Partners for Versatility
Vibrant Table
What does it take to win in the hospitality business today? Keeping a finger on the pulse of tastes and preferences? Yes, and those constantly change. A modern hospitality business must be a versatile business. Ready to respond, shift gears, and deliver a joyful experience. Unfortunately, in this post-pandemic landscape, some businesses are just now figuring out that buying behaviors are not what they used to be, and customer expectations are quickly repositioning.
Based in Southeast Portland, Vibrant Table epitomizes versatility, consistently meeting their customer in the moment. Vibrant Table Catering & Events, located at 2010 SE 8th Avenue Portland, Oregon 97214, is a highly awarded, full-service catering and events company founded by Art Fortuna and Kurt Beadell “through a love of hospitality.”

Kurt, Creative Director & Principal, has been a culinary veteran at some of Portland’s most rooted restaurants, helping bring into vogue Papa Hyden’s for almost 20 years, and then moving over to the popular Salvador Molly’s catering business. Later, he and some close friends became co-founders of Vibrant Table in 1999. Kurt and team grew it from $250k in revenue to $4M in just 3 years. Kurt recalls their big break, “We were one of several caterers at the Portland Art Museum, which does big weddings and events in Portland. One of the other caterers bailed on a huge event and we took it on last minute, which is very stressful in our industry. But, after that we became the exclusive caterer at the Portland Art Museum, and we took off!”  

As with a lot of businesses that experience rapid growth, during that 3-year burst it became very challenging to meet the demands of expansion. “During that first phase the business was great, but burdensome, and it forced us to become an even better team – structurally and organizationally.” So, they hired Art as their CEO and formed a team of 5 owners. Art was able to take over the financials and guide the business toward their vision.

The beauty of restructuring and maturing as a business? “I get to do what I want to do, now,” Kurt says. Kurt gets to focus on production and creative design and “Art is the ‘CEO of all things.’ They make a great team of 2 opposite personalities,” says Marketing Director, Justin Saylor.  

Under Art and Kurt’s leadership, Vibrant Table has built itself into a multi-faceted and layered business operation that is able to pivot, adapting to Portlanders’ post-pandemic expectations and learning how to be efficient while knowing what clients want out of a singular experience. For example, they have learned that now weddings and social groups are realizing they could use the extra help, pivoting from learned DIY behaviors that the pandemic forced upon project managers and budgets. Another example is corporate and non-profit organizations don’t want to be stuffy anymore. They are expecting flexible, fun, and functional spaces with “flow.”

But what does it mean to be “Versatile”? For Vibrant Table, several things stand out.
  1. They hire and retain great people – leveraging their experience and specializations to not lose sight of the little things that create efficiency and joy.
  2. They are empathetic – using their ability to listen to their target market and taking pride in the ability to understand people.
  3. They are strategic – expanding revenue streams and making business adjustments that serve their customers’ needs. 
“Strategy is a big part of catering, and for us internally as a company, in terms of where we are going, we must stay strategic,” says Auriana Albree, Director of Sales. “That all starts with being a good listener.”

In 2015 VT bought the building. It used to be a blind manufacturer, but is now a fully functional, state-of-the-art event space that rivals any other in the city. Their team has thought of everything, leveraging deep industry experience to make sure the little things are dialed in. The patio deck is heated underneath. The AV nest sits high above the main ballroom floor as not to interfere. Staff-only hallways optimized for food delivery, optimized kitchen alignment, step-by-step storage arrangement; it is truly a fine-tuned marriage of process and creativity. Additional reception space and moving the corporate offices upstairs has taken pressure off their kitchen, opened room in the catering and delivery warehouse, dock, and storage operations, all spec’d-to-scope to serve events across the city. They could now seat 330 people for dinner and hold other events up to 800 people in impressive fashion.

Every versatile business will need capital at some point in their journey. In 2020, the pandemic almost completely halted business and forced them, along with hospitality and restaurant businesses all over the country, to seek PPP financing.

“We have loans, checking accounts and money market accounts with Lewis & Clark Bank. We’ve done business with them since 2017. We moved our accounts to the bank as a part of the restructuring of the loans on the building.” says Catherine Cousins-McLeod, CFO. 

“The accounting team loves working with them. Always immediately responsive. Great customer service. So good that when we couldn’t use the check scanner due to software issues, the bank sent someone to pick up our deposits. During Covid, our banker literally walked us through every step to apply for the PPP loans which were critical to navigating what came of the pandemic. We consider them a partner, not just a bank.”

PPP financing allowed VT to keep the doors open:
  • They could keep the core team working and maintain services for their clients. 
  • It ensured they were able to upgrade the air filtration system (using hospital systems as a guideline for the highest level of indoor air safety), and 
  • They transformed the parking lot into a beautifully massive patio and flexible outdoor addition. 
Auriana describes it best, “We overthink everything, so you don’t have to.” This mindset in embedded in their culture. Constant fluctuation is expected in hospitality, and an inherent level of creativity keeps it interesting, celebrated, and engaging. 

During the pandemic they created a program to deliver meals to their non-profit customers who had to run virtual events from their homes. Creating over 40 driving routes, delivering 400 meals, and providing detailed instructions for how to cook at home, Vibrant Table showed their operational creativity, but more importantly their loyalty to help their clients stay afloat when they switched online. Everyone had to play different roles. That innovation launched their “vt2you” catering business during COVID, bringing VT to them and their guests at each home.  vt2you started as a way for VT to deliver food to people’s homes and has innovated again to deliver expanded catering options to businesses, event venues, homes, or wherever their clients need. Those non-profit customers are returning and referring customers. 

Vibrant Table proudly partners with about 15 local non-profit organizations annually for sponsorship opportunities. VT partnered with 159 non-profits in 2023 and offers special pricing for corkage fees and venue rentals. “Our partnerships and support of non-profit organizations is a source of great honor for VT. We are especially thankful to be able to continue supporting through donations and sponsorships as we have all felt the squeeze of inflation since COVID. To be a part of our community that gives back means everything.” – Auriana Albree

Inside the amazing DNA of Vibrant Table are caring, dedicated and passionate people where diversity is a pillar of their business and paths to promotion are encouraged across departments. Auriana has been with Vibrant Table for 18 years. Executive Chef, Marcy Casale, 16 years. Sous Chef & Pastry Chef, Silvia Rodriguez, 25 years.

Vibrant Table has created their own recipe for a modern and versatile hospitality business, where experience breeds innovation. It’s inspiring to see their creative energy combined with empathy, resilience, and a strategic business approach breaking through the other side of the pandemic. The future is truly vibrant in SE Portland. 
During Covid, our banker literally walked us through every step to apply for the PPP loans which were critical to navigating what came of the pandemic. We consider them a partner, not just a bank.” -Catherine Cousins-McLeod, CFO