Raising the Bar: Catering Manager Sam Eisenhood

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When Catering Manager Sam Eisenhood’s name was announced at the annual Pagliacci managers’ meeting, he got one of the loudest rounds of applause. The main reason Sam has so many fans in the company is that he’s really good with people—customers and fellow employees alike.

When Sam started in customer service at Pagliacci in 2002, he intended to stay less than six months, just a way to add some extra income to his nighttime gig working in nightclubs like Showbox Sodo and Neighbours. But when a daytime position working in Pagliacci’s catering operation opened up he took the plunge. The work satisfied him and he was good at it. In 2011, when the job of Catering Manager opened Sam took over. Under his guidance, it has grown into a significant part of Pagliacci’s operations. 

Catering operates between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. A minimum order of $75 is required. The delivery area covers most of Seattle, including the entire downtown core, Shoreline, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, and Bothell. Catering can handle most same-day orders, but advises ordering a day in advance for large orders. Weekend catering is usually available if the order is placed by Friday (weekend minimum is $100).

“Our goal is to turn out high-quality pizza at a reasonable price and to get it delivered on time,” Sam says. Most of the orders are for office lunches, meetings, and parties. “I work with each customer to get them something that meets their needs. For example, today I had a customer who wanted to feed 60 people. She ordered 20 pizzas—way too much food for that many people. So I talked her into 15 pizzas. She called back later to thank me for saving her a bunch of money, saying everyone enjoyed their food and had plenty to eat.”

Sam does not cook the pizza. “I leave that to the experts. I could make a salad, if necessary, but not much else. I couldn’t do the work that these professionals do. They’re incredibly good at what they do.” Sam says “The dedication and professionalism they bring to the company is amazing. I have been very lucky to be a part of this superb team.”

Sam heads a team of four that works out of the call center. He and his team know the menu inside and out, the specials, as well as what’s in the dough, where the cheese comes from, what kind of meats are used, where the specialty mushrooms come from, how many pizzas each store can make every 15 minutes, how many drivers are at each store, and the distance to the delivery location from each store. 

Jun Kenney, the ‘voice of Pagliacci’ and long-time manager of the call center, mentored Sam. “She taught me everything I know,” he says. “She taught me how a customer should be treated and how to help them with any problems that might arise. I enjoy being able to make the customers experience the best it can possibly be.”

While the average order is anywhere from 5 to 30 pizzas, occasionally massive orders come in. Last week Sam put together an order from a large technology company for 200 pizzas. Three stores combined to make all the pizzas and salads. Everything arrived within a15-minute window.

Working with an experienced team makes all the difference. “The people managing the stores are really dedicated to this company. Many have been with Pagliacci for a long time, and they’re excellent at what they do. That makes my job easy. When I’m selling 30 pizzas to an office in a downtown high-rise, and I promise it’ll be there by noon, I say it with great confidence because of the people I work with. It’s rare for something to go wrong with an order, but if for some reason it does, I know the people I work with will correct the situation and make it right for the customer.”

Sam has many regulars. One customer has had a standing order for years of 20 specialty pizzas every Friday. Last year, another company had a standing order for 200 pizzas every Monday and Wednesday for four months running. Sam just got word that they’re going to be doing it again, starting in June. “That call was gratifying,” Sam says. “It really showed that we’d met their expectations. I don’t know of any company in town that can do that many pizzas in that amount of time and maintain their quality and service on a regular basis. Even after all this time, it still amazes me.”

Reflecting on the over 13 years at Pagliacci, Sam says, “There’s the occasional bad day, but for the most part I have fun. I really enjoy this company and the way it's growing. I’ve never worked for a company that bends over backward to make sure that I’m okay, inside and outside of work. It showed me they care about me not just as an employee, but as a person. And it’s nice to feel that I’ve had a part in the growth of this company that has been around for 37 years.”