Listen to the Podcast About Food For the Soul Catering and Events

Podcast for Food For the Soul Catering and Events

Podcast Summary

In an insightful interview with Jake Carter, Tina Digman, the dedicated event planner of Food For the Soul Catering and Events, shared valuable insights into event planning and her journey within the food and beverage industry. Digman, who boasts an impressive career in one of the largest restaurant chains in the US, Chili’s, highlighted her dedication to leadership and organization skills honed over the years, which have helped her successfully manage grand openings, weddings, and other notable events.

Digman emphasized that Food For The Soul Catering and Events, despite the negative impacts of the recent fires, is still open for business. Their dedication to serving the community is marked by a desperate need for patronage to keep local employment afloat and to support the community during these trying times.

When discussing current trends in the industry, Digman shared her enthusiasm for decor trends like highly saturated colors and decorative bows on everything from napkins to glasses. Moreover, the ‘micro-weddings’ trend seems to be taking the industry by storm. These intimate affairs let hosts lavish their guests while ensuring each interaction is personal and meaningful.

Lastly, Digman shared a golden nugget of advice for anyone planning an event or a destination wedding; never compromise on the quality of food and beverage for guests. Food For the Soul Catering and Events places high value on ensuring guests’ culinary experience is satisfactory, bringing together every event with panache.

Overall, Digman’s professional journey with Food For the Soul Catering and Events exemplifies dedication, resilience, adherence to quality, and staying abreast with industry trends, ensuring every event is a soulful experience.

Learn more about Food For the Soul Catering and Events

This interview was provided by Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos

Podcast Transcript

Jake (00:25)
Hello, I’m Jake Carter with Felix and Fingers Dueling Pianos and I’m here with Tina Digman who is from Food for the Soul Catering and Events. You are an event planner in a catering business.

your bio you grew up in the food and beverage industry and you were a general manager and training director for one of the largest restaurant chains in the US. You’ve helped with a bunch of grand openings and you’ve managed all of the different parts of events, weddings, restaurants, everything that has to do with people and all the fun having that you could possibly ever have it looks like based on your bio. And then when you’re not doing…

logistics and all of that you like to vacation and just leave vacation I guess where we already live so thank you so much for joining is there anything that you want to talk about about your history and bio what that massive restaurant chain was that is a secret

Tina Digman (01:09)
Ah, so I worked, I lived on Oahu for nine years and I worked for Chili’s. Was a started off just as a server at their first restaurant in Waikale and kind of grew through the ranks.

And when I ended my career there, I had done so many wonderful and amazing things, opening restaurants and traveling and learning lots of great, wonderful things and had an amazing mentor who really taught me about leadership and how to be and how not to be in life. So it was a great experience.

Jake (01:44)
That’s awesome. That is really cool. So I know we talked about you do catering and events. I’m going to stick mostly to events today. We could potentially do another one on catering or chat about catering another time, or you can just bring it up and just go rogue on the podcast. Either way works, but I’m going to try to ask you event -based questions. Whatever works, you know, it’s all about you here. So what are the current trends that you’re seeing in events and weddings and all those things?

Tina Digman (02:00)
I’ll try not to get rogue on you.

Well, I think, you know, the trend here on Maui since the fires, I think that’s most important to talk about because I think people think.

that we are closed and we’re not. And we are ready for business. We’re ready to host weddings and events. And we need you to come desperately. Our services help us to stay employed. That helps us to continue to support the community. So I think a big trend in Maui right now is just getting our business back. It’s, you know, across the board in this industry. People are struggling a bit right now. So we’re,

Just wanting to get the word out that we’re open, we’re here, we’re ready to go. And we’d love to have you guys back to host you in any way that we can.

I think trends for the new wedding season, one of them that I absolutely love is bows. Bows on your napkins, bows on your glasses, bows on your centerpieces. I mean, what? Who doesn’t love bows? One of my favorite things, but that’s a big trend. Bright color is important. And I think that we’re still seeing some micro weddings, smaller weddings, so people can really lavish their guests, but really be able to see

sit and enjoy their time with their group of people versus trying to mingle with 100 and 150 guests.

Jake (03:42)
Yeah, yeah, I have seen that as well and I’ve also heard that from quite a few people is smaller weddings are kind of in right now, but in a more personal but kind of almost extravagant way where it’s like making them cooler for the smaller amount of people and being able to connect more with the people that actually come. So I definitely think I can verify that that is true and I have seen that. So What are some things that you…

that people should never do at their event or wedding.

Tina Digman (04:12)
Hmm, things that you should never do.

I would say never, I’m going to kind of go on to the food end because it does tie with the overall, never sacrifice food and beverage for your guests, especially when planning a destination wedding. I think.

Jake (04:30)

Tina Digman (04:31)
Coming to Maui, people spend thousands of dollars on hotels and airfare and all the things. And so you really want to treat your guests to an experience and shorting on food or beverage, I think, can be really harmful to an event. People will get overly intoxicated and it’s no fun when you’re leaving an event. I know we’ve all been there.

You leave in an event and you’re like, where’s the nearest fast food chain so I can get something because it didn’t sustain me. So I think always making sure that your guests are taken care of in that way are important.

Jake (05:14)
You know what’s something that this, I haven’t seen anyone do this on Maui and I, so.

I can’t speak to anything here that’s relevant that I’ve seen, but on the topic of what you were just talking about, something I saw when I was in California that was really cool, before I moved out here a couple years ago, was people would do their event, their wedding, whatever, and they would have the normal dinner, normal food, whatever, appetizers, all of the things, and then like right at the end of the event, they’d bring in like a food truck or like a bunch of pizza or like something where it was just like, okay, we’re

basically done 30 minute warning we’re gonna kick all you guys out but here’s a bunch of pizza eat so you’re not drunk go home and then like they would just they just already planned for that and I was like this is so cool so

Tina Digman (06:03)
We actually do that a lot here. And not necessarily bringing in another vendor, but your caterer can do late night appetizers. We do some of our most popular like sliders with fries, Hawaiian pizza bites, veggie fried noodles and Chinese to go boxes.

Some people even, I’ve had a couple events where they bring in monogrammed boxes and we pack a little something for guests to take home with them. So it actually is a thing here. And typically the, whoever is the caterer just handles something like that. But I think that’s another great way to just make sure that your guests aren’t leaving hungry. And especially after a night of drinking, I think that it’s a great way to help people sober up a little bit too.

Because safety is really one of our top priorities, whether it be transportation or making sure that people eat enough and don’t drink too much.

Jake (07:02)
Yeah, yeah. And it makes for a better next day, especially on a place like this where you’re supposed to be at breakfast the next morning. Yeah. So just to kind of stay on that, that thing of what should people never do, What is like the craziest thing that you’ve seen at an event where you’re like, just what, what’s the one story of something going like terribly wrong or something that you’re like, they should not have done? Like, what is, what’s, tell me the craziest thing.

Tina Digman (07:09)

I mean, I had a situation once where I had to call the police and close down an event because the best man got too intoxicated and head -butted the father of the groom. Yeah, just, you know, I think sometimes alcohol involved. I don’t know what the beep was about. All I know is…

Jake (07:43)

Tina Digman (07:52)
there was blood everywhere and when something like that happens, you call in the police and the event got shut down. I think another thing that happens actually, not often, but people do, is they bring in their own liquor. And here on Maui, unless you’re in a venue,

that serves liquor, you can hire your own bar service and you buy all your liquor and the bar service sets it up, services it. And the guests are drinking for free, pretty much, it’s on the host. And so there’s been many times where we catch guests bringing liquor in and I think what they aren’t aware of is that there’s hefty fines that go along with that.

And that gets passed down to me, which in turn gets passed down to the client. And so it’s, you know, I would say it’s a really bad idea to bring liquor into an event. Just enjoy the bar that’s there. There’s usually always something for somebody to drink. The bartenders will get creative. But I do think that that’s one mistake that guests make, thinking that they can just bring their own stuff in.

Jake (09:04)
Yeah, I mean, and that’s always a bummer when I’m sure if you have to pass that fine on, it’s always just like, ah, like I’m sure that that’s not something fun for you to do. So that’s definitely a bummer. Um, yeah.

Tina Digman (09:10)

Not at all. I mean, I had it recently happen where we told the same person like three times, finally confiscated the bottle. He got aggressive. And once again, we had to shut down the event because of one human that wasn’t following the rules. Never fun to do. My least favorite thing to do.

Jake (09:32)
Yeah, that is a bummer. So to totally flip this story here, what is the most unique or cool thing that you’ve seen in a wedding or event? And because I know that you do catering and I feel like this is going to go a catering direction. Let’s do like something catering specific. Like what’s the really most cool food thing, like cool something cocktail wise or something like that. And then what’s the most just general thing that you’ve seen where you’re like, that was awesome.

Tina Digman (09:44)
Thank you.

Um, so I, we just recently had an event where they did sand art and I had never seen that, but there’s actually a sand art designer, like when you go into the hotels and you see these beautiful sculptures, but they had a welcome sign that was made out of sand and that actually can be casted and shipped back to you. And no, it’s not sand off the local beach. It’s sand that is purchased. Um,

So you’re not taking anything off of Maui. It’s a purchase product that they mold and create. And it’s a really cool, I think, memory. And it’s a really cool thing to have at your wedding. I also love…

caricatures. So there is a couple people on Maui now that are doing caricatures at weddings and they’re not just doing the bride and groom. They’re capturing photos of guests and they’re popping out in 20 minutes like a photo of the guests that’s a caricature. And those are some really cool, fun things to do at weddings to kind of, they make great party favors for your guests, the caricatures. And I think everybody gets really excited to see that.

to see what the artist comes up with.

Jake (11:14)
Yeah, so do you guys, in your catering side, do you guys do cocktails as well as food, or is it just primarily food? Okay.

Tina Digman (11:21)
We don’t offer bar service, so we’re strictly a catering company.

Jake (11:26)
So what is the coolest, most extravagant thing you’ve seen on the catering side?

Tina Digman (11:32)
I mean, I love when we do seafood displays. You know, you could do oysters and lobster tails and crab claws and shrimp and scallops and ahi. So seafood displays are really great. We do an amazing charcuterie that we put in a canoe, an eight foot canoe that’s layered with meats and cheeses and fruits and nuts. And that’s really cool. We once had rather than a

cake for cutting. We did a pizza for cutting, so we had a little pizza on top of our cake stand, little mini pizza bites around, and the guests, the bride and groom cut a pizza rather than a cake. Yeah, very different. And I always…

Jake (12:17)
cool. That’s super cool. I love the canoe thing.

Tina Digman (12:20)
I think it’s important to tell clients too, you know, people talk about tradition and one of the first things that clients usually say in a planning process is like, what’s traditional? And I feel like in today’s day and age, there still are those traditions, but most couples are paying for their own wedding these days. And so I like to tell them to feel free to do what makes them happy, what brings joy to their day. Cause it is about the guests, but it’s about them as well.

well and they should enjoy every aspect of it too.

Jake (12:54)
Yeah, absolutely. So I love the canoe thing. That’s awesome. I want to find pictures of that because that just sounds so cool. So other than putting sliced meat in a canoe, What is the thing that makes you guys super unique as an event planner?

Tina Digman (13:02)
I will send you some.

Thank you.

So we are a husband and wife team. So I do all the event planning in office and my husband is the chef. He has a chef team that supports him and I have a planning and service team that supports me. I think what’s unique about our business is that…

We are striving to be the bosses that we always wanted. We treat our staff like their family. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and graduations. We start our events with big hugs and aloha and we end the nights with I love you and thank you and hugs.

And we have always wanted to create an environment that it’s a place where our employees can be. They can leave their stuff at the door and just have a great event and enjoy themselves and pick up their stuff, you know, their baggage when they leave. I think it’s really important that when you’re serving clients on one of the most important days of their lives,

that your head is in the game and you’re thinking about we’re there to be there for love and so we need to create that environment.

Jake (14:24)
Yeah, yeah, that’s great. That is really cool. I know that that’s always makes such a difference. You can tell businesses that take care of their employees versus businesses that don’t just in how the employees deal with their customers. Like such, it just trickles down and that’s such a true thing. That’s super cool that you guys take that approach. So with someone that is just getting ready to start planning their wedding or their event, what is some advice that you would give to that person?

Tina Digman (14:37)

I would say your best avenue to go is to first hire your planner. And especially if you’re working on a budget. I think what happens a lot of times is there’s so much information via the internet that people get online, they start doing their research and they go ahead and hire a vendor.

without really knowing what all the costs are involved. And so I really encourage people to reach out to a planner first.

tell them all your bells and whistles and dreams and hopes, get an estimate so that you can see what the overall picture looks like. So that if you have money, that money to go for it, or we need to make decisions on budget, your planner can help you guide in that direction. Because in every area of an event, there are vendors, you know.

low, medium, and high price range. And so that’s your planner’s job is to really help guide you so you can stay within the budget. And they also have great recommendations on how to do that to get creative timing, all of those things. And I’ve seen too many times where people go ahead and hire vendors, the planner becomes like the third or fourth piece, and they’ve overspent because their timing was incorrect, or they have to spend more because the timing was incorrect, or

Jake (16:04)

Tina Digman (16:19)
or they wish they would have hired a vendor that was less expensive because now the budget is blown up. So I think really starting with the planner is so important. And I know in today’s day and age where information is all at our disposal, it is important to find somebody local that can help you with those details.

Jake (16:39)
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I hear that a lot is almost every person that I’ve asked this question to the first thing that they say is hire a planner every single time. That’s like, I was just thinking about that. I was like, I, this should just be the name of this podcast is higher planner. Cause everyone says the same thing. Um, so I, I can validate that. Um, when, what is your current availability? If people were getting ready to plan event.

Tina Digman (17:04)
I would say for a planner, you want to start at least a year out, even maybe 18 months out starting to do your research. But definitely a year out, you want to start securing. There are vendors that do only one event, like your planner, your photo, your video team, your florist. And then there are vendors that can do multiple events.

I think it’s important to start booking as soon as you can so you can get the vendors that you’d like. At that same time, I have planned weddings for, you know, in six weeks.

Jake (17:37)
Yeah, for sure.

Tina Digman (17:45)
For those people who are making a last minute decision for whatever reason, that can also be done. You just gotta be ready to make decisions.

Jake (17:54)
Yeah. So talking about all the logistics and figuring out the vendors and all of the things with that, when you approach an event, do you have a preferred vendor list? And is there like, do you require that couples use those people or are you pretty open to it?

Tina Digman (18:08)
So I do have a per -for -vendor list. So one of the first things that if you book with us once we receive contract and retainer, you will get our vendor guide. I am happy to work with anybody, so I do not limit you to that list. But of course, there is a reason that I have that list. I’ve been in this business for 20 years on Maui.

I know the vendors that are tried and true, the ones that are going to show up, the ones that are going to do an amazing job, and then I know the other options. So I think I am happy to work with whoever you want to work with, but I will always kind of turn you over to my vendor guide when you’re looking for vendors.

Jake (18:55)
Yeah. So when an event is taking place, do you have a day of person that is a day of planner or are you the person that manages that? Who’s the general point of contact?

Tina Digman (19:09)
So I have an associate by the name of Alana and she typically runs my rehearsals. And then on the day of she arrives for what we call the set. So she receives the rentals. I am usually there by 11, 12 in the afternoon, which most venues for reference you can’t get on till 10 a .m. here. So she usually is receiving the rentals. But then I’m there prior to the clients arriving, prior to guests.

arriving prior to the majority of the vendors arriving. So I kind of come in when linens are being placed, decor is going on, and all of those decisions are happening.

Jake (19:49)
So there’s multiple people helping out that make sure that everything’s smooth and it’s not just…

Tina Digman (19:52)
I have a team typically of two to three for events. So depending on your size, you’ll definitely have two or three people helping the planning process.

Jake (20:02)
What is the average size of events that you do?

Tina Digman (20:06)
Right now we’re seeing kind of 40 to 60. You know, post COVID we were seeing 100 plus, but they’ve definitely scaled down a little bit. I would say the average right now is about 40 to 60 people.

Jake (20:20)
Yeah. And what is the deposit amount and cancellation policy for your services?

Tina Digman (20:29)
So we take a 10 % retainer of our estimate and a signed contract and that locks in the date in our services. Then as you’re booking vendors, you would make other retainers to those vendors. Cancellation fee, once you pay the retainer and we start working, that retainer is actually to retain us. So if there were to be a cancellation, we would deduct

Jake (20:54)
Mm -hmm.

Tina Digman (20:58)
any time already incurred, any expenses already occurred from the retainer. And a lot of times because we’re already working there is no refund on that.

Jake (21:12)
Interesting. So when you were going through an event, I know we talked about some of the cool things that happened, some of the things that have gone poorly, and we’ve talked about how you have a preferred vendor list. What do you do to make sure that there’s a smooth experience from start to finish? I know that probably starting with your vendor list is a big point and having people on site, but what are some things that you do maybe differently or special to make sure that everything goes well?

Tina Digman (21:39)
I think just…

For us and my planning team, the team that’s there overseeing the day, it’s really about the details. And, you know, we spend sometimes a year, year and a half planning with clients. So we have a lot of notes to oversee. And I think just following those notes and making sure that every point is hit and that we’re staying a part of the timeline. Timing is very important to me because when you’re dealing with so many vendors and.

paying people hourly. It’s really important as a team that we stay on point and we stay on time because one vendor not following that guideline can affect four or five other vendors. So for me, timeliness is really, really important and making sure that my…

team knows to stay on that timing as well and making sure that we’re communicating with vendors about what’s next and are we ready and you know.

Jake (22:47)

Tina Digman (22:47)
making sure everybody’s on point with the schedule. So I think for us, we really do take the timeline seriously and we do follow it precisely on your day to make sure that the flow happens appropriately.

Jake (22:52)

Yeah. So what got you into doing planning specifically?

Tina Digman (23:14)
Great question. 2008, we had the economy crash and I think we were all kind of just trying to stay afloat. And so I started planning for free. Clients would come and looking for catering and I…

just sort of took on this role of being like, yeah, I can help you with other things. At that time, a lot of the venues did not require planners, so it wasn’t a necessary thing. But I think clients enjoyed having somebody oversee their day. So I just kind of started doing it for free for clients. And then about a year of that, I had somebody say to me, you’re really good at this. You should be charging. And so, oops. Undoing collar.

And so I started charging. And here we are today.

Jake (24:10)
That’s great. That’s an interesting kind of start. And it’s interesting that you started out as free and then you were like, well, I guess, you know, we’ll, we’ll make this a whole, whole business. Um, so the last question I have for you, what do you enjoy most about the industry, the events, getting to do what you do, take it any direction you want. What do you enjoy most about anything to do with this?

Tina Digman (24:20)

So many things. Number one, we’re surrounded by love on a daily basis. My husband and I talk a lot about this because we think that it really is a huge strength to our marriage because we get to see love every day and it reminds us, it’s like reliving our wedding day. And so…

I don’t think we sweat the small stuff because we remind ourselves what type of business that we’re in and how important a wedding day is. The second thing I love is that no two events are alike. Clients are different, vendors are different, food is different. So the fact that I’m…

not doing the same thing day in and day out. Details are always different. It’s always a little bit of a challenge and it’s fun. And lastly, I get to work on some of the most amazing properties in the world. Most of our properties, I’m looking at the beach, I’m hearing the ocean. I mean, what a better life, you know? And there’s so many blessings about being a part of somebody’s…

Jake (25:44)
Yeah. Yeah.

Tina Digman (25:51)
one of the four most important days of their life. And I think as we bless others, that comes around tenfold to our family.

Jake (25:55)

I totally agree. And I also really resonate with the locations that we get to work in. Every time I finish setting up and I sit down and I’m just like staring at the sunset and I’m like, this is just silly. Like this is ridiculous. Like this is amazing. You know, and Oh yeah.

Tina Digman (26:14)
Yeah. Or when it’s well season and you’re watching wells jump, it’s like, you know, and you watch the faces of guests who were just mesmerized by it. And I think the one thing that Maui does is it reminds us to never take a day for granted. You know, because every sunset, every well, everything is so different. And to always honor and love the fact that you get to do this.

Jake (26:33)

Absolutely. Well, I so appreciate you coming. I so appreciate the positive just energy at the towards the end of this and how much you appreciate it. It’s really like infectious. So thank you so much for talking about it. Thank you Aloha.

Tina Digman (26:57)
Thank you. Aloha.

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