Frisco resident Chris Stana is blazing a trail in his industry. “Most people do not yet know that what I do — coffee catering — exists,” he observed. “When people think catering, they think alcohol, cupcakes … what’s next? Well, a gourmet coffee bar!”
Mr. Stana’s 7-year-old business, Hot Shots Catering, does just that. He specializes in providing a full-service gourmet coffee bar experience, which makes for a memorable impression at any party. Arriving at event sites with everything needed to create tasty, gourmet coffee drinks for each guest, Hot Shots sweeps in with baristas, commercial-grade equipment, tables, syrup drizzles and cream dollops. “We use a very quick and mobile set up,” says Mr. Stana, “without sacrificing elegance or the great taste of gourmet coffee.” The only thing the customer needs to supply is electricity and space.
Mr. Stana caught the entrepreneurial spirit while attending a military high school. He started as a private and worked his way up the ranks to company commander, in charge of 60 cadets. Only the drill sergeant was above him. “At that point,” he remarks, “I knew I could manage people.”
After graduation, Mr. Stana experienced the everyday work field and did not enjoy it. He whittled his choices down to catering or the auto industry, and then elected to blaze a trail in coffee catering. He started Hot Shots in 2007.
When he started the business, Mr. Stana worked a couple of jobs at once. Not only did he take on extra jobs, he also divided his time between school and work. His Hot Shots business put him through Collin College and then The University of Texas at Dallas. “I paid for my education as I went, and didn’t take out any loans,” he says. “I had no debt at graduation.”
“Finally, within the last year, my client list has built up and I can focus on Hot Shots,” he says. “People are starting to learn about coffee catering as an industry, so my plan from here is to work on expanding my business.”
As his business grows, Mr. Stana remains aware of his hometown and of his social responsibility within it. As such, with clients’ wholehearted approval, Hot Shots Catering makes a regular practice of donating its unused milk at the end of events. “The client and I will make calculated estimates of what is needed as far as supplies, but, since we are a custom-order caterer, it really comes down to what guests order as to how much or little is left over,” he states. “At the end of large events, there are occasionally unopened gallons of milk. We donate this milk to area charities, especially to Frisco Family Services,” he remarks.
What inspired Mr. Stana to enter the catering world? “My parents owned their own business as I was growing up — corporate communication and production services,” recalls Mr. Stana. “I tagged along with them to large events and I remember customers saying ‘where is the coffee?’ And now I offer exclusive coffee catering at large events like Frisco’s Christmas in the Square and at Fortune 500 companies, corporate meetings and weddings.”
Hot Shots baristas make every drink to order, paying attention to quality and speed. “We have served as many as 800 people in three hours at a large event,” he says “And as few as 15 people at an intimate house music night.”
Hot Shots’ holiday line of specialty coffee drinks will be available through January, so event-goers can still order the peppermint mocha with whipped cream, drizzled chocolate syrup and a candy cane for garnish or a pumpkin spice with whipped cream and cinnamon spice. Menu regulars such as mocha, French vanilla with its drizzle of butterscotch, hazelnut and caramel are year-round favorites. Chai is also a constant offering for any non-coffee drinkers. Hot Shots can also provide pastries and biscotti for guests.
“Our lattes are the perfect complement to a wedding cake, so we cater many weddings and pre-wedding dinners. We work with some of the best wedding coordinators in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area,” says Mr. Stana. “One of my favorite memories is of a bride who came to me with happy tears after her wedding and told me that [Hot Shots] made her wedding.”
Coffee catering, it seems, is becoming a good fit for any event. Hot Shots Catering has been called upon for Fortune 500 corporate events, employee appreciation lunches at manufacturing plants, fiftieth wedding anniversaries, birthdays and grandparents’ days at private schools. An area university has Hot Shots provide a short-term coffee shop for them during their winter semester.
“I have several repeat clients,” notes Mr. Stana. One business books a two-hour serve time with Hot Shots Catering for every quarterly meeting in their conference room. “We serve 55 people with gourmet lattes, espressos and chais, and they love us. They smile when they see me.”
Hot Shots has also provided its gourmet coffee experience for small events including house parties and house receptions. “Some hosts have friends in a band and have hosted a music night at their house,” recalls Mr. Stana. “I was at the door to greet guests and served up made-to-order lattes to each one.”
While coffee catering can fit easily in the space of a conference room, even a break room or hallway is adequate for the Hot Shots bar and baristas to work. The smallest area Hot Shots needs for its set-up is a 4-by-8-foot space. “We roll up our sleeves and get it done. Maybe it’s just a back bar rather than a front-and-back bar,” says Mr. Stana, thinking aloud. “Sometimes we have the café coolers in one room and the lattes in the other room. But I have never run into a problem of too little space.”
Hot Shots can provide its gourmet coffees and coolers at outdoor events, provided Mr. Stana and his baristas have access to electricity. He works with planners and clients to make sure all runs smoothly. If an event also has a DJ or other service using electricity, they work together to make sure the electrical power is sufficient for everyone. Outdoor circuits are a little less stable, which means the event planners may need to rent a generator. “But you know what? We are always able to make it happen for the clients, which is my favorite part of this business,” says Mr. Stana.
Does anyone else offer coffee catering exclusively? Yelp.com lists one or two coffee caterers in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. There are a handful of specialty coffee caterers on Google. Otherwise, the industry is wide open, with few companies offering what Hot Shots does so well: bringing the coffee house experience to you. By all appearances, Hot Shots leads the very lean ranks of specialty coffee caterers.
Mr. Stana points to two things that differentiate his catering from that of others: his commercial-grade equipment and the quality brand of his coffee. The commercial-grade equipment means Hot Shots has the power to handle events with more than 30 people. “And the products we use are unbeatable. Everyone loves our coffee,” says Mr. Stana.
For espresso, Hot Shots uses the brand LavAzza from Italy. While the LavAzza brand is less familiar to U.S. coffee drinkers, the brand is more than 100 years old and consistently ranks as one of top European brands. It has an active and loyal following. “Italian customers seek and know the LavAzza brand. It’s home to them,” observes Mr. Stana. “They tell me they have been searching for LavAzza and can’t find it anywhere around here until Hot Shots showed up. What Vogue magazine is to magazine publishing, LavAzza is to coffee!”
Set-up for Hot Shots Catering is quick. “Once we have access to the room, we can be set up in under 30 minutes,” he says. “We start heating the milk within minutes, as this can take from 20 to 60 minutes, and must be done slowly to be done right.”
Even though the set-up may take half an hour, Hot Shots may request a full hour, depending on the location. “We like to allow for delays and for sign-in procedures at loading docks and service elevators to make sure we are ready when the event doors open,” Mr. Stana says.
How last minute can Hot Shots be called to cater an event? That depends on the size of the event and how made-to-order it is. If the event calls for specialized drinks, Hot Shots prefers a week or so to order custom products to best fill the need. However, for 50 people or fewer, and for an event using the standard Hot Shots menu of gourmet lattes and coolers, Mr. Stana and his baristas can be available with 24 hours notice. “We have had regular clients who call at 9 p.m. and we are able to be there at 8 a.m. the next morning,” states Mr. Stana.
Are there any busy seasons for coffee catering? “Well, weddings happen year round,” notes Mr. Stana. “However, October through December definitely are our busiest months, what with the cold and the holidays.”
Should folks consider coffee catering in summer? Actually, for Hot Shots, the answer is a big YES. From May through the summer months, Hot Shots offers a seasonal menu packed with frozen drinks. Hot Shot’s Italian soda bar with mock-cocktails, complete with a garnish, is perfect for hot, late nights in North Texas.
When temperatures are climbing, Hot Shots Catering offers faux margaritas, rum-flavoring-and-cola coolers and café coolers like cold Carmel de Leche and chilly Mocha Glacier. Mr. Stana includes his award-winning red velvet cupcake drink with a dollop of cream-cheese-whipped-cream on the summer menu.
Summertime is the only time to get Hot Shots’ own Tropicali Twist, a blue drink made with orange citrus and an orange slice for garnish. “Right now, I am working on a Watermelon Splash with the green layer (like that of a watermelon rind) resting on the bottom of the glass and the watermelon-red layer at the top half of the glass,” states Mr. Stana.
Another benefit of a coffee bar in summertime is the price break. “Our starting coffee bar will serve about 35 guest with our standard and winter seasonal menu,” says Mr. Stana. “However, during our summer sale, that same price will serve 50 guests.”
Mr. Stana invites all to “like us and see what we do” by visiting them on Facebook. For more information, check out Hot Shots Catering at hotshotscatering.com.