runners. The company also oversees 12-15 subvendors.  Screening and selecting quality staff is a challenge in and of itself with such numbers. Other challenges present themselves when there are more customers than expected. Someone has to call the suppliers, bring back the product, and then the runners rush the product. To ensure quality service, Coburn's employs a retired health inspector to make sure everything is up to code before the stock show has a current health inspector peruse the stands.

One could suppose all the owners have to do is sit around and observe, but this is simply not the truth. Steve Coburn and his father are always present to support their employees and answer customer concerns. "The main thing we do [at the show] is we walk around-Dad and I-we check the stands, make sure everything looks good. We do our very best to solve any customer problems. We jump on it and solve it the best we can," Steve Coburn told CarnivalWarehouse.com. When asked about his average work day, Mr. Coburn remembered what his father always told him, "I only have to work a half day-8:00 AM to 8:00 PM."

Coburn's Catering strives to keep their prices comparable with others in the industry. "We don't want our customers to ever think we're gouging them." Mr. Coburn also sincerely cares about the people he employs: "I come here and earn money for my family but I am responsible for everybody else... I feed a whole bunch of families. I have to take care of the people that work for me so they can feed their families. It's a lot of work."

What about the rest of the year? How does a catering business stay afloat in this current economy? "We do food service for the Fort Worth Will Rogers Memorial Center," answered Mr. Coburn. This encompasses mainly city events. Additionally, the company provides catering for everything from family to corporate events.

CarnivalWarehouse.com asked Mr. Coburn what the secret is to being so successful. "We show up to work. That's the biggest thing. If owners would work everyday... When the phone rings, most of time we answer the phone and are accessible. You show up to work and you work. I'm the first one that turns the morning and generally that last one that leaves."  He also advised, "Returning phone calls, doing what you say you're gonna do is a big deal. How many places do you call where you don't get anyone to call you back. To me it's common sense but to others it's apparently not."

Coburn's customers should never doubt that they genuinely care about them. Since he went right into the family business, he says that he's never had to worry about himself or his job, only others. "Married almost twenty years and don't have to sell myself anymore." Coburn stated that word of mouth is the biggest "seller" for him. While Coburn's Catering has a website the owner calls "functional" and a Facebook page, he had this to say about advertising in general, "We have a strong reputation, been doing it for sixty-seven years. We're doing something right."

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