Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions

Building culinary experiences in Kansas City
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Sean Barr

Lon Lane established Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions (LLIO) in 1991. The Kansas City-based company has grown from a small catering operation run by Lon and his wife, Marcia Lane, to one of the region’s largest and most popular events businesses. Today, LLIO employs 25 full-time staff members and over 100 on-call employees. The business performs approximately 750 events every year.

Lon comes from a unique background. With a degree in advertising and marketing, he worked for agencies for 10 years before moving to Kansas City to work for Hallmark in field marketing. He later opened his own consulting firm before establishing LLIO.

“I think our experience with food and our creativity really set us apart,” Lon explains of his team’s reputation for dazzling clients. “We strive for the best in presentation, service and our approach to events. We custom design menus for every event. We have built up our brand to a certain level and we work hard to maintain our position in the industry.”

Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions

Diverse events

LLIO offers a wide range of services for differing events. The company has different divisions for weddings and life events, corporate events and other social events. Recent work includes tradeshows, benefits, trust dinners, extravagant birthday parties, weddings and other events. For each event, Lon and his team put together a memorable experience centered on food, flavor and culture.

One of the most memorable recent events for the team has been the Trends 2015 show put on by Studio Dan Meiners, a floral and event design company. “The client researched and determined five trend looks for the upcoming year,” Lon explains. “One was a metropolitan theme, with mirrors, skyscrapers, as well as pristine lines, black and white. The second trend was patterns and layering, which featured stripes, plaids, dots and other palettes as a décor vehicle. The third was tropical. The fourth was woodland and the last was botanical, like a Victorian garden in a contemporary setting.”

Lon and his team created a food station for each theme. For the metropolitan station, the crew set up a ceviche bar, serving a selection of scallop, shrimp or abalone and halibut. Guests served themselves with mini martini glasses, choosing their ingredients, including a range of citrus and garnishes. Chefs at the end of the line tossed the ingredients on frozen salt blocks before serving it back for guests to enjoy.

The patterns and layering theme inspired a soft taco station. “We wanted all of the layers, textures and colors,” Lon explains. “Korean is a trending food for the upcoming year, so we did a study with slow-roasted pork. We combined the Mexican flavors with Korean influence and allowed guests to choose between spiced, pulled pork.”

The tropical station featured flavored limeade, a spin on popular flavored lemonades that have been trending over the last year. The bar offered Pina colada limeade, mango cilantro jalapeno limeade and a passion fruit limeade, each with complementing garnishes. Guests could opt to add alcohol or not. The woodland station featured game meats, including venison and quail.

Finally, the botanical theme inspired a station with cookies shaped and decorated as cute bugs, including butterflies, dragonflies and spiders, embracing a land and air concept. “We also reverse griddled ice cream lollipops in three flavors: crystal ginger, chocolate habanero and strawberry, using liquid nitrogen to cool the mixtures,” says Lon. “There was a selection of toppings, as well. To top it off, we also put together a shrub bar, which was inspired by classic shrub cocktails made traditionally from the vinegar used to preserve fruit. Some like the harsh vinegar; some don’t, so we offered a milder option with balsamic. This was a contemporary take with different shrub flavor and liquor options.”

Other recent work includes a benefit for the Center of the Arts in Mount Crusted Butte, Colo. The team partook in a Tour de Forks event, paired up with Montana Distillery, which did all of the mixology. Combining forces, LLIO presented a spread of food made with the distillery’s mountain rums. A separate event was a trust dinner for the North American Transportation Federation, representing all of the country’s major rail lines. This menu was centered on corn, and Lon and his son, Stewart, devised a menu inspired around the crop.

A memorable experience

While LLIO is primarily a catering company, Lon and his team strive to go above and beyond, building memorable culinary and sensory experiences for guests. “We are more about experience than just the food,” Lon explains. “A lot of catering companies have great food, but our genre is more about the experience. We create experience through menus and food items. For example, with our corn menu, we added the element of one central ingredient, which makes the meal more intriguing and more interesting. With our rum menu, we got to educate people about rum and its applications, how it goes broader than just cocktails. We like to get people thinking outside of the box when it comes to food.”

Lon takes great pride in the creativity of his staff and the incredible events his team has curated. He enjoys the feeling of building relationships with clients and reaching their guests on a unique level. In the coming years, Lon and his team project continued growth; physical expansion is in the near future, because the company is running out of room. He also has plans to start marketing a line of food items, although what is in store for production is still a surprise. Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions is a growing culinary force with a wide range of possibilities set for the coming years.