When it comes to event catering, I don’t think I’m alone when I say one of my biggest fears is running out of food during an event. And it has happened to most of us, the event is on and disaster strikes, the band doesn’t show up or the transportation breaks down or my most ultimate fear, you run out of food. And sadly for me, it has happened but thankfully just once, okay twice.
Coordinating and putting on events can be a very challenging and encompassing situation and requires an unbelievable amount of planning and preparation. And while there are no guarantees, event planners do everything in our power to ensure success including checking and double checking our info, getting our confirmed guarantee in writing from the caterer and confirming every single detail. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s if you do something long enough eventually your biggest fear is bound to happen.
Event Catering – Food and Guarantee Numbers!
As a planner, my goal always is to do everything and I mean EVERYTHING to ensure a great event and a satisfied client. And while none of us wants to run out of food, we also don’t want to over pay and break the budget either. So there is always a delicate balancing act to ensure the caterer is equipped with what they need while the planner can stay on track monetarily.
Some say the food is the best part of any event and whether that’s true or not it definitely does become the focal point. And with so much attention on one area the last thing anyone wants is to run out. When planning food events, before coming up with the guest guarantee number, there is a lot to consider including; the kind of event, duration, number of guests and how and what is being served.
My Event Catering Tale
Before I go any further, let me just say, I love service companies. There have been many a time when a service company has saved my butt on site. And when it comes to clients no matter who is responsible for the snafu I take total ownership. But between me and you, my favorite caterer totally failed me this time.
We took over a museum for a reception, per the client it was a reception with food buffets and access to the museum. The food portion of the night was never meant to be a meal. The guarantee number was 300 and as a rule my caterer normally brings 3-5% of additional food, just in case. In hindsight a couple of clues, after being in sessions all day the client held the reception (not a meal) right at the dinner hour, literally the guests lined up and rush the buffets once they opened, the caterer set up a couple of two sided buffets not several buffet stations as requested and used dinner size plates, the guests piled (yes piled) the food on the plates and the caterer did not bring any, zero additional food on site. After it was all said and done the chef and onsite manager told me they knew we would run out of food after seeing the first ten guests help themselves. However I was not notified until the food was nearly gone. In short it’s safe to say the food ran out and fast, the client was furious and the guests weren’t much better.
Event Catering – Reactions, Solutions and Lessons Learned!
So what did I do; first and foremost I remained calm, then I evaluated the situation, trying to come up with a temporary fix that would ensure a happy client until the event was done. My immediate goal was to replenish the food as fast as possible. I first spoke to the client and then hopped into action by contacting all the surrounding restaurants and asked (okay begged) for any prepared food they could spare. I had the caterer call the other venues where they were working and had them send over any extra food they could and as soon as it arrived I got that food on the buffets.
I then planted myself by the exit and address any concerns and complaints while apologizing as the guests and client departed. The next day I deliver an apology letter to the client and her association and attached an invoice outlining no charges for any of the food. The client was appreciative for our actions (go figure) and said she would use us again. And shockingly she did. I learned to always remain calm no matter what and that sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to fix things.
So the next time you’re faced with a crisis, don’t forget to stay calm, look at the situation and easy to get to resources and then act to solve the crisis in the best and fastest possible way. It’s not always pretty but we all have to do what we have to do.