From her journey of discovering her love for uncooked food, to the meticulous planning and execution of intricate grazing tables, Lauren Fetterhoff of Laurcuterie LLC shares her insights and experiences, offering a glimpse into the hard work, dedication, and artistry behind this culinary venture. Her story not only sheds light on the intricacies of her business but also provides valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to venture into the world of premium food presentation.
From Lunchables To Laurcuterie
ICA: How did you discover your passion for charcuterie?
Lauren: I actually grew up next to my family's grocery store business. It was just down our driveway. Picking out produce and making meat and cheese trays was a common activity for me, and I was very comfortable in that setting. So it didn't really seem too odd for me to want to put a real charcuterie board together in 2017. I never did it before that. My boyfriend at the time was the one who actually introduced me to the word ‘charcuterie'. But I mean, I loved Lunchables as long as I can remember, and that's like the child version of charcuterie that we definitely joke about. So, I feel like it totally stemmed from very early childhood.
ICA: When did you decide to get started in the business?
Lauren: When I met my boyfriend in 2019 he knew about me making these charcuterie boards. I had been doing it well before I had met him, and he said ‘you need to make a business out of this' and I said I don't know what you're talking about. I've never been a business owner and I kind of shrugged it off. But him asking made me feel like my passion was to do something creative with food, and I knew that I could do this for friends. I felt comfortable in the grocery store and my fridge is always full of condiments. There's no doubt that there's stuff that I haven't even opened yet.
ICA: How do you get yourself known?
Lauren: I started my Instagram page and I was like, well, I got to put some stuff out there. I started my LLC and I tried to go into that realm as well, but I wanted to get people to really know me and understand that I was serious, that I really wanted to do this as a business. I would post to my friends, and they would share it. However, this one girl that I was friends with at the time before Covid started a page about basically finding a meal under $15, and she would go to these different restaurants and promote it that way. They would give her this food for free, and then she would promote it on her Instagram, and that would just be it. There wouldn't be any payment at first.
Well, she saw this business with me and thought, okay, you're my friend. Let's just do a giveaway. This will be awesome. And it was like the middle of Covid. Nobody had anything else better to do, so everybody's just on their phones. It was the middle of summer 2020, and we went over to her house in Harrisburg. I'll never forget this. We literally took these pictures, and even had salmon and cream cheese, and I had capers, and there was this cute little box with a salami river, and I really went all out with everything I wanted.
Everybody freaked out. We got so much attraction and so many shares and likes. I mean, both of us were freaking out. I got over 500 followers. She got over 800. It was just insane. So from that, I got my name out there and everybody was like, what is charcuterie? What is this thing? Everybody just kept it going from there.
ICA: And you haven't done that again since?
Lauren: I haven't done a giveaway since because I didn't think it was worth it. I mean, you get your name out there, but there are so many people that just want the free option and they don't follow you right away. So what's the point? I'd rather have more loyal customers, so if I could change anything, it would be that. But getting my name out there was definitely pivotal in that moment.
ICA: What is it that you are doing now or how are customers finding out about you?
Lauren: I message people I already know and want to work with. I tell them I have a brick and mortar storefront and would love to have their stuff in as consignment. I love doing that organic word of mouth because that's how my stuff will naturally gravitate towards the people that actually want to spend the money.
The High Demands Of Grazing
ICA: Talk to me about behind the scenes of a busy day in your grazing business. Walk me through what it's like from getting a larger order from a customer all the way through how you plan it and how you execute it and all that other stuff.
Lauren: If I had a perfect customer for a grazing table specifically, they would reach out to me nine months to a year in advance. I'm talking about a large event like a wedding though. If I had to do a small corporate event, I could technically do it in a week. I know how to do that. But if I had to be really concrete, I would prefer a year, especially if they have over a hundred guests.
When we start the conversation, I have a 15-minute call with them. I go over the menu and we decide if they want tier one, tier two, or tier three. Our baseline selection is party gras, then we have divisio, then we have luxury. Most people pick party or divisio. Then I ask if they want to add any other options to make it more full and filled out in size. We can add fruit or dessert. I recently added salads and dressings, that kind of thing.
From there, I would create a list of items that I need from all my stores, and I definitely go to different ones depending on what they pick out. Normally I would end up going to Costco, Wegman's, and Giant. And then the remaining stuff usually comes from the restaurant store. Amazon and Target is where I find all these other trinkety things for decor. We rent out the decor items.
I start prepping everything three days before. It's very smooth at this point. I know what steps I have to take. First comes checking off everything on the list. We go through cheese, produce, pickles, spread, crunch, garnish, and then a list of things that I would need to pack for the grazing table like plates, utensils, the different picks and things like that.
Two days before, I'm prepping meat and cheese and I'm making sure all my flags and assembling is good to go. Sometimes I'd have to flop a cheese and do something else, or if I can't get something, we have to deal with that. So I go through all that stuff for meat and cheese, and then I do produce and pickle and everything else the night before. There's another checklist of how to pack the car. So I've got the Yetis, I've got the cart, I've got the tables, I've got the mini tables. There's a lot that goes on those last three days before the grazing table.
The the day of the grazing table, I wake up at like 4:30 – 5 o'clock, and I'm assembling anything else that I haven't done already because everybody knows that life happens sometimes and not everything is perfect.
Tips For Delivering Excellence
ICA: If someone's thinking about getting into the industry, what kind of advice would you give them based on how you started and where you are now?
Lauren: I value quality so much. I sometimes think I have this chip on my shoulder because I grew up in a grocery store and I feel like I know what quality name brands are. I very much come from that world, and you can't tell me that Aldi is the same because it's not. So I get a little informative when people ask me questions like, how did you get started on this? Where do you go for your things? How do you decide?
You have to know what your customer wants, but you also have to know what you can give them and still sleep at night. I'm not sleeping at night knowing I gave somebody poor quality cheese. Can't do it. Nope, won't do it. I am not opposed to using lower quality items as a regular person. I just think that there's quality to be had with this very luxurious item. And I think that if there's someone that wants to go into business, they should be. Don't do the highest cost. Find something in the middle. Make it worthy of that cost. You put effort into the art. I get that. I want to see you get paid for your time too, but don't go short on the quality.