My favorite stories to cover are the ones where we have no previous contact with a business. Instead we have customers coming to us talking about how wonderful a business has been to them. It is a different type of authenticity when someone is so excited about an experience they come to us wanting to see them highlighted. It shows they are doing something right.
Such is the case with Gina’s Catering out of Saline County. It existed far enough off our radar that we never sought it out ourselves. When we keep hearing from readers over and over about their great experiences, we had to dig into the business and see what makes it great.
The biggest of these voices (but certainly not the only) came from close friends in the Little Rock Trojans’ athletic office. We have had an ongoing relationship with them over the years, and I know how hard they have worked to find the perfect fit for their catering options in the suites and baseline club areas. They discovered Gina’s at another campus event and were blown away with the quality of service. So they signed her up to do a few games and were equally impressed.
“We love having Gina catering our premium seat options. We finally found the right fit for this meal service,” Trojans’ Associate Athletic Director Eric Silakowski told me in a meeting. “She really goes above and beyond to make sure everyone is taken care of and that she provides food that everyone is going to enjoy. Our fans have never been happier.”
Checking around I find that sentiment echoed by everyone who has done business with Gina’s Catering. So I paid owner Gina Simpson a visit at her catering location in Benton.
Simpson did get the traditional start in food. She spent several years running the concession stands at Bryant football games and worked for the food service department in the district. It was doing that that she found she loved serving people food. So she took her first wedding catering in 2011 and loved it so much that she started catering full time in May 2012.
“I get to see the outcome of our food and the impact it has on people’s special moments with catering. I love to see a bride walk in and see the food and know that we helped to accomplish part of her dream,” Simpson says. “I especially like non-profit fundraising events. People like to come and enjoy food, when we doing a good job at that event people have a good time and I know that the non-profit we are there supporting will be able to benefit from the experience people are having.”
Her client list on the non-profit side is extensive. She has covered fundraisers on everything from Arkansas Children’s Hospital to Habitat for Humanity.
This passion about serving food shines through with her staff as well. Frequently in talking with others we heard about how wonderful the staff was during a catering event, it is a reputation Simpson takes pride in cultivating.
“We have a great staff here and everyone takes a lot of pride in what they do,” Simpson explains. “It doesn’t matter if it is a fundraiser, a wedding, a party, or serving player meals for the Trojans basketball team, we always try to make each event special.”
It shows in the customers who use Gina’s. Like the Trojans most had experienced Gina’s Catering at some other event, enjoyed the food and the customer service, then booked her the first chance they could.
It has helped Gina’s Catering grow dramatically in the past six years. Two years ago they opened a new space off Springhill Road in Saline County that allows them an expanded catering space, an area to hold private events, and a grab and go storefront for people to come by and pick up food to take home.