THE DAY OF THE PARTY
PREPARING FOR A BIG EVENT
CATERING MANAGEMENT (101)
CATERING PREPARATION TIPS FOR THROWING EXCELLENT CELEBRATIONS
By Stu Leventhal
On the day of the event, you, as caterer, are on stage. This means you have to be well rehearsed on the role you play, if you plan to pull off the year’s most successful, talk of the town, PARTY!
Of course, your client is the host or hostess but you are the manager, the coordinator, the crew’s coach and ringmaster. The party thrower, host, hostess, their friends and family, guests and especially the night’s star are all counting on you to make them look better than great! Pull it off and you will gain loads of new customers. Remember WORD OF MOUTH is the key to growing your catering business!
The best catering marketing tip I can give you is, always put on top notch events!
To keep things organized and moving along smoothly, you will probably have to step in now and again and be the commentator. Do not shy away from this duty, people need to be led from one faze to the next. Smile and look like you are enjoying yourself, remember it is a party! Everyone will be taking their cue from you. Which means it is imperative that you always stay cool calm and collected under pressure. Project an image of complete control and utter confidence at all times.
When faced with an unexpected dilemma, think outside of the box. Get creative! There is a solution for everything. Here are a few tips, gathered from experience for pulling off great catered events:
- RSVP: Pre-preparation is the key to throwing a great celebration. That is why it is much easier if you insist your client throws an RSVP event so you have an accurate head count. By requiring you get the replies back well in advance of the event you will know exactly who and how many you need to entertain and feed. This allows you to schedule the correct amount of crew and order the accurate amount of supplies.
- Remember to ask on the RSVP form if anyone has special dietary needs; food allergies, food medical restrictions, religious dietary requirements or vegetarian requests.
- Always work with detailed check lists. Checklists keep you organized and assure you don’t forget something important. The whole party should be broken down onto check lists: Week before checklist, supply ordering checklist, food ordering checklist, night before prep list, packing checklist, loading checklist, delivery checklist, hot food checklist, cold food check list, serving utensils, supplies, crewmember check list…Never think you can remember everything that needs to be done in your head or on a list scribbled on a drink napkin.
- You need to check stock levels well in advance because there may be things you have to order days or weeks before the party date so they arrive in time.
- People need to know they are scheduled to work as far in advance as possible so you assure you have the best crew working the event. The more advance notice you are given that a key crew member cannot make the event the easier it will be for you to take measures to find an adequate replacement.
- Set up as much as you can the day and night before the big event. While there is no pressure, you can take your time and pay attention to details. The more stuff you can get pre-done the less you will have to worry about on party day. If your delivery vehicles are secure you can load them up with equipment and supplies so all that is left to add on party day is the food. If you have access to the location of the celebration and there is not another party being thrown there before yours, it is best to set up the rooms and bring all the stuff; supplies, utensils, equipment…that you can the day or night before. Tables can be pre-set. The room can be decorated if that is part of your responsibilities.
- On party day, stick to the game plan. Do not get last minute creative. An hour before the guests arrive, is not the time to decide the buffet table may look better if set up in a different room or along the north wall. Event day will have enough confusion without adding unnecessary chores to it.
- Keep in contact with your client constantly. Always call them a few days before the event to check if anything has changed; guest counts especially! Also call your client the day and night before the big event to check if there is any last minute cancelations or additions to the guest count or any other changes you need to know about. Such as, a new guests with food allergies who needs a special platter prepared for them. The more in advance you know about a party change the easier it is to handle. Last minutes changes will happen but you can cut down on them drastically by having constant communication.
- A meeting the day before with the staff to go over everyone’s duties and responsibilities is always important. For large or unusually complicated events, dry run rehearsals can come in very handy.
- Keep constant tabs on the weather situation especially if any portion of the event is out doors. But even if the whole event is being thrown indoors you may have to make some last minute adjustments for unusually hot summer days or snow storms that could affect the guest turnout or travel conditions such as the guest of honor, a main speaker or the band being delayed at the airport.
- A few days before the event remind everyone working to prepare the outfits they will be wearing; have uniforms cleaned, buy new shirts or ties, aprons, serving gloves if needed. Cleanliness implies professionalism and makes a great first impression with the client and guests.