Catering for the U.S. Open's corporate customers is a big business

The News TribuneJune 13, 2014 

— Susan Lacz and her crew of 660 workers are serving up 60,000 catered meals this week at the U.S. Open.

Lacz is in charge of catering for corporate hospitality, the clubhouse, players and media.

Lacz, chief executive officer of Ridgewells Catering in Bethesda, Maryland, has catered every U.S. Open since 1993. She’ll also be in charge of catering at next June’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.

She buys local, hires local and serves up a tailored menu for 60 corporate locations at Pinehurst No. 2.

They include a sea of 45 air-conditioned corporate tents, some holding up to 400 people. There’s also the mammoth Champions Pavilion, where companies book tables of 12.

“Every menu changes for every region we go to,” Lacz said Friday. “It’s important for us to have a local flavor.”

Her company tasted barbecue for months to come up with the right vendor to supply vinegar-based, North Carolina barbecue. Other regional treats include hand-made ice cream sandwiches and goat cheese from a local dairy.

“I’m buying all my food here in North Carolina,” Lacz said. “And that’s what I’m planning on doing at Chambers Bay.”

She hired 600 people locally -- chefs, servers, bartenders and others -- and brought with her a management team of 60 workers.

Lacz doesn’t handle concessions for the general public.

She’s not sure what will be on the corporate menu at Chambers Bay.

“I heard that I’ve got to have rhubarb on my menu,” Lacz said.

Salmon, of course. And what about crab?

“I don’t know what your crab is, but I’m sure I’ll get intimate with it,” Lacz said.

She’ll find out more in late October when she visits Tacoma to meet with local food vendors set up by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce in preparation for the 2015 U.S. Open.

It will be her first trip to the Seattle-Tacoma area.

It’s too early for Lacz to know how big the catering operation will be at Chambers Bay. But she expects to hire at least 300 workers locally.

Corporate hospitality is a big business for the United States Golf Association and Lacz.

Packages for Chambers Bay range in price from $6,000 to $235,000.

Lacz said her operation will bring in $5 million in revenue during the U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

Clients select from more than 200 items. “No two menus are the same,” Lacz said.

She said her goal at the U.S. Open is to provide people “a yummy meal, a cold drink and a great experience.”

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