New catering director hopes to make service more accessible, sustainable

Kelli Nguyen, Assistant Campus Editor

Sara Koulouris prefers food over fame. After three years working for The Recording Academy, the organization that puts on the Grammy Awards, she took jobs in the foodservice industry. More recently, she joined Northwestern Dining as its new catering director.

In her position, Koulouris oversees the sales and operations of NU Catering, a branch of an Northwestern Dining partnership based out of Norris University Center. Catering serves on-campus functions from student events such as Dillo Day to banquets with University President Morton Schapiro.

Between the Grammys and the food scene, Koulouris said she much prefers the food industry’s focus on customer service — something she views as a significant aspect of her work. Koulouris said working at the Grammys was more networking-centered, whereas working with food allows her to concentrate more on satisfying customers.

“That’s why I love the industry and I love my job, because it’s all about delivering and creating a great experience,” Koulouris said. “While I love food, I always say, ‘Customer service is the most important thing.’”

Koulouris’ job includes working with students in customizing their catering needs, she said.

Stephanie Klafert, NU Dining’s catering manager, said Koulouris plays a crucial leadership role in NU Catering and student collaborations. Currently, the team is working with Mayfest to organize food to be served at Dillo Day, Klafert said. She also said NU Catering will help student groups with less money fundraise to pay for catered events.

“It doesn’t matter what your budget is,” Klafert said. “Whatever it is you’re celebrating or looking for, we can work with you.”

Beyond day-to-day catering operations, Koulouris said NU Catering has also launched an effort to promote sustainability in catering. Last week, it launched Green Steps, a new service that gives customers the option to cater “zero waste” events. For example, rather than using disposable plates, NU Catering offers the option of using china or biodegradable cutlery and drinkware.

With Koulouris’ attention to detail and event planning experience, NU Dining hopes to expand its catering operation beyond just food and toward enriching diners’ experiences, said NU Dining spokeswoman Rachel Tilghman said.

“What Sara brings to the table is not just the food,” Tilghman said. “It basically means making sure that we are catering to all levels of the campus need.”

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