Special Events

The Last Word: Peter Grazzini

How does the owner of a party rental company accumulate nearly his entire inventory and client base over the course of a single year? Peter Grazzini, managing member of Washington-based Perfect Settings, attributes his fast-and-furious success to great relationships with colleagues, clients — even another, well-established rental operation.

The 14-year party rental veteran recalls approaching major player Occasions Caterers, Washington, when he first launched his company three years ago. “I went to them from the beginning and said, ‘Clearly not now, I'm not ready. But my goal is to get you guys. What do I need to do to get you?’” He says the company, recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as the city's best caterer for three years running, required an impressive selection of high-quality rental items, and was looking for a solid commitment to honest, reliable customer service.

From there, Grazzini began putting the pieces into place. He struck up a deal to become the exclusive Washington representative for Unique Tabletop Rentals, allowing him to supplement his own basic inventory with the Los Angeles-based company's high-end tabletop products.

He also established a volume-based pricing structure. “With my pricing, everybody gets the same deal,” Grazzini explains. “I give all my caterers a standard discount, then at the end of the year, based on their volume, I credit their accounts receivable. It's really good for the owner of the business because that credit on the AR is money that's going to drop directly to the bottom line for their company.”

Eventually, Grazzini's smart business planning paid off. Over the course of 2001, Occasions became a client, as did other established Capitol-area caterers including RSVP and Mindy's Distinctive Catering. Through trips to New York's design and tabletop shows, as well as attendance at Tendence — the annual consumer-goods trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, which Grazzini calls “the largest tabletop show in the world” — the first-time business owner acquired an inventory of close to 3,000 different kinds of rental items, from china to chairs.

These days, Grazzini says, Perfect Settings does 50 to 60 events weekly for some of its best clients, and generates revenue of $3 million to $5 million annually. Supplying rental to such prestigious events as the Corcoran Ball — a 1,300-guest fund-raiser for Washington's famed Corcoran Gallery — he keeps his finger on the pulse of today's most sought-out styles.

In 2002 “things are going to a more clean and modern look,” he says. In addition to etched glassware, he continues, “I will be looking to add square, rectangular and/or triangular plates in different colors this year.” He adds, “I think chartreuse will be the hot color this year — I am seeing more and more of it in the stores.” But right now, Grazzini says, “Anything red, white and blue is very big. We are in the nation's capital, so it's always big here. But since Sept. 11, more and more events are looking to have an underlying patriotic theme.”

Perfect Settings
5909 Blair Road N.W.
Washington, DC 20011
202/722-2900

www.perfectsettings.com

THANKS GIVING

“I think there's going to be a lot of scaling back with corporations [in 2002], but I think once that settles down a little bit, the companies are going to start performing better. They'll cut back staff and ask the people they keep to do a lot more, but I also think they're going to want to take care of those people through corporate entertaining.”

ONE SINGULAR SENSATION

“I've got a lot of people asking for just the basic equipment with maybe a high-end base plate added into the equation, or a little bit nicer glassware. Instead of doing the whole nine yards, they're picking out one piece and saying, ‘I'm going to put a little bit of money into this because I think it's pretty.’”

LABOR OF LOVE

“I have a very dedicated group of people who would do anything for Perfect Settings. The people make the company. Many of my people have come here from other places for less money than they were making at their last place of employment, and those are the people who will benefit from its successes.”

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